Need to get rid of something? If that something is liquid or even slightly solid, flushing it down the drain may seem like one of the quickest and easiest ways to put it out of sight and out of mind. While you may not think what you’re doing is harmful in any way since the sewers will promptly take it away, you might actually be doing substantial harm to the municipal sanitary system and your own plumbing. Here are a few things you should never dispose of by putting them down the drain.
Your garbage disposal may seem like the safest way to dispose of solid objects like food waste. However, your disposal can’t handle everything you throw at it, and in fact they really can only handle solids that are somewhat soft. This means you should avoid using a garbage disposal for the following:
- Fats and oils: These will go through your disposal without an issue, but as the temperature drops in your pipes, fats and oils tend to congeal into a sticky solid that can become lodged in your plumbing. Over time, this can build up, limiting pipe flow and creating a slow or blocked drain.
- Egg shells: While these seemingly-brittle objects might not appear to be that big of a deal, egg shells are actually extremely hard on your garbage disposal because they become remarkably tough in small pieces. They also have a tendency to stick to food and other solid waste, encouraging clog formation.
- Coffee grounds: Some people believe that coffee grounds can actually be good for your plumbing, but in our experience they actually wind up doing more harm than good, particularly when your plumbing already is lined with grease or other fatty oils.
- Flour: Flour and water combined make a dough-like substance that sticks like glue to your pipes and tends to grab everything that passes. This means putting flour down your drain can significantly increase clogs.
Flushable products have dramatically improved both sanitary conditions, but not all products are this way, and many of them are actually absorbent or biodegrade slowly, doing lots of damage.
- Tampons: Feminine hygiene products are remarkably tough, built to withstand significant use, extremely absorbent, and in many cases expand to fit the exact shape of a small pipe. When this is the case, they almost immediately cause a severe clog.
- Wipes: Baby, lotion, makeup, moisture, or even cleaning wipes are becoming a popular item to simply flush away. However, they are also designed to be remarkably tough, and they tend to ball up, creating a pipe blockage extremely easily.
- Kitty litter: Many people choose to keep their cat’s litter box in the restroom, where it can be easily emptied. However, most kitty litter is designed to clump around waste for easy spotting and removal, which means it tends to stick together when wet. Throwing it down the toilet is a sure-fire way to get it wet, which means it will likely stick together and easily clog your drain.
Sinks, Showers & Tubs
Sinks, showers, and bathtubs all have sensitive drains as well, particularly because they are extremely narrow in most cases. This makes them perhaps the most prone to clogging, and some of the toughest to fix when they do.
- Hair: For showers and bathtubs, keeping hair out of the drain can be a tall order, particularly with heavy usage. While a couple strands isn’t usually a big deal, over time a few here and a few there can build into a major pipe blockage that makes your drain slow before eventually clogging completely. They can also be a major hassle to repair.
- Medicine: It might seem like a good idea to dispose of old, expired medicine by flushing it away so it can’t do harm to anyone. However, this is extremely bad for the municipal sanitation system, and could even impact the water supply. Ask a doctor what to do with old medical waste, as it must be disposed of with caution.