Things You Should Never Put Down Your Sink
When it comes to your sink, what goes down may or may not go down all the way. Just about anything solid has the potential to stick in the P-trap, the U-shaped pipe beneath the basin. To skip a call to the plumber, let’s review what to keep out of the sink and out of the drain.
In the bathroom:
Think of all you do in the bathroom sink: wash your face, shave, brush your teeth, and take off makeup. Almost anything semi-solid can cause a clog, as it acts like a magnet for the hair shavings, nail clippings and other debris we don’t think about rinsing away in our day-to-day grooming.
Hair - It’s bad enough your shower drain gets filled with it; sink drains are smaller in diameter, so hair, along with soap scum and other materials, can join together to create a messy glob.
Makeup and makeup removers - Foundation, mascara and some cream-based cleansers can stick in the P-trap if you don’t rinse thoroughly with hot water.
Oils - One of the newest culprits is coconut oil. It has become a popular facial cleanser, hair mask -- even a toothpaste and mouth rinse. If you have used it at all, you know it stiffens in cool temperatures, so be sure to rinse well with hot water after using it. Better yet, keep it out of the drain altogether.
Toothpaste - That little extra dab you leave in the sink should be wiped up, not pushed down the drain. This is especially important when it comes to the mess kids make when brushing. The paste can harden and create a clog.
Paper - Tissue and oil-blotting paper, even little stray bits, can stick in the trap if you don’t rinse it down thoroughly.
Dental floss - You probably throw this in the wastebasket already, but beware of flushing it down the sink.
Medicines - These can pollute our waterways. How to dispose of them? The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration sponsors National Prescription Drug Take-Back days around the country. Your local pharmacy, city or law enforcement agency might also have similar events.
In the kitchen:
You may have a disposer in one sink, but you should still use caution and run it thoroughly, rinsing with plenty of hot water before, during and after using it. In general, there are several things you should keep out of the kitchen drain.
Coffee grounds – These are one of the most frequent calls plumbers get. Throw your used grounds in the trash or scatter them in the garden – they nourish the soil with fatty acids and essential oils.
Fruit pits, bones and citrus peel – Your disposer blades may not chop these up small enough and they can lodge in the pipe. Compost them or throw them away.
Cooking oil and fats – This is the perfect medium for anything else that might find its way down the sink. Even if you flush it well, it can leave a residue on pipes and cause problems down the road. Culprits include bacon grease, butter, and fruit and vegetable oils.
Paper – Little bits of paper towel and tissue can stick and absorb water, contributing to clogs.
Solvents – Any liquid you put down the drain has the potential to end up in the ecosystem. There are plenty of natural, nontoxic alternatives out there.
Stickers – Yes, those tacky labels on your produce can stick to the sides of pipes. They can even make their way into your wastewater treatment center and waterways.
Flour – This hardens quickly, often too fast to be flushed out of your pipes. Scoop out as much as possible and throw it in the trash.
It’s not that difficult to unclog a drain. Sometimes a mixture of baking soda and vinegar will do the trick. Commercial drain cleaners, when used properly, can help break up greasy clogs. But a persistent stop-up or slow drain might need the help of a plumber.