Many of us follow a recipe while cooking up our favorite foods during the holiday season. Whether it’s for the Thanksgiving turkey or Christmas desserts, these recipes guide us to make delicious food for our family and friends.
But what these recipes don’t tell you is that what you do after enjoying the meal can impact your holiday, your wallet and your local waterways.
Cleanup is the problem. When leftover fats, oils, and grease, or “FOG,” are put down the sink, they can harden and cause clogs in the pipes under your home and sewer pipes leading to your local wastewater treatment plant.
FOG clogs can result from a buildup of things that tend to bind together, like food scraps. Items like gravy, butter, lard, mayonnaise, sour cream, sauces, salad dressings, dairy products, grease and cooking oil can create a blob that will stop up your drain.
Not only can this damage the pipes and wastewater treatment plant, but the clog can cause a backup into your home, your lawn, in your neighborhood or even onto your street. Depending on where that clog sits, it could stop your toilets from draining into sewage lines in the street, causing the contents to back up into bathrooms and kitchens.
This is not an uncommon occurrence, especially after Thanksgiving. While most of us call the Friday after Thanksgiving Black Friday, plumbers will be dispatched all across town to fix clogged pipes on “Brown Friday.” The day after Thanksgiving is twice as busy as any other day of the year for plumbers due to people dumping FOG down their drains.
So, while your home and kitchen are filled with people this holiday season, save yourself from additional stress and don’t let anyone treat the sink like a trash can. By taking preventative and proactive measures during the holiday season, you can protect your home, your community’s wastewater treatment systems and your wallet.
Here are a few tips to prevent a grease ball from finding its way into your home or yard.
• Don’t risk it—even if you use a detergent that claims to dissolve grease, it can still build up in the system and cause sewer backups.
• Pour all fats, oils and grease into a sealable container and place it in the trash.
• Scrape food scraps into the trash, not the sink. Refrain from using a garbage disposal or food grinder. Grinding food before rinsing it down the drain does not remove fats, oils and grease; it just makes the pieces smaller. Even non-greasy food scraps can plug your home’s sewer lines.
• Wipe pots, pans and dishes with dry paper towels before putting them in the dishwasher or rinsing them in the sink. Use paper towels to scrape and wipe plates. If you use cloth towels and then put them into your clothes washing machine, the grease will end up in the sewer through the washing machine.
• If you use the sink to spray off plates, use a sink strainer to catch small pieces of food.
• Helpers in the kitchen, especially during the holidays, are much appreciated. Be sure to let them know about FOG before the aprons come on so that they don’t accidentally pour any FOG down your sink. However…
If you or a relative accidentally sent some FOG down the drain, don’t fret just yet. There are a few things you can do before you have to call the plumber. Boil some water in a tea kettle, then slowly pour it down the drain two or three times, 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.
However, even with this tip, you still may end up needing to call a plumber. If you need a plumber on Black Friday, be sure to have more than one plumber’s number saved.
While disposing of FOG properly can take extra effort, it’s worth the time to protect your home and our water resources. Have a safe, clog-free and happy holiday season!