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Avoid this kitchen nightmare

Avoid this kitchen nightmare

The holidays are around the corner, and with them often come lots of food, music, and company. So it might be easy to miss an expensive accident that is prone to occurring around big meals.

Plumbers see huge spikes in calls for service around the holidays, often finding families recoiling in horror as the kitchen sink and shower start to backups into the home.

The problem is often the result of fats, oils, and grease (commonly called FOG) having been put down the sink.

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So, while the kitchen bustles with people cooking your favorite meal, trying out new recipes, or sneaking in for a taste test, don’t let anyone treat the sink like a trash can. 

FOG blockages can result from a buildup of things that tend to bind together, such as food scraps placed down the disposer.  Adding items like gravy, butter, lard, mayonnaise, sour cream, sauces, salad dressings, dairy products, and cooking oil can create a greasy blob that will harden, stopping up your drain.

Depending on where that clog sits, it could stop up all your pipes, including toilets, from draining into sewage lines in the street, causing the contents to back up into bathrooms and kitchens and even onto lawns or the street.

You can alleviate system problems by taking preventative and proactive measures for your home and for your community wastewater treatment systems. 

Proactive measures are far easier to handle than reacting to a plumbing disaster in the home. A few helpful practices for preventing a grease ball from finding its way into your home or your backyard where your children are playing include:

•    Pouring used cooking oil into a sealable container and placing it in the trash.

•    Scraping food scraps into the trash and not the sink.

•    Wiping pots, pans and dishes with dry paper towels before washing.

•    Refraining from using a garbage disposal or food grinder. Grinding food before rinsing it down the drain does not remove FOG; it just makes the pieces smaller. Even non-greasy food scraps can plug your home’s sewer lines.

•    Don’t pour cooking oil, pan drippings, bacon grease, salad dressings, or sauces down the sink.

•    Don’t use cloth towels to scrape plates then put them into your clothes washing machine, as the grease will end up in the sewer through the washing machine.

But what happens if you learn this too late? There are a few things you can do once you’ve seen the sludge start to enter your home.
Here are some suggestions from an article in Cape Cod Times:

•    It’s easier to evaluate a blocked sink when you can see what you’re doing. Bail out standing water with something that can be thoroughly cleaned or thrown away as the liquid being scooped out may be yuck.

•    Grab a bucket. You’ll need somewhere to dump all the dirty water. 

•    A flat-bottomed plunger, not the flanged kind meant for toilets, is your tool of choice here.

•    The next move might be clearing out the P-trap, that curved section of the drainpipe located under the sink. Position a bucket underneath before unfastening and wear rubber gloves as it could get messy.

•    As you attempt to fix your blocked sink, you may find yourself wiping up large quantities of spilled water. It’s much simpler when you have a pile of rags sitting right next to you.

This article in Today lists a few suggestions as well: 

•    Baking soda and vinegar: Create a mixture of 1/3 cup baking soda and 1/3 cup vinegar. After it starts to fizz, pour the mixture down the drain right away to help break down all the gunk. Let things sit for about an hour (or overnight is even better), then flush it out with hot water.

•    Boiling water: Boil water in a tea kettle, then slowly pour it down the drain in two or three stages, letting the hot water work its magic for several seconds between each pour. Of course, make sure your sink is empty first. Don’t try this if you have a porcelain sink or plastic plumbing pipes.

Just remember that going the DIY route won't always work.

You may end up needing to call a plumber. Black Friday is, after all, the busiest day of the year for plumbers.   In fact, it’s termed “Brown Friday” as calls for service increase by up to 50% due to issues with kitchen sink drains and garbage disposal, according to this Business Insider article. 

Avoid the headache, use a sink strainer, and focus on building fun memories with the people you love -- not memories of gross blobs backing out of your sink and into your home.

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