People often use the drain pipes in their home as an instant disposal: tossing down food and other materials, and putting them out of mind immediately thereafter. It’s a natural tendency, and we all do it from time to time. But that can cause big problems for your plumbing system if you’re not careful. We get a lot of calls to unclog drains that have build-up from the wrong materials being tossed down them. But an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure, and disposing of certain materials the right way can save you a lot of trouble down the road.
Most stubborn clogs originate in the kitchen sink as we inadvertently toss foodstuffs down the drain that result in serious blockage. You should avoid putting down meat bones, peach pits and similar hard foodstuffs. They can damage your garbage disposal and seriously gum up the gears. But make sure you note these other foods as well and throw them in the trash instead of down the drain:
- Fats, oils and grease, referred to as FOG in the industry. They’re often poured down the drain in hot liquid form, but can quickly solidify as they harden in your pipes.
- Coffee grounds. Coffee grounds can swell when they get wet, as well as interfering with the gears in your garbage disposal.
- Fibrous vegetables, including carrot peelings, potato peelings and celery. They can get tangled up in the pipes and create a clog, as well as causing serious problems for your garbage disposal.
- Pasta and rice. Both can swell when they get wet and may prove surprisingly stubborn to get rid of.
Bathroom clogs tend to originate either in the toilet or the sink. If it’s a toilet clog, try using a plunger to clear it up before calling a plumber. Toilet paper and human waste can usually be undone with a little elbow grease. Other materials, however, are much more stubborn. They can include:
- Toothpaste. Toothpaste can harden in the pipes of your sink and takes on the consistency of cement when it does.
- Cat litter. Cat litter is designed to clump, and if you flush it down the toilet, it can clog up your pipes very quickly.
- Cotton balls and flushable wipes. These products are often used for cleaning, to remove make-up and similar tasks. They can swell when they get wet, making them prime sources of drain clogs. Toss them in the trash instead of down the toilet or drain.
- Solid objects. Children can sometimes flush solid objects down the drain while they play: toys, shoes and other materials that will get stuck in the pipes very easily. Make sure your children understand that the toilet is not a toy, and make sure they find other, less problematic places in the home to play.
- Hair. Human hair is some of the toughest material in the world, and when it combines with soap or shampoo, it can create a sticky, troublesome mess. use a screen or filter when showering or bathing to avoid excess hair falling down the drain.