Kitchen drain maintenance?
September 10, 2009 11:35 AM   Subscribe

How do I keep my kitchen drain from clogging? I already have a good strainer, but I keep getting these grease clogs. Is there some safe chemical or homemade concoction I can use on a regular basis?

After living in my house for 4 years, my kitchen drain clogged, then again 6 months later (last week) - not a total clog, but like 30 minutes-to-drain slow. Drano etc. didn't work, neither did a snake - it went right through the gunk, I even rented a motorized one from Home Depot! What did work was this crazy, dangerous chemical (417841 on the Home Depot website) that I have to go into the basement, unscrew the pipe, and carefully pour in with a funnel and tube (wearing eye and hand protection). I let it work overnight and my drain is perfect in the morning. So I guess it's a grease clog - how can I keep it from coming back?
posted by exhilaration to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Have you actually been pouring grease down your drain? If so, your first step is to stop doing that, and dispose of grease/fats in an appropriate way, such as putting it in a disposable container and throwing it away in your trash.
posted by scarykarrey at 11:39 AM on September 10, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I don't have a garbage disposal in my very old apartment, and my method is to throw anything that is not absolutely 100% liquid into the trash. Cereal with milk, spaghetti with sauce, whatever. I have to take the trash out more often to avoid odors, but it's worth it to avoid gunk-in-the-drain horrors.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:43 AM on September 10, 2009

A little grease is OK, like from cooking some morning bacon, if it's soaped up with some enzymatic dish soap. But yeah, don't be dumping a half-gallon of frying oil down the kitchen sink.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:44 AM on September 10, 2009

Not necessarily grease. It could be hair, roots, improperly sloped drain, clogged vent etc etc. The only way to know for sure is to have a plumber camera your service lateral and check your system.

Scraping your plates into the garbage, rather than putting dishes with food on them into the dishwasher or running it down the disposal will help. Putting hair catchers on your shower drains will make a big difference as well.
posted by electroboy at 11:46 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Another thing to consider is getting a new sink garbage disposer. Some people go their entire lives without ever seeing a new one. Pshaw. Get some new 1HP model. Quieter and way, way more efficient.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:49 AM on September 10, 2009

This link indicates that even if you use a "grease-cutting" soap, it'll only break the grease up enough to push it further down the sewer pipes to clog up somewhere else. It's better all around to dispose of it in your trash.
posted by scarykarrey at 11:49 AM on September 10, 2009

Best answer: I live in an old apartment building that hasn't had the best care in the past decade or so. My drains clog at the drop of a... hair. Seriously, I try to make sure that all I put down my drains is dirty water and still the darned things clog up (kitchen and bathroom).

I do two things:

(1) I purchased a "Zip" thing from Walmart. It's a barbed plastic thing that cost maybe 97 cents. Stick it down the drain and pull it back out; it brings all the hair and gunk out.

(2) Baking soda and white vinegar. Pour the baking soda in the drain, follow with the vinegar then plug the drain with a dishrag (watch out: volcanic activity; don't get it in your eyes or anywhere else!).

I've found that these two steps done about once a month keep things flowing smoothly.

Also, I found something called "Earthworm" at my local fancy, expensive but not Whole-Foods expensive food shop. It's allegedly a 'safe' alternative and works on slow-running drains. It helped before I started the zip-and-volcano method.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 11:58 AM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I was renting and dealing with a slow-draining kitchen sink (and an even slower landlord) I found that one thing that seemed to help, and certainly wouldn't hurt: get a big pot, like 8 quarts of water to a rolling boil, and then (carefully) dump the whole thing down the drain at once. Bonus: free, and no nasty chemicals. It seemed to help keep things moving along.

And I definitely didn't put any grease down the drain if I could help it. Anything that I could pour or scrape off went into the trash.
posted by ambrosia at 12:13 PM on September 10, 2009

Garbage disposals aren't likely to help the situation. In fact, they may make it worse, since it allows one to put all sorts of things down the sewer that they aren't really designed to convey. Some cities are banning them altogether
posted by electroboy at 12:16 PM on September 10, 2009

Get the pipes warm by running hot water. Then pour some concentrated dish soap down the drain followed by two big pots of boiling water. This may just push the grease down the drain further, but has worked enough for me in the past.
posted by fontophilic at 12:16 PM on September 10, 2009

I agree with grease management as a component of the solution. My two part system is, if there is enough to be pourable in the pan, I pour it into a nasty old recycled screwtop jar (with lid, natch) kept under the kitchen sink. Chuck when full. Smaller amounts I wipe out the pan with a paper towel when cool and throw the towel away.

You may also want to look into these enzymatic drain maintenance products. Some are labeled green alternative type products, some are not. They sell them most places you'd buy drain clearing products in the same section. You add some periodically to drains and they're supposed to help keep them clear by promoting the breakdown of gunk. I knew someone working as a janitor at a place having drain issues and a product like this seemed to resolve the issue and prevent recurrence.

