Can you imagine living without shower, sink, and toilet drains? These standard plumbing features provide conveniences many of us don’t truly appreciate until until one of our drains gets backed up. The most effective way to keep your drains in good working order is to be mindful about what goes down. Familiarize yourself with common sources of plumbing clogs and groundwater contamination, and flush and rinse accordingly. Here’s a list of 10 serial offenders to get you started.
An estimated one-third of all medication manufactured and sold in the United States goes unconsumed. While dumping it down the toilet keeps children, pets, and unprescribed adults from accessing your medicine, it does so at a cost. Groundwater and natural waterways across the country have tested positive for painkillers, antidepressants, birth control hormones, and other medications. Do your part to limit pharmaceutical pollution in your region’s waterways. Dispose of unused and expired medication at pharmacy take-back programs.
2. Paper products
Toilet paper, flushed down the toilet, is the only paper product that should enter your pipes. And even this is best kept to a minimum. Paper towels, although biodegradable, are too absorbent and clog pipes. Cotton balls, scrub pads, and pre-moistened wipes all contribute to clogs. Produce stickers are another paper product to watch out for. If they don’t stick to your apartment’s drains or pipe walls, they’ll get caught up in a screen or filter somewhere downstream.
3. “Flushable” wipes, kitty litter, etc.
Ironically, products marketed as flushable are some of the most common culprits of clogged drains. Flushable wet wipes, for instance, are designed to fit comfortably through a toilet drain and clean, well-maintained pipes. But when they collect grease and other non-soluble materials, these wipes cause knots that clog pipes and sewer lines. Flushable cat litter is another big no-no. In addition to clogging pipes, litter harbors bacteria found in cat feces that pose health threats to many marine species.
4. Toxic chemicals
If any residential waste poses a greater risk to groundwater supply safety than unused medication, it’s toxic chemicals. Paint, motor oil, automative fluids, and solvents are no-brainers. But toxic chemicals are also found in conventional cleaners, including liquid drain cleaners. Never flush toxic chemicals down the drain, and properly dispose of paint, batteries, and other hazardous household waste.
5. Coconut oil
Coconut oil has emerged as a miracle product for a range of health, beauty, and cooking needs. Something the oil is not good for, however, is the drains in your apartment. Like olive oil and other cooking oils, coconut oil sticks to pipes and hardens when those pipes cool. Never flush oils, salad dressing, oily condiments, mayonnaise, high-fat foods, or cooking grease down your sink. They’re all common culprits in drain blockages and sewer overflows.
6. Dairy products
Cheese, ice cream, yogurt, milk, and butter are other fatty foods you don’t want in your pipes. In addition to creating clogs, dairy products smell rancid almost as soon as they encounter hot water.
7. Egg shells
Garbage disposal can process egg shells without difficulty, but the sand-like particles that get washed down the drain stick to pipes, contributing to clogs.
8. Citrus rinds and fruit pits
Garbage disposal blades are not sharp enough to grind most fruit pits. They can handle citrus rinds, but orange and lemon rinds have a tendency to clog pipes. Fruit pits, rinds, and skins are compostable, and citrus make great natural air fresheners.
9. Expandable foods and flour
Pasta made with semolina flour continues to swell in size once flushed down the kitchen sink. Rice grains also continue to expand, contributing to plumbing problems. Baking flour, which coagulates and hardens inside drain pipes, should also be kept away from the kitchen sink.
10. Coffee grounds
On their own, coffee grounds aren’t that hard on plumbing infrastructure. But when they meet oil or grease, the combination causes all sorts of trouble. Coffee grounds are compostable, however. Used grounds can be reused in DIY skin care products, plant fertilizer, furniture stainer, and other inventive ways. If you go the beauty care route, don’t let those grounds weasel their way down the shower drain.
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