Your drain and your garbage disposal are tough, but not indestructible. If you use and abuse them, they will get clogged, or worse. Unfortunately for our hard-working friends, there are many common items that often get dumped in the sink, flushed down the toilet, and ground up in the disposal that have no business being there.
1. Potato Peels: While you would think that garbage disposals were created to grind up food, potato peels are extremely starchy. They can wrap around the blades and clog up your system quickly. A better choice for those peels -- and all fruit and vegetable scraps, for that matter -- is composting. The organic material breaks down quickly in a healthy compost bin and makes great fertilizer.
2. Prescription Medicine: Most people simply flush unwanted prescription medicines down the drain when they have expired, or when they no longer have a use for them. Unfortunately, the ingredients cannot be filtered out during the municipal water treatment process and work their way out into our environment. One solution is the FDA's (Food and Drug Administration) 'Prescription Take Back' program available through most pharmacies. If you simply return the unused portion, your local pharmacist can dispose of the medicine properly without wreaking havoc on our environment.
3. Grease: Grease is another item that can clog up your pipes and garbage disposal. Running cold water can help solidify the grease, which allows the blades to chop it up into smaller bits. A better choice, however, is the trusty coffee can. Keep one under your sink, just like your grandmother did, and keep filling it with grease as you cook. When it is full, you can throw it out in the trash.
4. Egg Shells: While some people swear by egg shells keeping the garbage disposal blades sharp, most professional plumbers do not recommend putting egg shells down the disposal because they can clog up your pipes further down the line. If you compost, eggs are an excellent addition to your.bin.
5. Lettuce: Fibrous material, like lettuce, seems so innocuous at first glance, but the leaves can get wrapped around the blades of a disposal. Interestingly, the city of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada decided to help its citizens reduce their landfill contributions by instituting a mandatory composting program of food and vegetable scraps, like lettuce. Their 'Green Bin' program eliminates 5,500 trucks of waste each year from their landfills, which is in turn used throughout the city for compost. Win-win.
6. Cigarette Butts: Like prescription medicine, cigarette butts leave chemicals in our water supply that cannot be filtered out with current methods. These chemicals effect both our water supply and our marine life.
7. Personal Hygiene Items: It says right on the package that you cannot flush feminine hygiene products as well as condoms, but people regularly do it. Water treatment plants are continually unclogging these types of non-biodegradable items from their system, wasting time, money, and man-power.
8. Kitty Litter: Kitty litter should not be flushed to protect the environment, but clumping version can also ruin your plumbing. It can actually 'clump' in your pipes creating a solid blockage that at the very least require a plumber to unclog, and, at worst, cause a pipe to burst.
9. Dental Floss: That long strand of dental floss shouldn't be flushed either. The string can get wrapped around other items in your pipes and cause a mess that requires the attention of a professional plumber.
10. Disposable Wipes: Whether baby wipes or bleach wipes, do not flush. In fact, even though the package may say it is flushable, the fabric-like wipes can get caught in the filtration system of your individual septic system or, worse, in your municipal water treatment plant.
11. Drain Cleaner: Not only is it dangerous to have drain cleaner where children or pets could access it, it is also bad for your pipes. The harsh chemicals can corrode copper pipes, and they can also linger on PVC pipes. The next time you innocently pour another product down your drain, you could accidentally cause a chemical reaction.
If it's already too late, don't be afraid to contact drain cleaning service professionals to get things back in running order.