A clogged drain can throw life out of whack in any household. There are many reasons that can cause a drain to clog, but grease accumulation is the most common – especially in the kitchen sink. Yet bathroom pipes can also be at risk. Read on to learn more about grease build-up, how to unclog pipes yourself and when to call a plumber. Also, better yet, learn how to prevent grease build-up in the first place!
The dangers of grease in the pipes
A grease-clogged drain is a big headache. In addition to blocking water flow, the subsequent back-up is messy, foul-smelling and ultimately unhygienic. But you may be surprised to learn that you don’t have to make a habit of deliberately pouring cooking oil and grease down the drain, as covered in our blog post – “Still Pouring Grease Down the Sink?” As the good people at Balkan Sewer & Drain Cleaning point out, there’s “hidden” grease in many foods.
“Grease, oil, and fat are common by-products of foods or cooking processes. Many other things can build an accumulation of grease inside drain pipes such as meats, food scraps, dairy products, butter, coffee grinds, rice, eggshells, many soaps, and detergents as well. Basically anything else that comes from food or is used for cooking can be a potential cause of a grease clogged pipe. Even when you are a very cautious person, you may not notice the existence of grease in the drain pipe until overflowing happens.”
Think your bathroom pipes are immune? Most soaps are based on animal or vegetable fat, and grooming products such as shaving gel can also build up in pipes over time.
How do clogged pipes occur?
Kitchen sinks, especially the sink traps, are the most vulnerable to grease build-up. Fat, oil, grease and grit (FOGG) – along with water – flow down the kitchen sink easily, more so because the water is usually warm. When the water reaches the pipe, it becomes cold over time. It is easy for the water to pass through, but the FOGG solidifies in cold water. The grease either sinks to the bottom of the pipe – or, in a more likely scenario – floats on top of the water, forming a coat on top of the pipe. The grease accumulation slowly builds as more and more grease goes down the sink, eventually clogging the drain completely.
More from Balkan Sewer & Drain Cleaning:
“Drain pipe clogging is possibly caused by a mixture of calcium and fat as well. Human urine and corrosion from pipe produces calcium; when mixed with fats from any source, formation of dense and fairly hard soap takes place. It means that any pipe located in any room in the house can get clogged by soap formulated by the mixture of calcium and fats on day-to-day basis.”
Will a little elbow grease work?
Dealing with grease clogs is not an easy task. Applying elbow grease (the only kind recommended around a drain) on an existing clog can get the water flowing again, but the idea is to prevent grease clogs. Home improvement writer Hannah Madans offers these tips in her article for Do It Yourself.
An ounce of prevention – In addition to not pouring bacon (or any other kind of) grease down the drain, take care to keep that hidden grease at bay. Wipe off utensils and plates before putting them in the sink, and use a grease-dissolving dish detergent. Such detergents are labeled accordingly. They prevent grease build-up, but do not dissolve existing solidified grease in pipes. If possible, install a garbage disposal – yet be sure to use that properly, as well.
Use caustic cleaners – Consumer drain cleaners are readily available in supermarkets and big box retailers. Some brands are more eco-friendly than others, while some are formulated to be compatible with septic systems. Read the label carefully to make sure you’re buying the product that best suits your specific needs and plumbing system – and then follow label instructions carefully. If the first attempt doesn’t clear the clog, refer to the instructions regarding how to safely repeat the process.
Use a homemade grease remover – If you want to cut down on cost, you can make a grease removing cleaner at home. Boil water, then take one part of hot water and mix it with one part of vinegar. Pour the solution into your drain and allow it to stand for several minutes. While the hot water melts the grease, the vinegar will eat at the grease sticking on the pipes. After pouring the hot water and vinegar mixture into your drain, follow it up with some boiling water. The boiling water should flush the remaining grease from your pipe.
As mentioned earlier, clogged drains can make your kitchen smelly. To get rid of the foul odor emanating from the drain, you can mix one part of hot water with one part of bleach. Pour this mixture down the drain, followed with warm, soapy water.
When is it time to call a plumber?
If your DIY attempts fail to clear the clog, call a plumber. Sometimes the grease consolidates to the extent that home remedies don’t work. Adams and Son Plumbing is a full-service plumbing company that has been serving Central Florida since 1958. We are certified, licensed and bonded – and send a master plumber on every job. You can also contact us for plumbing emergencies, as well as schedule preventive maintenance.