The day after Thanksgiving is known as the biggest plumbing crisis day of the year. Calls for clogs, backups, and drain cleaning go through the roof right after Thanksgiving, but many of these problems could have been prevented if home cooks and hosts had avoided a few key mistakes that cause havoc every year. Let’s talk about those mistakes in detail so that you can avoid post-holiday misery and expenses.
Why is Thanksgiving Day So Hard On Plumbing Systems?
Several reasons can combine to make the Thanksgiving Day holiday a perfect storm for clogs and backups:
1. Overuse of the Garbage Disposal.
Despite the name, your garbage disposal is not for disposing of garbage. In fact, some plumbers say that “nothing should go down the garbage disposal.” That is a little extreme, but proper use of your disposal shouldn’t be much more than rinsing small amounts of food remaining after cleaning the sink. Eggshells, fibrous vegetables, coffee, starchy foods, and most other things are both hard on your disposal and likely to build up over time to eventually clog your pipes. And when a lot is sent down the disposal in a short time – like it often is after big holiday meals – it can contribute to a sudden backup that requires a professional local drain expert.
2. Potato Peels
It’s possible that more homemade mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving than for any other day of the year, and for those who are members of the “skin off” team, that means a lot of potato peels to be disposed of. Unfortunately, many people turn to their garbage “disposal” to do so, and that’s the worst choice they could make.
No matter how much you grind them up – or perhaps because of how much you grind them up – potato peels are both starchy and fibrous, and that means when you send them through the garbage disposal and down the drain they become a sticky grabby mess that can clog a drain or sewer line all on its own, or grab on to other refuse to create a multi-material clog. Always dispose of potato peels in the trash or by composting.
3. Putting Grease Down the Drain.
Folks who don’t regularly cook large meals can suddenly find themselves awash in greasy pans and plates on Thanksgiving, and unfortunately they put all that oil and grease directly down the kitchen sink or into their dishwasher, both of which drain to the main sewer line of the house. Grease that is warm and liquid in a pan does not stay that way in your pipes; it solidifies into a mass of sticky gunk that, like “potato peel paste,” can either clog pipes by itself or grab other refuse to create a multi-material clog.
Grease should always be allowed to solidify and then be scooped into the trash to be thrown out at the curb. Just because your soap claims it “gets grease out of your way,” that doesn’t mean that grease won’t cause havoc once it gets into your pipes. Always scrape as much grease as possible off pans, plates, and utensils before washing them, whether in the dishwasher or by hand.
4. Flushing Non-flushable Materials.
And just about everything is non-flushable. We always tell customers that the only non-organic thing that should be flushed is toilet paper. “Flushable wipes” are not flushable despite the advertising. Many backups we are called out for turn out to be caused by nothing more than a mass of “flushable wipes.”
What Steps Can You Take to Prevent a Plumbing Crisis on Thanksgiving?
1. Clean as much grease and food as possible from plates as possible before putting them in the dishwasher, and put it in the trash can, not the sink.
2. Never, never, never pour grease down the drain. Always put it in the trash for disposal at the curb. If necessary, wait for it to cool and solidify. Your pipes will thank you.
3. Put as little down your garbage disposal as possible, both during the holidays and simply as a daily practice.
4. Consider using paper plates to ensure that all trash and grease goes where it should – in the trash.
5. Make sure your bathrooms have trash cans so that guests are not tempted to flush non-flushable items.
6. Don’t supply your bathrooms with paper towels or “flushable wipes” that guests might not know shouldn’t be flushed. And make sure they have plenty of toilet paper on hand so they aren’t looking for something else.
Conclusion: Don’t Be a Thanksgiving Day Plumbing Victim
The Thanksgiving Day holiday has historically been a big cause of big plumbing problems, but it doesn’t have to be. When you know what NOT to do, you’ll be able to protect your plumbing and rest easy knowing things are under control.