Preventing Clogged Drains | Cambridge Plumber

November 15, 2022

Most people put little thought into their drains—until they get clogged. Unfortunately, these clogs often happen at the worst times. Even after the clog is gone, it becomes a question of what to do to avoid clogged drains in the first place. There is a lot of conflicting information out there. Not all people understand how plumbing works, or what substances in particular lead to stubborn drain clogs. As Boston plumbers with decades of experience, we know what to do—and what not to do—in order to successfully prevent clogged drains.

The Biggest Culprits: Garbage Disposals & Toilets

Many homeowners are relatively clueless about kitchen drains, even if they have a garbage disposal.

Unwittingly, people will put potato peels, celery, eggshells, rice, pasta, coffee grinds, chicken bones, fruit pits, fish bones, and even grease down the garbage disposal, without realizing that all of these things should be thrown in the trash, NOT down the garbage disposal. Except for grease, of course, which should be poured into a glass jar or other container, and then thrown in the trash.

Check out our blog, Don’t Put This Down Your Garbage Disposal, to learn more!

Don’t even get us started on the toilet! For some reason, people tend to think that it’s the cleanest, safest way to dispose of cotton balls, baby wipes, tissues, paper towels, cat litter, feminine products, dirty mop water, dirt that is swept up from the floor, liquor bottles, Q-tips, and all kinds of trash – but none of these things should ever be flushed down!

Good Habits Prevent Clogged Drains

The good news is that by establishing a few good habits, people can do a lot to prevent clogged drains. That means they save the hassle and headache of clogged drains, and they save money in the process.

In the Kitchen

Let’s start with the kitchen. If you don’t have a garbage disposal, don’t wash any food or coffee grinds down the drain, especially grease. Grease is a major culprit behind clogged drains. If you do have a garbage disposal, you still shouldn’t put grease down the drain. Also, don’t put any of the foods we mentioned above. When you do grind up “safe” food scraps, be sure to run the cold water as you do it. If you don’t run enough cold water, food can get trapped in the drain instead of being washed down.

You should keep a trash can near the kitchen or under the sink, so you have easy access while cooking. This way, you will be able to easily throw eggshells, fruit and vegetable peels, and grease into the trash can. By throwing these materials away, you can save wear and tear on your plumbing system and avoid expensive repairs for a clogged drain.

Or try starting a compost bin instead of relying on the garbage disposal. This saves water and energy, and you’re putting substantially fewer solids down the drain. If you reside in the city of Boston and you don’t have a garden, there are several community gardens that will gladly use compost.

If your sink starts to smell, or you just want to provide regular maintenance to avoid a clogged drain, you can pour baking soda and hot water down the drain. White vinegar can also provide a natural and healthy solution to clean the pipes. Oils and grease can build up over time and clog your pipes. By running hot water down the drains with baking soda or white vinegar, you can help avoid clogged drains and keep your sinks functional.

In the Bathroom

In the bathroom, follow these tips, especially if you have a Rapunzel or two in the house:

  • Take a few seconds to brush your hair before you take a shower or bath so loose hair doesn’t end up clogging the drain. Although some hair is going to go down the drain, you’ll greatly reduce the amount.
  • Clean out sink stoppers often.
  • Use small screen covers to catch hair and small debris. They can be purchased at most superstores, like Walmart.
  • Every week, pour boiling water down the drains to dissolve grease and soap scum before they buildup and clog your pipes.
  • If your home runs on a septic system, have it inspected every two years.

What Can’t Go Down the Drain

I think we can all agree that clogged drains are one of the most irritating plumbing problems. They are also one of the most common. Clogged drains and pipes are caused by several things, including tree roots, shifts in soil, corrosion, food waste, debris, and inanimate objects. Luckily, the most common sources of clogs can easily be addressed.

While you can’t exactly tell tree roots where to grow, you can be careful about what you put down your drains. Limiting the items you place in the garbage disposal, pour down the sink, and flush down the toilet can significantly reduce the risk of clogged drains and pipes in your home.

Below are some of the most common sources of clogged drains:

  • Grease
  • Fat
  • Flushable wipes
  • Oil
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Fibrous veggies (i.e., asparagus and celery)
  • Fruit pits
  • Diapers
  • Q-tips
  • Paper towels
  • Bones
  • Eggshells
  • Make-up wipes
  • Cotton balls
  • Coffee grounds
  • Butter
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Cat litter
  • Paint
  • Flour
  • Fruit rinds

What Can Go Down Your Drains

Right now, you’re probably wondering what you can put down your drains. To make things simple, we recommend changing the way you think about your plumbing drains and pipes. These pipes are designed to transport wastewater away from your home, but they are not trash bins.

Below are our tips for your drains:

  • Kitchen sinks: Only put liquids and soft foods that can easily be broken down in water down your kitchen sink.
  • Bathroom sinks: It is best to mainly put liquids (such as soap and water) down your bathroom sink. Of course, things like toothpaste and facewash can go down these drains as well.
  • Toilets: When it comes to toilets, it is best to follow the Three P Rule: only flush pee, poop, and (toilet) paper.

Anything that doesn’t go down your drains should be tossed into the garbage bin, compost pile, or recycling instead. This way, you can prevent major clogs and keep your pipes flowing freely.

For more plumbing tips and tricks, please contact Winters® Home Services. As the most trusted name in home services, we know exactly what it takes to keep your home running smoothly.