It’s convenient to dispose of freshwater fish tank water, kitchen byproducts and other unwanted materials by flushing them down the toilet, running them through the garbage disposal unit, or pouring them down the basement drain. But sending some common household materials down your drains can lead serious plumbing issues. Below, we list 10 things you should never send down the drain and explain why these items are harmful to your own plumbing, your community’s water processing infrastructure, and to the whole ecosystem.
- Grease, oil and fats.These solidify as they move through your drains and stick to the sides of the pipes. They also capture anything else that happens to be in the drain.
- Coffee grounds.Coffee grounds are fine particulates that are easily captured by grease and fats and add to the accumulation of gunk in your drain pipes.
- Egg shells.The outer hard shell is hard on your garbage disposal’s blades, and the thin inner membrane may wrap around its gears.
- Medications.Medications adversely affect the ecosystem you depend on for your water and not every water treatment facility can filter them out.
- Product stickers.That sticker on the skin of your fruit will adhere to anything that it contacts, adding to the buildup in your pipes. Be sure you remove the stickers before washing your produce.
- Paper products other than toilet paper.Disposable diapers, feminine hygiene products, wipes, paper towels and even tissues do not dissolve when they contact water. They have a high absorbency rate and can easily block your drains. Paper products also make your community’s water treatment plants work harder, which leads to increased maintenance and replacement costs.
- Flushable cat litter.Cat litter is meant to adhere to wet, sticky stuff: It will stick to the fats and greases on the walls of your pipes. Because it is highly absorbent, it will continue to expand as liquids pass through, increasing the risk of a clogged pipe.
- Paint.Even diluted paint products will become part of the residue building up on the walls of your drain pipes. And some paints—especially oil-based paints—are major polluters and should be disposed of through your county’s hazardous waste programs.
- Conventional cleaning products, including chemical drain cleaners.The ingredients in most of these products will degrade the metal and plastic components of your pipes over time. Moreover, conventional cleaning products often contain phosphates, antibacterial agents and other compounds that may not be removed at your water treatment plant.
- Any machine lubricants or fuel.These materials are toxic and may be corrosive, jeopardizing both your water supply and your plumbing.
Most municipalities have recycling and safe-disposal facilities. Check with your county government about how to properly dispose of your unwanted medications, household chemicals, machine fluids and paint. Let your hot greases and oils cool down and dispose of them in the trash. Learn to compost your coffee grounds, eggshells and other produce waste or, if you cannot compost, put them in the garbage, too.
If you follow these safe practices, you’ve reduced your chances of a clogged or damaged drain considerably! If you do experience a blockage, call your plumber. He’ll be able to assess your problem and safely get things flowing again.