Have you flushed a frog lately?

Alright everyone, I know it’s been a while since my last post (I blame that on having a toddler), but I learned something this weekend that has BLOWN MY MIND, and I cannot possibly be the only person in the whole world who didn’t know this.

(Or maybe I am, but just humor me anyway.)

Ok, first, a little context:

Every once in a while, my parents have frogs visit their bathrooms. (I’ll never forget the first time this happened – my mothers’ scream made history books. But I digress.) Frogs sometimes show up in their bathrooms, just hanging out around the toilet. I have always assumed these frogs swam up the pipes from wherever it is the pipes go and ended up inside the house. I figured this was a fairly logical assumption.

Well, the frogs have been visiting more and more often lately, and in more than one bathroom in the house. (Jokes about a plague were made, obviously.)

This weekend, my dad told me these frogs come FROM THE ROOF!!! How, you ask? Frogs don’t fly. Toilets don’t flush up. How is this possible???

You know those little white PVC-type pipes you can see on people’s roofs? I’ve spent the first 28 years of my life assuming those pipes were connected to air conditioners or heating units of some kind. BUT NO!!!! THEY GO TO YOUR TOILETS!!!! THAT’S HOW THE FROGS GET IN!!!!!

Yes, your toilets are vented through the roof, of all places. The open pipe allows air to get into the plumbing so that you don’t create a vacuum when you flush. It’s like when you open a small hole in a can and try to pour the liquid out. Sometimes, you can turn that can of juice upside down and still nothing comes out that hole. Why? Because of things like air pressure and vacuum spaces.

Air has to be able to get into the can to replace the liquid that comes out. If the air pressure is trying to get into the can at the same rate that the liquid is trying to get out through the same hole, then nothing moves. This is what would happen if there were no vent in the plumbing lines. (Ewww….)

But, if you cut another hole in the other side of your can (or are drinking from a water bottle that already has an air vent hole), the liquid pours smoothly out the bottom. This is because air is going in the top and replacing the missing liquid, so there is no vacuum. This is why the plumbing lines are vented – you got it – through the roof.

But, I knew that about cans already. That’s not the biggest part that blows my mind. It’s the fact that other things besides air can obviously come down those pipes as well. Like frogs. Or lizards. Or small snakes. Or small squirrels.

Can you imagine walking into your bathroom and finding a wet squirrel on the back of your toilet?

But what about the water, you ask? Wouldn’t things have to swim through the water? Not really. As it turns out, your pipes are empty most of the time (until you flush or turn on the tap). In the case of the toilet, there is only water in the toilet bowl and the U-bend part of the pipe immediately below and behind the toilet bowl. The rest of the plumbing system is empty, so any roof-dwellers that decide to visit only have to be able to swim the last foot or so up into the toilet.

Squirrels can swim short distances. It’s totally possible to find a wet squirrel in your bathroom. Have you ever thought of that? It’s been all I can think about for the past few days. (Not to mention snakes, lizards, cockroaches, insects and all manner of other creepy-crawlies that can also swim 12 inches.)

You can apparently buy weather-resistant covers to put on these pipes if, like my parents, you have a problem with unwanted guests, but those pipes are not screened as part of standard building procedure. So, if you’re like my parents and have an overhanging tree near your roof, you’re much more likely to see a rise in unannounced houseguests that fall out of said tree and find their way into your bathroom.

But most people don’t see things rising out of their toilets on a regular basis, right? That doesn’t mean they aren’t hanging around in the pipes anyway. When was the last time your toilet wouldn’t flush and you couldn’t figure out why?

Maybe it wasn’t yesterday’s monster burrito or the resulting excessive amount of toilet paper. Maybe you flushed a frog.

Take a moment to think about that… (Toilet vent pipe caps are available on Amazon.com.)