Your kitchen sink consistently rates as one of the dirtiest places in your home. According to NSF International, a public health and safety organization, your dishrag and kitchen sink top the list of places in your home with the most germs.
Even worse than the bathroom or toilet seat, your sink is the ideal place for illness-causing microbes to thrive.
Your kitchen sink may be a source of frustration when it becomes clogged, or may be an area through which you inadvertently are polluting the environment. The plumbing in your home may seem like a mystery since it's usually hidden behind walls and under the sink.
However, once you understand how it works in your home, and how it's treated when it leaves your house, you'll have a greater ability to maintain your plumbing pipes and reduce your impact on environmental pollution.
Don't flush these items down the drain
As what you put down your drain has an impact on both plumbing in your home and the environment, it's important to understand how your plumbing works and how to reduce damage done to your own property and the environment.
You may accomplish these goals by never putting the following items down your drain. And you may reduce your financial risk, as plumbing repairs can be costly.
Grease sticks to the inside of your sewer pipes, both on your property and in the street. Over time it can block the entire pipe. Instead, scrape grease into the trash.
Any oils are a major contributor to drain clogs, which includes mayonnaise, salad dressing, butter, cooking oils and fats from cooking meats, such as bacon, beef and pork.5 Motor oil and transmission fluid shouldn't go down your sink drain or toilet either.
Egg shells are composed of a hard outer shell and a thin membranous inner layer. The shells are hard on the blades of your garbage disposal, reducing the overall life of the appliance.
The thin membranous layer may wrap around the grinding apparatus and slow the motor until it burns out. The shells may compound the development of other blockages.
These don't harm your garbage disposal and may help absorb odors, but they do accumulate in your pipes and increase the risk you'll experience a clogged drain.6 Coffee grounds do make an excellent addition to your compost pile.
Foods like pasta and rice continue to expand as they soak in residual water in your garbage disposal and drain pipes. Pastas are often made with semolina flour, which becomes sticky and easily gums up your pipes.
Have you mixed flour and water together? Basically, this produces glue, sticking to the sides of the drain pipes and capturing any other little bits of garbage along the way. This is essentially the problem Madison County is facing after disposal of cookie dough from the cookie company in town.
You wouldn't think of using your sink to dispose of your grocery list, but those produce stickers often fall off when you're washing fruits and vegetables.
They often include bits of plastic and are coated with adhesive, neither of which are water-soluble. They may be caught in grease coating your drains, get caught in pumps and hoses or block the screens and filters at your water treatment plant.
Toilet paper is developed to eventually break apart in water. Other paper products do not break apart after being flushed down the toilet or after going through the garbage disposal in your sink. Products like paper towels, feminine hygiene products and cotton balls should go into your garbage can instead.
Each of these items have a high absorbency rate, making them perfect for clogging your pipes.8
Biodegradable or 'Flushable' Products
Many of the products advertised as flushable or biodegradable may meet specific standards for the term, but often increase your risk of drain clogs.
For instance, flushable cat litter continues to be highly absorbent in the drain. Cat feces may carry the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis, which is not destroyed in water treatment and is a threat to marine animals.
Wet wipes are another serious problem in your sewer drain. They don't disintegrate properly and often combine with other products to produce a large super-knot. New York City has spent more than $18 million in five years to repair equipment problems triggered by so-called "flushable wipes."
Paint and Cleaning Products
While they are in liquid form, these products both increase your risk of developing a drain clog and pollute the environment. Your city will have different requirements for latex and oil paint, so it's important to get that information from your municipality.
Conventional cleaning products often contain phosphates, antibacterial agents and other compounds that don't often get removed at your water treatment plant. Instead, make your own cleaning products at home with environmentally safe vinegar, baking soda and essential oils.
It might seem logical to flush your expired or unused medication down the toilet or crush it in your garbage disposal, but research demonstrates that a high number of those medications do not get removed at your local wastewater treatment plant and then enter the environment.
Even your tap water likely has a small amount of medication you're drinking every day, as neither wastewater treatment nor clean water treatment before it gets delivered to your home is able to remove medications.
Keep Your Garbage Disposal Running Efficiently
Almost all of the items mentioned above have the potential to damage your garbage disposal unit as well as clog your drains. You can increase the life of your disposal and reduce any odor emanating from your sink by making these changes:
Keep it clean. By keeping the disposal clean you'll reduce smell in your home, reduce the growth of germs in your sink and extend the life of your unit. Pour some dish soap down the garbage disposal and run it with cold water for a minute or two each night after washing the dishes. The consistent use of a product that breaks down grease will also help remove clogs.
Prevent jams in the disposal. Cut up larger pieces of food, run the disposal consistently and don't jam the disposal with food before running it will all help the unit to run more effectively.
Use cold water. Running the disposal with cold water keeps the motor cool during use and congeals any grease that may have made it down the drain. This will help solidify the grease and get it chopped up before running down the pipes. Run water for about a minute after running the disposal that had food particles so the refuse can reach the street pipes.
Run it regularly. Running your disposal regularly will prevent the buildup of rust and corrosion on the parts and your disposal running well.