Advice from a Plumber's Wife
"What ELSE am I supposed to do with this grease?": Why Jon shakes his head when I try to sneak grease down the drain.
As a Southerner who really likes to fry stuff, I have to admit, this change was hard for me. I almost couldn't write this post. I've gotten pretty passionate about the wipes and their environmental impact, but I hate dealing with grease, and I like pouring grease down the drain!
The first time I made spaghetti and meatballs for Jon, he snuck up behind me like a plumbing ninja just in time to see me pouring tons of Dawn and hot water into an empty sink. The look of disappointment in his eyes told me immediately that he knew what I had just done. I was caught. "Do you have any idea what that does to pipes?" he said. "Do you know how many hours I've spent under people's sinks trying to get that stuff out? Sometimes I have to replace the pipes entirely." It has taken me a long time, but I've had to give it up, and here's why.
This is a pipe filled with grease. It could be any kind of grease, fat, oil, or butter. This grease has a nice hole in the center that water can run through, but it's grease, so anything can get caught in it or disturb it so that it seals up.
As Jon has explained to me many, many times, almost nothing can remove this grease. Drain cleaners will sit on top of the grease, unable to break it down and unable to move past it. Many plumbers won't even touch a pipe that's filled with grease and drain cleaner because the drain cleaner will destroy their tools. If someone calls with a pipe full of grease, plumbers don't have many options. The tools they use to clean clogs are called snakes. Like actual snakes, they are long and round. They can punch a hole in grease (like in the picture above) but they can't scrape it out. Often, even if they are able to punch a hole in the grease, the pipes may not open back up because when they remove the snake, the grease seals back up behind it. Sometimes, the only way to solve the problem is to remove the pipe and replace it, which can be very costly depending on where the pipe becomes clogged. If you're lucky, the pipe will become clogged near in an easy to reach cabinet under your sink. If you're very unlucky, it will become clogged ten feet below the ground, right under your favorite 100 year old Oak Tree.
If you have been pouring grease down your drain, or even if you've just been cleaning greasy pans in your sink, you should take some measures to prevent build up.
Stop pouring grease down the drain and wipe out your pans. I know it's hard, but you need to find another way to dispose of it. If you've fried something, put your left over grease into an old can of some sort, let it cool and then throw it away. If you're a big fan of recycling (like I am), you might be pained by the idea of throwing away a can, but check out what grease does to the environment. The epa actually categorizes vegetable oil spills the same way it does oil spills. Dekalb County estimates that more than 1.5 MILLION gallons of contaminated water entered our county waterways in one year alone because of grease clogs. According to the City of Atlanta Watershed Management Office, fat, oil, and grease "contributes to more than 50 percent of sanitary sewer spills in Atlanta." If you need more proof that they City of Atlanta HATES, grease in the sink, check out this horribly awesome video!
Don't put meat down the garbage disposal. I'll take all the fun out of garbage disposals later, but in the meantime, just throw the meat away. It's the greasy gift that just keeps giving AND it clogs your drains even with out the grease.
Clean your pipes as you go with natural cleaners. I realize this is a plumbing site, so I'm going to get some push back if I tell you to ditch the chemical drain cleaners. Even Jon admits that they can solve problems in the short term, but they are also hard on your pipes and can be dangerous for both you and your plumber if they sit on top of grease and spill on you while you're working on the pipes. (PLEASE: Always let your plumber know if you've poured anything into the pipes before you let him work on them. He could be burned or blinded if he unscrews a pipe and drain cleaner spills on him.) Ok. So what SHOULD you use? Try cleaning your pipes out with natural products, like baking soda and vinegar. Check out this video tutorial. It's easy and it's safer for you, your plumber, and the environment.