We’ve all heard of various things that should never be disposed of in the kitchen sink- grease, pasta, potato peels, but milk?! Yes, indeed. While it may not damage or clog your pipes, pouring milk down your drain is actually terrible for the environment. It takes a lot of oxygen to break down milk, taking oxygen away from living organisms that need it to survive. Large amounts of milk have even been known to suffocate entire ecosystems. In fact, some places fine businesses for disposal of milk down drains. 


So if your milk is getting close to expiring, find another way to dispose of it- maybe a tasty batch of rice puddinghomemade Greek yogurt, or even fresh ricotta.


Other no-nos for your drains:

Cooking Oil and Grease: Two of the worst things to pour down your drain are cooking oil and grease. Because they are liquid, it seems like they won’t do any damage. However, grease and cooking oil create globs of fat that mix with the moisture in your pipes to solidify and clog up your system. Same goes for bacon fat. It cools quickly after you dump it down the drain, causing the liquid to congeal and solidify. Put these substances in jars or cans to cool before disposing of them in the trash. Vaseline falls in this category, too!

Coffee Grounds: Washing coffee grounds down your drain, even a small amount, is bad for your pipes. Coffee grounds are one of the most common causes of kitchen sink blockages. They don’t get properly ground by garbage disposals and can clump up, causing buildup in the pipes. Instead, try incorporating the coffee grounds into your compost. Coffee grounds also are thought to be a mosquito and bug repellant, especially when spread in a dish and burned like incense.

Eggshells: Another seemingly harmless bi-product like coffee grounds, eggshells are not easily handled by your garbage disposal and can get stuck in viscous pockets of other difficult-to-drain substances.

Flour: When mixed with water, flour becomes a firm and thick substance, almost like glue. While not harmful to your pipes, washing large amounts of flour down your drain can cause it to clog up your drain and could even jam your disposal. Think of the consistency of bread dough – it pretty much just takes flour and water. We don’t recommend making a sourdough starter in your kitchen sink drain!

Expanding Food: We’re talking about the rice, pasta, and oatmeal of the world. Most starchy or grainy solids that puff up will cause blockages if they are poured down your drain. Scraping plates into the trash before rinsing is a must. Just like with flour, a small amount of pasta or rice probably won’t be harmful, but the risk increases significantly if you pour a full cup down!

Fibrous Fruits and Veggies: Produce like pumpkin, corn husks, potato peels, lime rinds, and other tough-shelled fruits and veggies can easily clog your kitchen sink. Trash or compost them instead.

Medication: Pouring medication down the drain does serious damage to the environment. They are extremely toxic, contaminating lakes, affecting water supply and animals in the lakes. Medication is a leading source of contaminating water supplies.  Be conscientious and don’t pour unused medication down the drain (or flush it!).

Paint and other chemicals: Paint is a no in both directions: it can immediately cause serious drainage issues and poses serious environmental risks. There are reasons why there are hazardous waste labels on most paints, so avoid rinsing them down your drain. Paint thinner is also a no-no. Turpentine and other mineral spirits can eat away at your pipes, not to mention contaminate the water supply. This applies to water-based and oil-based paints, neither of which should go into the sink. Most areas have rules and regulations concerning the disposal of paints. Some regulations are so strict that even washing out paintbrushes inside a sink isn’t allowed.

Bleach: Pouring bleach down the drain will do more harm than good to your plumbing system. Bleach is a toxic and powerful substance that should always be handled carefully. It can react with other substances trapped in your pipes, potentially releasing fumes or further clogging the system.

So, what is acceptable to pour down the drain, to clean pipes or freshen a sink?

The most important thing is getting all the buildup cleaned out from disposals and drains- those are what typically cause foul odors.

Salt: We just learned about this one! Why pour salt down the drain? Salt helps break down grease and emulsified fats. When combined with vinegar and hot water it can contribute to clearer pipes.

Coca Cola: Coke and other colas are actually surprisingly decent pipe cleaners, so pour away! They contain phosphoric acid which helps to break down certain buildups in your pipes.

Vinegar: Vinegar is both safe and beneficial to pour down the drain. It acts as a natural cleaning solution and can remove blockages and harmful bacteria that cause foul odors. Though not always the number one recommended long-term solution, baking soda and vinegar along with some hot water can prove to be a serviceable solution to clear your drains. Baking soda and vinegar can also help mitigate foul odors.

Ammonia: Ammonia is water-soluble and safe to clean drains. Use about a cup of ammonia in a quart of very hot (even boiling) water. Pour down the drain and wait 15 minutes or more. Flush with at least another gallon of hot water. Wear gloves and take care not to breathe the fumes. And definitely do not mix it with other household products, especially anything containing bleach!! Bleach and ammonia will mix to form an extremely toxic gas.

Boiling water: Boiling water is typically safe to pour down most drains – but make sure to watch out for you and other people while doing it! In some extreme cases of damaged pipes, it could further degrade plastic seals, but those were likely already in serious jeopardy if plain water exacerbates it. Boiling water with citrus, or even just a soap and water compound can help with odors.

Alcohol: Alcohol is generally safe to pour down a drain in moderate quantities. If you need to dispose of large amounts of it, either dilute it or take time in between draining. Or better yet, call us to come and get it!

Posted by Tammy Crabtree on
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