How To Cut The Fat Out Of Your Plumbing System

You might think that your garbage disposal is the quickest way of getting rid of fatty scraps and old cooking oil. However, pouring old cooking oil and poultry fat down the drain can wreak havoc with your plumbing system. The following illustrates the damage it could cause and what you can do to prevent fat and oil clogs from happening in the first place.

What Fats and Grease Can Do to Your Pipes

Think of your pipes as your home's circulatory system. Just as certain high-cholesterol foods and poor habits can leave fat deposits on the artery walls, pouring lots of fats and oils into your garbage disposal could leave behind a thick coat of fat inside your pipes. Keep it up and it could eventually result in a completely clogged pipe.  

Even if it doesn't seem like fat and grease is having an impact on your plumbing, the effects may show elsewhere. Ever seen a "fatberg" before? That's the end result of countless homeowners carelessly pouring fat and oils down their drains. As these greasy byproducts make their way into your municipal sewer system, they can congeal and clump together with plastics, disposable wipes and other things that aren't supposed to be in the sewer system.

If your home uses its own septic tank, these fats and oils can instead clog up the drainfield and prevent your tank from managing solid and liquid waste properly. The end result is often a huge bill for the cleanup and other remedial work needed to get your septic system back to normal.

Dealing with Fat-Laden Pipes

Opening up fat-laden pipes is no picnic, but it can be done with the following methods:

  • Using water, vinegar and baking soda - A combination of vinegar and baking soda can easily break down fat deposits and other unsightly residue. Simply pour a 1/2-cup of baking soda down the drain, followed with a 1/2-cup of baking soda. Finally, wait for 15 to 20 minutes before pouring boiling hot water down the drain.
  • Using drain cleaners - Chemical and enzymatic drain cleaners are a common -- and oftentimes more caustic -- alternative to natural clog removal means. Although many of these chemicals prove effective when it comes to tackling clogs, they can also trigger premature corrosion in metal plumbing pipes and create toxic fumes if other household cleaners are accidentally mixed with it, so be wary when using drain cleaners.
  • Using a drain snake - A drain snake is the most physical and direct way of dealing with fat-clogged pipes. Simply feed the snake into the affected drain until it meets resistance. Afterwards, carefully twist the snake to break through the clog. Once broken through, the clog can be broken up further or dissolved away by running hot water past the clog.

Preventive Steps You Can Take

One simple way to prevent fat and oil clogs in your plumbing is to simply refrain from dumping these items down the drain. Here are a few methods you can use to avoid clogged pipes:

  • Dump your greasy or fatty food scraps and meat trimmings in the garbage instead of the garbage disposal.
  • Use disposable containers to store used cooking oil and grease. Once filled, you can solidify the oil by freezing it or adding sorbents to the container and place the container in the trash, provided it's a relatively small amount. If you have large amounts of grease and cooking oil to dispose of, you may want to take the oil to your local recycling and disposal facility.
  • Use paper towels to wipe away grease and oils before washing greasy items in the sink. This will keep residual oils and fats from breaking away and traveling through the plumbing.

If you do a lot of cooking that involves greasy foods, then you may want to consider installing a grease trap. Like their commercial counterparts, a residential grease trap helps remove fat and oils from outgoing wastewater before they end up in the sewer or septic system. Grease traps are commonly installed underneath the sink, although you can set up larger grease traps outside just before the wastewater hits the sewer or septic tank.

For more information and assistance with dealing with a clog or installing a grease trap, contact professional plumbing services in your area.