The last thing that you should be pouring into your kitchen sink drain is FOG. What is FOG? It’s an acronym for Fats, Oils, and Grease and they are extremely harmful to your plumbing system. When FOG cools, it will solidify and cause clogs in your pipes that are hard to remove without professional help. In this article, we will take a closer look at how this affects your plumbing and what you can do about this problem.
The Sink Drain is Not a Garbage Disposal
A regular sink drain is designed to drain away wastewater and nothing else. Adding a drain cover to the sink will help to trap small food particles and other debris but some may end up in the drain anyway. This isn’t too much of a problem when the drain is working efficiently because that material can be flushed out with the next flow of wastewater. But, this is not the case when FOG enters the drain.
The Action of FOG on Kitchen Sink Drains
In a busy kitchen, it’s easy to make decisions based on expediency but in some cases, it’s a good idea to step back and take a moment to think about the consequences of our actions. This is especially true when it comes to the disposal of fats, oils, and grease in their liquid state. When they are warm, it’s easy to think of FOG materials as something that can be poured into the drain because they will be flushed away with the wastewater. This is true to a certain extent, some of the FOG may move through the drain in that way, but not all of it and that is a problem. When FOG is fully cooled it will return to a solid state and at first, that will be a smaller deposit inside the pipe.
The Formation of Kitchen Sink Drain Clogs
This is only the beginning of the problem. FOG is sticky and other materials will stick to it over time. So, if any food particles, hair, more FOG, or other items are introduced, they will be added to that initial clog. Over time, the size of the clog will grow and begin to fill the drain line. Eventually, the clog will become large enough to fill the entire diameter of the pipe and you will notice that the sink is draining slowly. The clog will prevent the passage of wastewater and it has to go somewhere, which is back up into the sink.
Removing Drain Clogs Safely
Removing a drain clog may be possible without the help of a professional plumber, but this must be approached carefully. The first thing to state upfront is that you should avoid pouring a chemical drain cleaning product into your kitchen sink drain. These products contain very harsh caustic chemicals that can burn your skin and damage your plumbing pipes. They may be effective as a short-term solution, but the clogs tend to return because the FOG is not fully removed during the “cleaning” process. For this reason, a manual removal method is favored by plumbers and they have a number of specialized tools for this task. Investing in a full hydro jetting system is a bad idea for a homeowner, but there are some useful clog removal tools that are affordable.
A simple cup plunger is easy to find, it’s an affordable tool and easy to use. Simply place it over the drain, move it up and down to exert force on the clog, and flush the drain with water. This will be effective for smaller clogs, but if you cannot clear the clog, you could try a plumbing auger. This tool is often referred to as a plumbing “snake”, it’s a flexible rod that you insert into the drain until it bumps up against the clog. There is a drill bit at the business end and a handle to crank near the handle. Simply turn the crank to drill into the clog, break it apart and flush the remnants away with fresh water.
If you do want to try a chemical approach, you can make kinder drain cleaners from items you may already have in your home. Start by pouring a cup of baking soda into the drain and then add a cup of white vinegar. This mixture will start to bubble as the chemical reaction takes place. Leave the mixture in place for 10-15 minutes and then flush the drain with hot (not boiling) water. If this method isn’t effective, you can repeat it a few times and it may work on a subsequent attempt.
Prevention is Better Than the Cure
The best way to avoid dealing with drain clogs is to adopt a proactive approach to the problem. Fitting a drain cover to each drain in your home will certainly help but you need to make sure that everyone in the home is following the same routine. Pouring FOG or adding any other materials into the drains or flushing them in the toilet can cause clogs that are hard to remove.
How to Dispose of FOG Safely
The best way to dispose of FOG materials safely is to allow them to fully cool to a solid form. Then you can place them in the garbage can without creating too much mess. FOG can be an attractive proposition for various critters because it can smell like the food that was cooked in it. If this is the case, you may want to double wrap to minimize any food odors and make it less enticing. Some areas have recycling options for FOG related materials and you can get rid of them there. Cleaning up FOG can be messy and you need to wipe down surfaces thoroughly to avoid creating slipping hazards and other problems later.
Removing a kitchen sink drain clog may not be possible with the methods discussed in this article. If you have a persistent clog that returns regularly, it may be a sign of a more serious problem that should be investigated by your local professional plumber.