It might surprise you how many people aren’t aware of what you can and can’t put down a drain and have to call a plumber to fix their clogged or busted pipes. It can be expensive to fix, and it leaves people confused and upset as to why this keeps happening to them or wondering if the plumbers are doing something wrong. So, let’s figure out what you can and can’t put down the drain.
The biggest lie people have been told is that there’s such a thing as flushable kitty litter or flushable wipes. Ask anyone who works in plumbing, and they’ll tell you how those aren’t truly flushable like toilet paper. Toilet paper is made to break down within seconds once it comes into contact with water, which means it’s extremely unlikely to cause any issue on its own. Kitty litter clumps cause tons of issues. Wipes are commonly flushed and will catch on the sides of the pipe, and take significantly longer to break down than their paper counterparts.
Food and related products
Wipes can be bad, but it’s made even worse by the biggest contributor to clogs: grease. Grease, oils, and fat all get poured down the drain and coat the inside of your pipes, leading to other objects like flushable wipes catching on the side, or the fat solidifying into a solid mass and blocking the pipe by itself. These clogs make up nearly 50% of all sanitary sewer overflows.
You may have a garbage disposal in your sink, but putting food down the drain can end in a sticky situation. Coffee grounds seem small, but they are one of the most likely causes of kitchen sink clogs, especially since they can attract other clog-inducing items like oil and hair. The sharp edges of eggshells can collect other small objects and particles, which will end up causing a blockage down the line. Eating fruit is a great idea, but make sure you don’t let produce stickers go down the sink as they can easily get stuck to the side of a pipe and catch other debris. Flour and dough can coat the inside of the drain line, causing a glue-like paste that won’t move and can catch further particles to clog the drainpipe. Pasta similarly can expand when soaked in water to back up the pipes.
Medication and chemicals
NEVER put medication down the toilet or sink. Our water treatment plants aren’t designed to remove many of these man-made chemicals from the water supply. Tossing them down the drain can lead to adverse affects on our water and the environment, regardless if they are prescription or over-the-counter. Antidepressants, contraceptives, steroids, and various veterinary medicines have been found in streams and rivers and affect the fish found in them.
Paint can have biocides, a type of pesticide, and other harmful metals like lead or cadmium, all of which you don’t want in your water supply or surrounding environment. Many cleaners also contain chemicals you don’t want in the water supply. Even pipe cleaners should be a last resort if you have a clog as they are corrosive to your pipes.
Personal care/cleaning products
Many beauty products on the market aren’t great for your home’s plumbing system. Unfortunately, these items are designed to go down the drain, so it can be hard to avoid using them. The main harmful ingredients you should avoid using are soaps, shampoos, and cleaning products that contain parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (ideally avoid most sulfates), and phthalates. Other body care products like floss, cotton balls or swabs, contraceptives, paper towels, tissues, and feminine hygiene products can all block you pipes if you flush them down the drain.
What can you do?
Nobody is perfect, and it can be nearly impossible to keep every harmful thing out of the drain, but you can do a lot to minimize any potential clogs. Putting a strainer to catch things that fall into the sink can stop larger pieces of food from going down the drain. Brushing your hair before a shower, especially if you have long hair, can help you avoid clogging the bathtub or shower drain.
There are many things you can’t put down the drain, but the rule of thumb for liquids is if you would drink it, it’s probably okay to put down the sink. Chemicals are corrosive to pipes and you don’t want it lingering on dishes you eat off of.
If you have paint you aren’t going to use, consider donating it to someone who will. If that isn’t an option, call your state’s sanitation department to find out how to dispose of the paint safely. Using natural alternatives to certain cleaners and soaps will reduce chemical buildup in the water supply and on the inside of your pipes.
Call your local pharmacy to see if they have a drug take-back program or mix the medication with coffee grounds or kitty litter, seal it in a plastic bag, and throw it in the trash.
When to call a plumbing professional
We know that determining what can and can’t go down the drain can be confusing. If you’re unsure, call our plumbing experts at Bobby L Greene Plumbing, Heating & Cooling Co.: 318-731-9447. You can call to schedule a drain cleaning or fill out the contact form online.