When it comes to keeping your plumbing and sewer system healthy, there are a number of things you can do as a homeowner to aid in this task. From having a plumbing company come in once every few years to inspect your pipes to checking your property for leaks on a regular basis, there are a number of simple tasks you can perform in order to do your part. Sometimes, though, it’s what you don’t do that’s more important than what you actually do.
Why Grease and Drains Don’t Mix
Your kitchen sink’s drain can handle a lot more than your toilet, but it’s not invincible. There are actually quite a few items that should stay far away from the drains in your home, even if you own a garbage disposal to take care of food scraps and other kitchen waste.
A few examples of items that should never go down your kitchen sink include:
- Coffee grounds
- Cooking oils or fats of any kind
- Rice, pasta, and other starches
- Chemical drain cleaners or decloggers
Fats, oils, and greases, known in the plumbing community as F.O.G for short, are some of the most troubling things we as plumbers see put down the drain. It all has to do with heat and how oils change states as they heat or cool. Take coconut oil as an example. When it’s cold, it’s hard and often difficult to scoop from the container. As it heats up in a pan, its chemical state changes to that of a liquid.
The problem begins when you pour this liquid down the drain. Oils are greasy and sticky, causing them to coat the inner surface of your pipes. It doesn’t take long for the loss of heat to result in hardened cooking oil, except now it’s coating your pipes instead of your pots and pans. This narrows the pipe, causing clogs and slow-moving drains. In severe cases, pipes can crack, causing leaks and water damage. Sometimes, blockages even become bad enough to cause toilet clogs and sewer backups, nasty problems no one wants to deal with.
Does Running Hot Water Fix the Problem?
One of the most pervasive myths when it comes to plumbing systems is that running hot water after pouring fats or grease down the drain will prevent them from solidifying. While it’s true that the cooking oil will remain in a liquid state while going down your drain, it still cools and hardens eventually, just further down the line. Sometimes this creates problems worse than clogs, like cracks and breaks in your pipes you don’t notice since they’re not right at your sink.
So no, running hot water won’t prevent damage to piping caused by F.O.G. and shouldn’t be considered as a preventive measure for clogs.
What If I’ve Already Dumped F.O.G. Down the Drain?
If you’re reading this after already dumping cooking oil or grease down the drain, you’re probably wondering if there’s anything you can do to counteract the damage. If you’ve been dumping oils down the drain for months or years already, there’s not much you can do beyond scheduling a drain cleaning and inspection appointment.
If it’s more of a one-time thing, however, you can try dumping a pot of boiling water down the drain, along with a generous amount of dish soap. This will hopefully break up any clogs that have started to form.
Proper Cooking Grease Disposal
To dispose of your cooking oil without harming your plumbing system, try carefully dumping it into an empty bottle, a jar, or a can. After it hardens, you can throw away the entire thing. Another option is wiping down your pan with paper towels, then disposing of them in your garbage can.