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Grease and Drains: Why the Two Don’t Mix

Grease and Drains: Why the Two Don’t Mix

March 18, 2022

Grease and Drains in Norcross, GA

Your kitchen sink is likely the drain in your home that sees the most use. A lot ends up going down your kitchen drain, from old bits of food to unwanted liquids, but not everything is drain-safe. One of the worst things for your kitchen sink is fats, oils and greases, sometimes referred to as F.O.G in the plumbing community. These substances have the potential to harm your plumbing system. In this article, we go over why it’s so important these substances stay far away from your drains.

Why Grease Is So Bad for Your Drains

Many fats are solid when cold or at room temperature but turn into a liquid state when heated. Good examples of this include bacon grease, coconut oil, lard, and butter. Pouring these fats down the drain seems like a simple way to get rid of mess, but doing so is actually a quick ticket to a plumbing repair call.

Just like bacon grease hardening into a solid in the bottom of your skillet, grease poured down the drain quickly cools, hardening and sticking to the sides of your pipes. Doing this once probably won’t cause permanent damage, but over time the layer of grease will grow. The amount of pipe water has to pass through will lessen and narrow, especially if scraps of food also stick to the oiled pipes.

Keep on dumping fats and greases down the drain and the problem only grows worse. Hardened pipes are at risk of cracking and bursting. This causes not only water damage to your home, but also necessitates the need for replacement piping. Even though it feels convenient in the moment, it’s not worth risking the health of your entire plumbing system just to slash a few minutes off of your cleaning routine.

Does It Matter if It’s in Solid or Liquid Form?

It’s not just solid fats like bacon grease and coconut oil that clog up your pipes. Even oils that are liquid at room temperature, like canola and olive oils, coat the sides of your pipes. This makes your pipes sticky and congealed, easily able to trap bits of food scraps that make their way down the drain. Over time, this mess creates clogs, just like with other fats. It doesn’t matter what kind of cooking oil it is: everything from premium avocado oil to shortening will have the same effect.

What if I Run Hot Water While Pouring Grease Down the Drain?

A common household plumbing myth is that it’s ok to pour cooking oil down the drain, as long as you run hot water during the pour and for a few minutes afterwards. The idea behind this myth is that the hot water will keep the oil in a liquid form, preventing it from sticking to the sides of your pipes and causing clogs.

While this is technically true, this is a temporary solution that can actually cause more harm than good. Sure, your pipes won’t clog in the kitchen, but they’ll probably end up clogging further down your plumbing system. Leaks might occur in areas you wouldn’t even notice them, silently causing more and more damage and higher water bills. So no, running hot water while pouring fats down the drain isn’t a solution.

Can I Use Dish Soap to Break Down Grease?

Another common myth is that pouring dish soap down the drain with the grease will break it down enough not to clog your pipes. While dish soap does break down grease on your dishes, it’s not designed to deal with tablespoonfuls at a time. Just like the hot water trick, all it does is push the grease farther down your sewer system, causing damage you won’t notice until it’s too late.

How Should I Dispose of Grease?

If there’s only a small amount of oil residue in the bottom of your skillet, wipe it down with a paper towel. The towel will soak up most of the excess grease, after which you can throw it in the garbage and the pan can be washed.

If there’s a larger amount, there are two methods you can use to get rid of your oil, depending on which kind you’re dealing with. If you used a cooking oil that remains a liquid when it’s at room temperature, wait for it to cool some before handling it. Pour it into a container you have no problem getting rid of. Once this container has been filled, throw it out with the rest of your garbage.

If the oil you used is one that returns to a solid when cool, wait for it to harden. Use a spatula to scrape the hardened material from the bottom of the pan, and throw it away.

Other Items to Avoid

Though greases and fats are some of the worst items for your drains, they’re not the only thing you should avoid. The following are objects you should keep away from your kitchen sink:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Bones and grizzle
  • Eggshells
  • Medications
  • Rice, pasta, and other objects that bloat

Even if you own a garbage disposal, it’s not meant to deal with objects like these. Keep all these far away from not only your kitchen sink, but any drain in your home.

What If I’ve Already Poured Grease Down the Drain?

If you’re on this website because you’ve just poured a bunch of oil down the drain, you can try pouring boiling water and dish soap down the drain. This will probably save your own plumbing system, but it contributes to massive build-ups of fat in your city sewer system. Know that if you have PVC pipes it’s not considered safe to pour boiling water down them: they may melt.

If you’ve poured fats down the drain a handful of times, your drains probably need a good cleaning. You can give us a call anytime and we’ll do the job for you. If you want something you can do yourself in the meantime, be sure you steer clear of chemical drain cleaners. These are harsh enough to corrode pipes and cause a range of issues, many of which worse than the clogs you’re trying to treat.

Instead, shake some baking soda down the drain. Pour a good amount of vinegar directly afterwards. This will fizz and bubble, creating a chemical reaction that helps dislodge some of the fats and food bits stuck to the sides of your pipes. It’s important to note that this isn’t a substitution for a professional drain cleaning, more like pre-work or maintenance. Especially if you’ve been pouring cooking oil down the drain for months or years, your plumbing system needs professional help.

Atlanta’s 24/7 Home Experts

Bardi has been proudly providing a variety of heating, cooling, and plumbing services to the residents of Norcross, Georgia and the surrounding cities since 1989. Our service offerings range from installations and repairs for your AC unit and furnace to plumbing repairs, drain cleaning, and leak detection. If you’d like to know more or are in need of plumbing repair, give us a call today!