Pouring a little bit of oil, food scraps, or a wipe or two down the drain might not seem like a big deal, especially if you’ve got a garbage disposal to help it along, but over time these things can wreak havoc on your plumbing system. Items that aren’t specifically designed to break down in drain pipes and septic system can collect in bends of the pipes or in narrow pipes that make up your private drainage system (the part of the drain system between your home and the public sewer system). Additionally, passing grease, oil and fat through the drain slowly accumulates on the inside of the pipes, similar to how fat collects within your arteries, and over time slows flow or completely clogs the pipe.
Clogged pipes lead can lead to raw sewage backing up in your home, your neighbor’s home, yard, park, or in the street. Exposure to sewage is not only unpleasant, but it also potentially dangerous, since it contains disease causing organisms. Sewage cleanup is often an expensive process and if it occurs within a private system, the homeowner is responsible for the bill. Sewage cleanup on public property can also cost you, as it leads to increased maintenance and operation costs for the sewer department, resulting in higher sewer bills.
What to keep out of the kitchen drain
The big offenders at the kitchen sink are grease , oil and fat. Grease and fat can seem harmless when cooking, since they are liquid form when heated, but they turn solid as they cool to room temperature further down in the pipeline. Oils remain liquid at room temperature, but they stick to the surface of your pipes and create the perfect surface to attract grease.
Food scraps should also be kept out of the drain. It is a common misconception that garbage disposals make food safe to send down the drain, and they do chop solid material into small pieces, but these small pieces can still collect and block your pipes. Food peelings, like onion skins, are particularly good at sneaking past the disposal and backing up pipes. Meat scraps, butter and dairy products contain oils and fats that cause problems as well.
Other items that shouldn’t go down the kitchen drain:
- Egg shells
- Coffee grinds
- Produce stickers
- Peanut butter
- Salad dressing
What to keep out of the bathroom drain
Toilet paper is made to break down in the sewer system, but you should keep other products like baby wipes, paper towels and feminine products away from the drain, even if they are labeled as “flushable”.
Avoid flushing medications, as studies have found antibiotics, pain killers, antidepressants and other drugs are contaminating the drinking water throughout the country. If you have unwanted or expired medications, check to see if there is a medicine take-back program nearby. Local pharmacies, hospitals and law enforcement agencies often organize drives to collect unneeded prescriptions.
Cleaning products and solvents can damage fragile ecosystems when flushed down the drain. Water treatment plants remove a lot of chemicals from the water supply, but too many dangerous contaminants still end up in our lakes, rivers and oceans.
To keep bathroom drains flowing smoothly, we recommend cleaning the hair and other debris out at least once every year, if not once every 6 months. Use caution is you’re attempting this yourself, as dismantling drains can cause leaks if not realigned and installed properly.
Other items to keep out of the bathroom drain:
- Disposable diapers
- Flushable kitty litter
- Nail polish
- Nail polish remover
- Cotton balls