When you cook with oil, grease and fats, it can be tempting to dispose of them by pouring them down the drain or rinsing your pan in the sink directly after cooking. Some people regularly pour their leftover grease into their sink without a second thought or wash out pans with cooking oil and other fats. In reality, pouring grease, oil and other cooking fats down the drain is one of the most common sources of plumbing issues.
Even when people run the hot water in the hopes it’ll take care of any potential issues, grease-caused clogs can still form and have a disastrous impact on your drainage system, pipes and overall sewer system. Zimmerman Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning can help you adopt reliable ways to dispose of grease safely, effectively and without risking clogs or other plumbing complications and provide solutions when you encounter a clog. Continue reading for our comprehensive list of grease disposal do’s and don’ts!
Why Is Grease Bad for Your Pipes?
While it may seem convenient to dump leftover grease down your sink drain once you’ve finished cooking, pouring grease, doing so is far more hazardous than people realize. Grease and cooking oil can cause extensive damage to your drainage system, garbage system and even sewer system by contributing to blockages.
The improper disposal of fats, oils and grease (FOG) can result in plumbing clogs and even total blockages in your pipes. The grease commonly found in butter, margarine, meat fats, lard, shortening, vegetable oil, sauces and salad dressings can cause dangerous buildup as they thicken and combine with other oil particles in the pipes. If a backup of FOG happens in your pipes, it can restrict water flow throughout your home and prevent your pipes from properly draining altogether.
What Happens if You Pour Grease Down the Drain?
How does grease clog drains? At its most basic, grease-caused blockages are a matter of chemistry — grease solidifies as it cools and can become lodged in your pipes and block drains. Once you dump your cooking oil and grease waste into your sink’s drain, the fats in the grease break down into their most basic components of fatty acids and glycerol.
The fatty acids from the grease gradually bind to the calcium found in sewers and sewer pipes due to concrete corrosion. As the acids and calcium combine, they begin to form a waxy, soap-like compound. As people flush more and more grease down their drainpipes, these solid compounds gradually accumulate on the ceiling of sewer pipes and form stalactites of fat called “fatbergs.”
Combatting the Fatbergs
A fatberg is a combination of the words “fat” and “iceberg,” which describes a large mass of solidified fat that can block sewer pipes. A fatberg forms when people pour grease and oil down the drain. These products then solidify and bond to other non-biodegradable items such as baby wipes. Fatbergs can cause an enormous amount of damage to wastewater treatment systems and take extensive effort to remove.
Over time, a tiny amount of grease and oil can cause substantial problems. Even when you’re only rinsing and cleaning the remnants of grease and oil from used pots and pans, you can wash substances down the drain to contribute to further fatbergs. It’s crucial to remember that these solidified blockages increase in size, leading to the accumulation of congealed fat that clogs the sewer line and causes dangerous backup problems.
Pouring cooking oil down the drain puts your home’s pipes and drainage system at risk, but these solidified fat blockages can also have significant repercussions for your sewer system.
How Can Pouring Grease Down the Drain Affect Your Sewer System?
Over time, fat buildup accumulates and holds onto debris within sewer pipes, making it far more difficult to dislodge. These hardened fat deposits make it extremely difficult to clean your pipes thoroughly and properly and can even extend outside of your home’s personal drainage system. In extreme cases, fatbergs caused by grease clogs can block wastewater flow, cause severe sewage backups and ruptures.
Damage to a sewer system can have a massive negative environmental impact. Sanitary Sewer Overflows, or SSOs, are a release of untreated or only partially treated sewage resulting from inappropriate materials sent to sewers or improper sewer maintenance. SSOs present several health risks, including the transmission of viruses and bacteria and mold and fungi growth. While SSOs often cause immense destruction to human property, they also expose bodies of water and drinking sources to human waste and pollutants.
In addition, grease and oil alone can travel into and contaminate natural waterways such as rivers and lakes. This introduction of excess oil into a body of water can deplete the water’s oxygen levels and suffocate any wildlife living in it. When you dispose of FOG properly, you can help ensure the proper function of your surrounding wastewater treatment systems.
How Do You Dispose of Grease?
Can you pour grease down the drain? It’s better to use other disposal methods. Here are a few pointers on how to dispose of grease properly.
1. Let It Dry Completely
To protect yourself from accidental burns and allow the grease to solidify, you’ll want to let it cool off and dry out in the air. Allowing the grease to solidify will make it easier to scrape it off of pans and collect it during cleanup.
2. Scrape the Grease Into a Separate Container
Once the grease has dried and is safe to handle, you can scoop or wipe it out with a plastic spatula or a cloth rag. If you regularly keep a disposable container to collect your leftover grease, you can scrape all of the dried grease and fat into it until you’re ready to empty it into the trash. When you’re ready to throw away the container, make sure you place it in a plastic bag to prevent any spillages or leaks from the container in the trash.
