Clogged Drains During the Holidays
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Pain in the Drain: The Holidays Can Be Tough on Your Plumbing

The winter holidays are certainly a festive time for many homeowners, but they can also be a particularly tough time for your plumbing and sewer lines.

The incorrect disposal of cooking grease, overuse of garbage disposals and improper or excessive disposal of paper waste can resulted in clogged drains and are frequent culprits of pipe-clogging sewer problems during this time of year.

If you don’t catch a blockage in time, your household plumbing systems can become inoperable and, what’s worse, raw sewage can back up through toilets, tubs and sinks into your home. Here’s how to avoid trouble with your sewer lines this holiday season:

Never pour oil down a drain.oil in the drain

Baking, frying and roasting can result in beautiful holiday dinners, but also in excess coking oils, grease and fats that need disposal. Rather than pour them down a drain, put cooled fats and oils into a garbage bag or into a sealed container before disposing in the trash. Even small amounts of grease can cause a problem. Some municipalities have collection services for large amounts of used cooking oils.

Take care with table scraps.

Rather than use a garbage disposal, many plumbing professionals advise disposing of table scraps directly into the garbage (stringy celery stalks and potato peels seem to be a particular challenge for disposal systems). Also, use drain baskets and strainers in the sink to catch smaller food items that are rinsed from plates and utensils. You may want to consider collecting vegetable and fruit scraps for use in a backyard composting pile.

Don’t flush anything but toilet paper.

Remind any visitors or overnight guests that they should never flush paper towels, sanitary products or wet wipes (even those labeled as “flushable”) down a toilet. Have a waste basket at the ready in every bathroom, and make sure to frequently empty it so guests have easy access.

Even with these preventative measures, sewer lines can become clogged over time, from debris and grease buildup and external factors like tree roots. They can even crack, collapse or shift due to moving soil or other natural elements.

That’s why it is also important to perform routine maintenance on your sewer line. A professional can perform a sewer camera inspection and determine the condition of your line, and clear it of any debris; they can even replace the line if there are signs of a major problem. Reputable companies will typically provide you with a DVD of the inspection so you can see the actual blockage.

So don’t wait until you’re entertaining this holiday season and have to deal with the grimy problem of a clogged sewer line. A bit of kitchen prep savvy and a little preventive maintenance can help prevent water damage from your plumbing system and save you thousands of dollars in repairs—and a world of headaches.

[originally published 12/18/12]
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