Down the Hatch
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Down the Hatch - What not to put down your drains
Have you ever thought about what you put down the drains in your house? Maybe only when you’ve had to call a plumber when something starts backing up – or maybe never – out of sight, out of mind.

After high school, I worked in the Water and Wastewater Department for the city of Scottsdale. Working with sewer related issues gives you a very different perspective about what happens to items once they go down the drain. Without getting into details – let’s just say that you’d be surprised what doesn’t dissolve once in goes down the drain.

When I later went to culinary school, a chef taught me something I will always remember… the garbage disposal is only meant for what gets by – it is not a substitute for a garbage can. That was excellent advice and I follow it always! In fact, after living in the same house for 25 years and preparing thousands of meals in our kitchen, we have never once had need for a plumber to dislodge a clogged sewer line.

Over the years, I’ve been surprised to learn what people put down the drain.

HairWhen you shower, hopefully the drain prevents the hair from going down the drain. When you remove the hair from the shower, DO NOT put it in the toilet and flush it away – just put it in the trash. You might also find excess hair wrapped around the plunger that stops the water from draining in the bathroom sink. It’s a good idea to remove it and clean it off every few months. And for hair that you take out of a hair brush, always put that hair in the trash too.

Feminine Products – I hope everyone knows those items never should be flushed, regardless what any packaging may say. The trash can is the safest way to dispose of any hygiene products.

Food Scraps – All excess food scraps should go into the trash – not down the garbage disposal or better yet, into the compost pile. I once worked with someone during a large catering event. We had a lot of food that needed to be thrown out and the trash can was full. Instead of getting emptying the trash, the person said, “Just put it down the garbage disposal.” I was horrified and instead emptied the trash and put the food into a new trash bag. Stuffing food into the garbage disposal is just an open invitation to a big sewer clog.

Grease – While grease from things like bacon may be liquid when hot, it turns into a sold mass when it comes to room temperature or colder. I was surprised recently when an elderly gentleman asked why he couldn’t put bacon fat down the drain in one of my cooking classes. When we talked further, he admitted that they had to call the plumber frequently – he never realized all that grease was causing a big problem down the line.

Prescription Mediations – If you have old medications that need to be disposed of, flushing them down the drain is not the answer. Whether we want to believe it or not, we have a limited amount of water on this planet. The reality is that what goes down the drain today, will eventually be coming out of the faucet at some future date. Antibiotics and other drugs are already detectible in our water system. Always dispose of medications in the trash.

Pouring hot water down the drain is a good way to flush out grease. The dishwasher should take care of this in the kitchen, but on occasion I do pour some boiling water down the drain in the kitchen to clean it out. Try to avoid using a lot of chemicals to clean out a slow drain. A plunger does a good job in dislodging a clog. On occasion I pour some bleach down all of the drains to help clean them out – just don’t let the bleach sit in the drains too long – flush it through with some water.

I hope these tips help you avoid the need to call a plumber. Did you know that Thanksgiving Day is the busiest day for plumbers – all those potato peels and other food scraps going down the garbage disposal means big bucks for the plumber.

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