3. Throw It in the Garbage
Another possible method you can try is pouring the liquid grease from the pan into an aluminum foil-covered bowl and refrigerating it for several hours. Once the grease has solidified in the refrigerator, you can take out the foil from the bowl or jar, wrap the grease and throw it away securely. Remember not to compost your grease when you dispose of it as the smell can attract animals, and never dump your grease outside as it can still find its way into the sewer system as runoff.
4. Wipe Down All of the Pans
If you can avoid it, don’t run water over greasy pans or dishes. After you’ve disposed of the majority of the dried grease, always use a paper towel or plastic scraper to wipe down all of the pots, pans and dishes that came into contact with the oil before washing them in the sink.
How Do You Dispose of Cooking Oil?
Check out these tips on how to get rid of cooking oil.
1. Let It Cool
As with hot grease, it’s essential to allow time for the cooking oil to dry completely to reduce your chances of being burned. Let the oil cool off in the open air before attempting to dispose of it. As with grease, you can also freeze or refrigerate cooking oil to speed up the cooling process.
2. Pour It Into a Trash Can
When you’re disposing of a small amount of oil, such as a pan of olive or canola oil, you can simply pour the cooled oil into your trashcan on top of paper towels. You can also pour the oil into a disposable container and put that container into a plastic bag before placing it into the trash.
3. Pour It Into a Container to Reuse
If you’re dealing with a larger amount of oil, you can pour the oil into a container with a removable top to dispose of the oil safely in the trash. It can also be prudent to pour the oil into a container to use it again as long as you’ve cooked it correctly and not heated it past its smoke point. Reusing your oil can save you money and prevent you from wasting a perfectly good product. While the oil is still somewhat warm, strain it to remove any extra food particles and store it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use it again.
4. Recycle the Oil
However, another option for disposing of larger amounts of oil is to recycle it. After you strain your oil, you can put it in a sealed container and deliver it to the collection site. To recycle FOG, you won’t need to refrigerate it for collection. When you’re ready to recycle your cooking oil, you can look for a local collection site in your municipality. This way, you’ll avoid contributing further waste to a landfill and convert it into a form of alternative energy. Once the collection site has filtered out any food waste, they can refine the cooking oil into biofuel.
What Should You Do if You Pour Grease Down the Drain?
Is it ever okay to pour grease or cooking oil down your sink drain? Is there ever any safe way to do it? What can you do to fix subsequent problems that may arise? Let’s break down the following myths of potential “solutions” that can actually cause further damage to your drainage pipes and system.
Myth #1: Boiling Water Will Ease Grease Down the Drain
Some people will try to pour large amounts of boiling water down the drain immediately after dumping oil and grease into their sink. Because boiling water can liquefy the grease stuck in your pipes, they think that it’ll successfully unclog your drain. Unfortunately, that’s not a permanent solution as it can carry the grease further down the pipe. Then, the grease and fats will congeal once more but in a much more inaccessible area.
Myth #2: Running the Hot Water Tap With Dish Soap Flushes Grease
People often think that letting the hot water tap run with a bit of dish soap will help liquefy and flush any solidified grease. While hot water and dish soap can help dislodge the grease and oil from your pipes, dish soaps only break down fats temporarily. Using vinegar and baking soda is another popular choice to try and flush any clogs, but these too will only push the buildup further into the drainage system.
Myth #3: It’s Safe to Pour Liquid Cooking Oil Down the Drain
Fats and solidified grease pose the largest risk to your drainpipes and sewer system. Therefore, many people believe that since cooking oil is liquid, it’ll go down the drain just as easily as water. However, cooking oils that remain liquid at room temperature can still cause problems and risk damaging and clogging your pipes. Olive and canola oils will still coat your pipes and result in blockages even if you flush them with water.
Myth #4: Garbage Disposals Can Take Care of Grease
Garbage disposals are powerful tools for breaking down food, but they’re not designed to dispose of solidified grease or fats or buildup from liquid cooking oils. Excessive use of your garbage disposal can also contribute to further blockages, and eventually, your garbage disposal blades will become less effective from repeated coatings of grease.
Ultimately, you should never pour grease, cooking oil or any kind of fat down your drain — but there are ways to fix the problem if you’ve already poured FOG down the drain. The best solution for accidental grease spillage in your sink or buildup in your pipes is to contact a trusted plumbing expert. You can watch for warning signs such as slow drainage, an unpleasant smell or a gurgling sound coming from the drain to know when you’ll need to contact a plumber for help. Zimmerman can provide you with reliable and permanent solutions by eradicating any clog and preventing it from reforming.
Schedule an Appointment With Zimmerman Today
If you have questions about the well-being of your sink, drainage system or pipes, our family-owned business is here to help. We at Zimmerman Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning want you and your family to have the best plumbing and drainage systems possible. We can promise you a minimum one-year warranty for all parts and labor. Our team of incomparable and highly trained technicians in the greater Harrisburg area is here to help with drain maintenance and repair.
When you have a grease buildup in your pipes, you need the best and highest quality solution, fast. For skilled, affordable and trustworthy service guaranteed to keep your pipes clean, contact Zimmerman Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning today!