12 Things You Should Never Put Down Your Drain

From coffee grounds to flushable wipes, avoid these no-nos when rinsing and flushing.

As a kid, you probably thought of the drain in your kitchen sink as a useful little hole that magically gets rid of everything you don’t want. Even as adults, we often take them for granted, not always considering that what we rinse off our plates and throw in there can negatively affect pipes, septic systems, and local sewer plants.

That’s why it’s important to keep in mind the items that should never go down the drain.

Here are some of the things people commonly put down their drains that should not go in your household plumbing.

1. Grease and fat and oils

These three substances are combined because they seem to be the trifecta of kitchen plumbing woes. They act as a binder for all sorts of materials, such as the eggshells mentioned previously, and create thick, sticky globs that can coat pipes until nothing can pass through them. In fact, these substances account for more than 47 percent of all sewer overflows that happen in the United States each year. So, when it comes to bacon grease, meat fat and other substances like these, the best rule of thumb is to place them into a jar or can to allow them to cool and then place them in your trash.

2. Fats

Flickr / Dwayne Madden

Fatty items such as meat trimmings, uncooked poultry skin, ice cream, cheese, butter, milk, lard, and shortening can cause the same damage to pipes and sewage systems as grease does.

3. Oils

Oils including cooking oil, olive oil, salad dressings, condiments, and mayonnaise have the same effects on pipes and sewage systems that grease and fats do.

4. Coffee grounds

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Coffee grounds are among the biggest causes of blocked and clogged drains.

5. Produce stickers

Produce stickers from apples, oranges, and other fruits can not only get stuck in your drain or on wastewater treatment plant pumps and hoses, but they can also block screens and filters. Even if they don’t, they’ll end up in rivers and oceans.

6. Flushable Wipes

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Wet wipes don’t disintegrate like toilet paper. The New York Times notes that “Often, the wipes combine with other materials, like congealed grease, to create a sort of superknot,” which definitely isn’t good for sewer systems.

7. Medications

Sending medications through your pipes might not seem like a big deal and it likely won’t clog them, but no one wants your medications in their water supply. Years ago, we used to be told to flush unused medications down the toilet rather than have just throwing them in the trash. Sadly, this practice has resulted in all kinds of medications, everything from ibuprofen to birth control, ending up in our water supply. In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey studied 139 streams over 30 different states. Their goal was to identify certain chemicals within the water supply. Not only did they find the chemicals they were looking for in 80 percent of the streams they tested, but they determined that personal care and pharmaceutical products were a big reason for why those chemicals were present.

8. Eggshells

Flickr / Phu Thinh Co

When eggshells break up, they create granular waste that tends to stick to other objects in your drain, which can then cause major blockages.

9. Condoms

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Don’t flush your condoms. We really wish we didn’t have to bring this one up, but sadly, we do. Condoms are made of rubber. Rubber isn’t biodegradable. It doesn’t dissolve in water. It will either get stuck in your plumbing or, if it somehow manages to get past your pipes, it will most likely end up floating around in the water supply somewhere and no one wants to encounter that.

10. Cigarette Butts

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Cigarette butts are made from a synthetic material that absorbs water, expands, and doesn’t dissolve. The harmful chemicals they contain can also contaminate our water.

11. Rice and Pasta

Like cigarette butts, rice and pasta absorb water and expand, potentially clogging and overflowing your sink.

12. Flour

Flickr / FoodCraftLab

Flour mixed with water creates a gooey substance that can stick to other debris in your pipes, leading to —  you guessed it — nasty clogs.

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