Crazy things that will absolutely clog your pipes
By Holly Amaya
09 August 2017
Our expert sources tell us they've pulled everything you can imagine
from pipes and drains—from a pair of dentures to 10 pounds of wheat
(seriously) to a host of dead rodents and raccoons.
And while some plumbing problems are unavoidable—like, say, those dead
critters—others are the result of user error. In other words: People
stupidly shoving stuff where it really doesn't belong.
The average plumber's house call runs between $150 and $460. So save
yourself some cash and take heed of what plumbers tell us are the most
common clogging culprits.
"Think about what happens when you overcook pasta, rice, potatoes, or
beans," says Glenn Gallas, vice president of operations for Mr. Rooter
Plumbing. "They turn into a pasty substance capable of clogging the
kitchen drain if you dispose of them there."
Adds Janet O'Dea, owner of Powers Plumbing in San Diego, "We had one
instance on Thanksgiving when the plumber was sent out to service a
clogged kitchen sink, and the owner admitted that she put a box of
mashed potato buds down the drain, ran the hot water, and the disposal
literally was stuffed full with mashed potatoes."
Grease, oil, and fats
"Grease should never be allowed to go down the kitchen sink drain,
because it will coat the pipes and create sludge," O'Dea says. "Grease
also will build up over time, making the pipe size constricted and
preventing you from getting good drainage."
Instead of dumping your grease down the drain, pour it into an empty container let it congeal. Then throw it in the trash.
We're not quite sure why this warrants a reminder, but Gallas also cautions against dumping grease and oil waste in the toilet.
"Pipes are a lot like arteries," he says. "When fats flush the pipes
and cool off, they freeze and congeal, building up like cholesterol.
After a while, the blockage can become too great, causing your pipes to
have a proverbial heart attack."
Feminine products and cotton swabs
Plumbing professionals keep finding these items in homeowners' drains and pipes.
Wipes and cosmetic towelettes
"Anything that claims to be flushable besides toilet paper should never
be put down the toilet because it won't don't break down," O'Dea says.
"If it makes it past your drainage system, it continues to play havoc
with the municipal system."
The consistency of toilet paper allows it to fall apart quickly when
immersed in water, she explains—unlike towels, towelettes, or wipes.
"Once a drain is clogged with wipes (or paper towels), you will likely
have to call a plumber to clear the drain—the plunger won't provide
enough force to get the line clear," she says.
The same logic applies to baby wipes—they don't mix well with aging infrastructure.
"Many older neighborhoods, like those in the northeastern United
States, are finding themselves at risk for shelling out big bucks to
clear clogs related to wet wipes," Gallas says.
Don't even think about dumping cat litter down the toilet.Clay, silica,
and sand are extremely troublesome for any plumbing systems, because
those substances are designed to absorb moisture and create clumps,
which turn into large clogs almost immediately once they enter your
Toys have the darnedest way of scattering, well, everywhere.
"One evening we received a call from a casino we often work with who
had complaints of a backed-up sewer line," says Robyn Roth, owner of
Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Yavapai & Coconino Counties in Arizona.
"When we arrived, the clog was so bad that the foreign object had been
pushed into the main sewer line, backing up all pipes throughout the
casino. If we didn’t act fast the entire casino would have flooded with
raw sewage! A combination of sawing, digging, and jetting led us to the
culprit of four Thomas the Train toys that had been flushed down the
toilet in the day care of the casino."
Keep toys far, far away from the toilet.
Dental floss, hair, and other stringy stuff
Believe it or not, O'Dea says that dental floss (in addition to
"flushable" wipes and tampons) are the most common clog culprits for
Floss and string "are neither biodegradable nor easily flushed down the
toilet," Gallas says. Add in all the hair that's swirling down there,
and consider how this stuff can easily form knots and clumps, trapping
in icky odors and resulting in major clogs.