That heavy duty chemical you mention is basically just straight up lye (sodium hydroxide) solution. You can buy solid lye at any hardware store and mix up your own if you're adventurous (and capable of being very safe), I do. Base burns are nasty things (chemistry undergrad, yes, seriously, they are) but lye is very predictable if you handle it correctly and tons of hobbyists use it every day to make soap, it's not really that horrible of a chemical, just very strongly corrosive.
posted by nanojath at 12:21 PM on September 10, 2009

Keep a couple of crushed eggshells in your kitchen sink strainer at all times. They trap additional solids, and they gradually break up and help to naturally clean your pipes on their way down the drain. source
posted by bravowhiskey at 12:28 PM on September 10, 2009

Best answer: If they're really grease clogs, stop dumping grease down the sink. Grease goes into a grease can or jar on/under the counter, which then gets thrown away in the trash. Oil gets wiped up with paper towels/napkins which are then thrown away in the trash (some vegetable oils can be composted, but most go rancid and stink before they decompose).

I dump a cup of baking soda into each preheated drain once a month or so, washing it down with hot hot water (using boiling water isn't necessary, unless you're way far away from the main waste drain), to clear out residual grease.

If you've got a garbage disposal, stop using it. Don't leave lots of food residue on your dishes, whether you wash by hand or use a dishwasher -- solids should be scraped into the garbage, not left to clog a drain.

It might not hurt to have a plumber come in and scope the system -- if the problem is a recurring one, there may be some structural reason for it.
posted by jlkr at 1:17 PM on September 10, 2009

Old-fashioned rubber sink plunger clears my blocked tubes every time, and adds that vital element of fun, fun, fun that every drain clearance needs. Also, no nasty chemicals make their way into the environment. Just a thought ...

There's a knack to using it properly. Hold the rubber thingy over the drain, and half-fill the sink or basin with water. Then lift the plunger a bit, let some water go into the drain and work up and down vigorously (I did mention this would be fun, didn't I!) The water gets propelled back and forth through the drain and removes tons of crap. Naturally, this makes redundant the gallons of chemicals you would otherwise buy, which is why they're not promoted very much.
posted by BrokenEnglish at 2:16 PM on September 10, 2009

Best answer: There are bacteria-based cleaners than eat grease. It's a liquid full of a bunch of critters that go down your drain and digest the clog. Has to be done regularly for maintenance and isn't so good if you have a full clog that needs immediate opening.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:57 PM on September 10, 2009

Where do your pipes go? Sewers, septic tank, drywell?

My kitchen sink was draining more and more slowly. I don't like dumping crazy stuff down the drains because we have well water on Long Island, but I'd put down hot water, baking-soda-and-vinegar, and any other little housewifey tricks. Things would clear up and then get worse again. It turned out that unbeknownst to anyone, including our usual drywell-pumpers, we had a separate drywell for the kitchen sink that was clogged/backed up/full. So even though it seemed like things would get better and then worse again, I was only delaying the inevitable.

It could be clogs in the drain or clogs at the end of the drain, or roots poking through and clogging your pipes, or a pipe that's collapsed or has caked on mineral deposits (how old is your house?).

You really should get a plumber in and stop randomly dumping stuff down the drain hoping that it will fix whatever unknown problem you have.
posted by thebazilist at 5:47 PM on September 10, 2009 [1 favorite]

Save a sour cream container, salsa container with snap on lid, etc. Pour warm (not hot grease) into container then reposit in freezer 'til full. Dispose of on garbage day. I live in the tropics so anything that will smell bad in the garbage if left in tropic heat (chicken packaging, fish packaging, bones, etc.) is also reposited in the freezer then thrown out, still frozen, (sans any rotten odor) on garbage day.
posted by Muirwylde at 6:03 PM on September 10, 2009

Um, yeah, like others have said...if you think it's a grease clog, then stop pouring grease down the drain. Y'know those clogged artery commercials? That's your drain. I suppose grease clogs more than just arteries. Seek the help of a plumber anyway, it might not be grease and you really don't wanna mess with pipes unless you know what you're doing...they can be tricky.

But even if a plumber diagnoses a different problem, STOP POURING GREASE DOWN THE DRAIN.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 7:03 PM on September 10, 2009

Best answer: Slow graffiti has the answer- mix up a batch once a week and run it down all the drains. You'll never have a clog.
posted by gjc at 2:40 AM on September 11, 2009

Response by poster: Ok, ok, no more grease down the drain. I already cleaned out containers and pots, but I'll also start wiping down plates and stuff. I'm also going to buy that bacterial/enzymatic drain cleaner and pour it down the drain every now and then. I'll also try the Baking soda and white vinegar method (not at the same time, of course).

If it happens again, I'll pay a plumber to take a look. Thanks for the input.
posted by exhilaration at 8:59 AM on September 17, 2009

« Older when the sex towel is not enough   |   Adventure novels for a five-year-old? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.