In the rush to prepare the perfect holiday meal, it can be easy to put the wrong thing down the drain or garbage disposal. But that split-second action can result in big problems when the sink becomes clogged. It can also result in expensive problems that disrupt municipal wastewater treatment systems.
According to one national plumbing company, their busiest day of the year is the day after Thanksgiving. According to the group’s website, after a long day of cooking followed by feasting, replete cleanup crews toss leftover gravy and scraps down the kitchen drain. Overnight, the grease solidifies resulting in backed up pipes and harried holiday-weekend calls to plumbers.
Donald Malovets, regional maintenance superintendent for the Brazos River Authority, said in addition to the problems homeowners face when grease clogs their drains, it can cause significant problems down the line.
“Grease comes together (in sewer lines) to form grease balls that can block manhole covers and cause overflows,” he said. “Grease attaches itself to floats in lift stations and doesn’t allow them to raise (which disrupts pumping) and will cause overflows or backups. Grease will also attach itself to screening devices (during the wastewater treatment process), which will cause short-circuits and overflows.”
He said those are a few of the things that can go wrong when grease infiltrates sewer lines.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality offers some suggestions that can help you avoid the grief of a clogged pipe in your home, while at the same time protecting community sewer pipes and preserving water quality.
Things to do:
- Recycle used cooking oil or properly dispose of it by pouring it into a sealable container and placing it in the trash can. You can recycle larger amounts of oil by finding a company that specializes in recycling cooking grease or rendering near you via a quick Internet search. You can also get rid of large amounts of used cooking oil by mixing it with cat litter and disposing of the result in the trash.
- Scrape food scraps into the trash instead of the sink to help prevent clogging.
- Wipe pots, pans, and dishes with dry paper towels before rinsing or washing them.
- Place a basket or screen over the sink drain when rinsing dishes or preparing food. This will help you catch small scraps that should be thrown in the trash instead of going down the drain.
- Rinse dishes with cold water before putting them in the dishwasher. Hot water melts fat, oil, and grease and allows it to run down sewer pipes. When this water cools, the fat, oil and grease can clog pipes.
What to avoid:
- Don’t use the garbage disposal to grind up large pieces of food. This does not remove fats, oil, and grease. Even food items that are not greasy can clog pipes, so avoid putting any type of food down the drain.
- Don’t pour cooking oil, grease, bacon fat, salad dressing or sauce down the sink or toilet or into any type of gutter or storm drain.
- Don’t use cloth rags or towels to scrape plates or clean grease/oil from dishes. When these are washed, grease ends up in sewer lines. Instead, use paper towels and discard them in the trash when you are finished cleaning.
- Avoid flushing any type of wipe – even those labeled “flushable” wipes, down your toilet. This gives fat, oil, and grease something to cling to and causes clogging problems.
A few simple steps can prevent a clogging disaster, saving you the expense of an expensive repair and also helping sewer lines to function more efficiently.