10 Items You Shouldn’t Try to Flush Down Your Drains

It’s tempting to dump household wastes down the drain. Sure, it would be so easy to just pour that used motor oil down the sink. But, in the end, the convenience will cost you. Discarding some types of waste in your toilets, garbage disposal and sinks can damage your plumbing system. And fixing that damage gets expensive very quickly. Don’t believe us? Flush things that aren’t meant to be flushed and you could have a backup or overflow on your hands. Washing items or liquids down a sink can have similar consequences in the form of slow, clogged drains.

Even your garbage disposal is not immune. Just because the disposal is capable of chewing up food waste doesn’t mean it can handle anything. There are limits to your garbage disposal’s capabilities, and trying to dispose of items improperly can damage your disposal but cause costly backups and clogs.

Here’s a look at 10 common household products that should never be flushed or washed down a drain.

1. Disposable Diapers and Sanitary Napkins.

Never flush a disposable diaper or sanitary napkin down the toilet. These items are simply too big for your plumbing system’s pipes to move. They frequently become stuck and can’t be dislodged with a plunger. In many cases, you’ll need a professional to fully disassemble your pipes and remove the item. This sometimes entails digging up buried pipes in your yard which not only destroys your lawn, but also costs a pretty penny.

2. Hair and Dental Floss

Some hair will go down the drain. It’s inevitable. And our plumbing systems can handle small amounts of hair here and there. But don’t clean out your hairbrush and dispose of the wad of hair in the drain. And never put dental floss in the toilet or sink. These stringy items will eventually get tangled together and create a clog that no amount of chemical drain opener will clear.

3. Cooking Fats, Oils and Grease (FOGs)

After cooking a delicious pound of bacon, you’ve got a lot of grease left over. Just dump it down the sink, right?  Wrong. Dumping grease and/or cooking oil is a surefire way to damage your drains. When you pour any sort of grease down the drain, it congeals as it cools. That means you’ll have a greasy lining on your pipes which slows the rate of water and potentially causes clogged drains. Plus, when FOGs are introduced to public sewer systems, they mix with solid particulates. This damages public infrastructure and makes it more expensive to treat wastewater.

4. Paper Towels, Cotton Balls and Swabs

Unlike toilet paper, paper towels, cotton balls and cotton swabs are not designed to disintegrate in water. Plus, they’re absorbent which means they get heavier and harder to move once they’re wet. Flushing them down the toilet will block up plumbing lines and/or lead to problems with septic systems. Not only is it an expensive problem to fix, but it’s also pretty disgusting.

5. Automotive Fluids like Motor Oil, Transmission Fluid and Antifreeze

Automotive fluids, including windshield cleaner, can easily enter streams, lakes, and rivers when dumped down a drain. Once these chemicals enter these waterways,  they’re incredibly harmful to the wildlife in those ecosystems. Instead of pouring these chemicals out, transfer these fluids to an old bottle or jar and dispose of them properly.

6. Medication

Whether an over-the-counter or a prescription, never flush medications down the toilet or pour them down a sink drain. Public water filtration systems cannot remove medications from the water. This means that those chemicals can be transferred to your community’s tap water.

7. Coffee Grounds

Don’t ever put coffee grounds down the sink or garbage disposal unless you want clogged plumbing. Any plumber will tell you coffee grounds are one of the most common culprits for clogged pipes.

8. Egg Shells, Bones or Foods with Hard Edges

Even though your garbage disposal is capable of chewing up egg shells and small bones from poultry or fish, you still should refrain from testing it for yourself. They are known to damage the disposal and clog up your drains. Always throw them in the trash.

9. Stickers and Band-Aids

Anything with adhesive can cause problems or your plumbing system. Even those little stickers that come on produce can collect in your plumbing system’s pipes and create clogs and blockages.  Therefore, never flush a Band-Aid and keep stickers from going down the drain as well.

10. Tampons and Flushable Wipes

The package says they’re flushable, but tampons and personal wipes shouldn’t be flushed under any circumstance. They can clog your plumbing lines and they cause problems for public sewer systems. When mixed with FOGs, these items can create giant masses that block public sewer lines causing backups.

While these things may seem like mild inconveniences for the homeowner, the expenses can certainly add up. Whether you pay a plumber to fix the problem or have the costs passed on to you through your utility bill, you will end up paying for putting the wrong types of items down the drains. The easiest fix is to not let these problems take root in the first place. 

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