facebook
MR Direct Blog

Join The Conversation

  • Accessories
March 30, 2016

What's Going Down Your Drain?

An incredible variety of substances are finding their way down household drains across the country, or at least part of the way down. Many are hazardous to the environment, while others will eventually plug the pipes, creating a great deal of inconvenience and expense. To keep your drains clear and the environment safe, it may be helpful to understand what happens to various materials if they end up down your sink drain. And, if you should still ignore the warnings, we can suggest a few tips on how to remove the inevitable clog.

Most people are well-aware that hazardous materials such as paint, motor oil, and pesticides should be taken to recycle centers, not poured down a household drain. This includes expired medicines, which should not be flushed or run through the garbage disposal. Not all pharmaceuticals can be properly processed at local waste water treatment plants. As a result, they may end up in our rivers and lakes, and eventually into the natural food chain. Its best to check with your local authorities on how to dispose of these household hazardous wastes in your area.

The list of substances that are prone to plug your kitchen or bathroom plumbing is extensive. Often times the problem begins with an incorrect assumption of how a particular scrap will react in the garbage disposal. If you have a disposal, it is important to know that it is designed to grind most soft food scraps, that's it. Hard items like bones or fruit pits should go into the trash as they can damage the disposals blades. If its paper, wood, plastic, glass or metal, even those little stickers on fruit, its not food and doesn't belong in the disposal. Fibrous foods like celery, corn husks and onion skins, can get tangled and jam the blades. Potato skins are infamous for this, and because their starch turns into a paste it further tends to adhere to the pipe or most anything already stuck in the pipe. Items with the texture of coffee grounds and tea leaves will get through the disposal but can adhere to the pipes further along as well. And watch out for eggshells. Its the membrane inside the shell that can wrap itself around internal components of the disposal while the hard shell gets pulverized into a fine powder that can adhere to existing sticky deposits.

The most common offense to a drain system is grease, oil, animal fat and the like. The garbage disposal will not make these substances magically dissolve. Hot or cold, they will eventually solidify somewhere in the pipes. Other liquids that tend to coagulate once down the drain include sauces, creamy cheeses and even soft chocolate. Finally, there are the foods that tend to swell in water. Rice, flour, pasta and the like will quickly and easily bloat, get sticky, and potentially adhere to a pipes interior.

The best thing to do with any type of grease is to pour it into a disposable container and place it in the trash. The other foodstuffs cited here can be trashed as well or recycled in the compost bin. eeping a basket strainer in the sink to catch any stray food scraps is a wise practice, especially if you do not have a disposal.

In the bath, the usual culprit is hair. Remember to close the sink drains lift rod to avoid having brushed or cut hair from finding its way down into the pipes. In the shower, it can be more difficult to intercept hair or debris, but drain screens are available to help.

Unplugging

As careful as you may be, it is nearly impossible to avoid all sticky materials from going down the drain, and a clog may still develop over time. The situation can be rectified through a series of techniques, beginning very simply and growing in complexity. The choices employed typically depend on how dense the clog is, and what it is composed of.

The tactic many will go to first, is to use an over-the-counter chemical. These compounds can produce good results, but many plumbers frown on their use. They cite that the corrosive nature that dissolves a blockage can also destroy the pipe itself with repeated use.

The easiest first alternative to using chemicals is to simply flush the drain with water. If it is a minor clog, filling the basin with water and then opening the drain, can allow the natural pressure of the water to push the clog out. The next choice is to pour boiling water down the drain. This can be repeated several times if progress seems to be made. A plunger will often produce enough pressure to dislodge a blockage as well. A long-standing natural formula is equal portions of baking soda and white vinegar. our the powder down the drain and watch the natural foaming action as you follow up with the vinegar. As this solution sets from minutes to hours, it can slowly dissolve clogs.

If these techniques are unsuccessful, its time to get a little dirty. The trap under the sink can be removed and cleared out, if that is the location of the blockage. Either before or after removing the trap, the pipes can be snaked using a drain auger. If you still cannot dislodge the the clog, its time to call the plumber, who will probably use a power auger to clear the pipes.

A little attention to what goes down the drain now, can save a lot of headaches down the road later.