I was perusing a national news website whose headlines more and more
are reminding me of the traditional sensational tabloids that might have
a story about a lawn being stolen. Being a syndicated newspaper
columnist, I find this transition most interesting.
particular headline caught my eye as it talked about the five things
you should NEVER put down your kitchen drain. I’ve been a master plumber
since age 29 and have had the very good fortune to replace old kitchen
drain lines and unclog newer ones choked with gunk and who-knows-what. I
thought I might discover something I didn’t know.
there were one or two good tips in the article a few of them had me
scratching my head wondering if the author had ever cleaned out a
residential drain line to a kitchen or bathroom sink. I decided to share
with you my experiences with residential drain lines and let you apply
your own common sense. Beware, as a few of the images I’m about to
render might make you squirm just a bit.
think it’s best to describe what the inside of drain pipes look like
when new and after they’ve been in use for years or decades. New cast
iron, copper, galvanized iron, and plastic drain lines all are quite
smooth on the inside of the pipe. You want smooth bore pipe so nothing
a characteristic of older galvanized iron pipe is that it starts to
develop a rough inner surface that actually starts to get clogged from
small debris that grows hard-water deposits on the inside of the pipe
wall. I’ve cut out galvanized iron drain lines from kitchen and bath
walls and the entire inside of the pipe is choked off with this hard
Fortunately, galvanized pipe is rarely used now and it can be found in older homes built between 1900 and the late 1950s. Plastic plumbing drain lines swept the industry by storm in the 1960s and have become the go-to material for almost all residential plumbing drain installations.
want to briefly discuss the size of pipes and what passes through them
with little effort. The drain pipe beneath the toilet in your home is
most likely a 3-inch-diameter pipe. Your body, on a regular basis,
produces solid cylindrical waste that often might be 1 and 1/4-inches in
diameter. You then add paper waste to the toilet bowl, flush it and
magically all of this ends up in a septic tank or your city’s sewage
Now think about the lowly kitchen or bathroom sink drain pipe. Just
behind the wall of the sink, there’s probably a horizontal
1.5-inch-diameter pipe. Plumbers call this a branch arm. That horizontal
pipe in a kitchen should travel no more than 42 inches where it
connects to a vertical pipe, a stack, that should be at least 2 inches
in diameter. Bathroom sink drains almost always connect to another
1.5-inch-diameter vertical stack instead of a 2-inch one.
the size of solid material that can pass through the branch arms to the
stacks with little effort if enough water is assisting in the process.
In other words, a green pea should have no problems passing through a
kitchen drain pipe.
are some best practices to keep your kitchen and bathroom sink drains
clog-free for decades now that you understand how things pass through
allow grease to go down a drain. It solidifies and will clog drain
pipes. I set aside used paper towels in my kitchen that are quite clean
to sop up liquid grease from cooking pots and pans. These towels are
then thrown in the garbage.
allow flour and egg mixtures into your kitchen sink drains. Dump as
much of this as possible into the garbage. Don’t allow clumps of flour
to enter the drain. Fill the kitchen sink with water halfway and wash
and emulsify the flour coating on the pans and bowls. Pull the sink
stopper and allow this fine slurry to rush down the drain into the main
building drain. As crazy as it sounds, flush a nearby toilet to send the
slurry on its way to the sewer plant or septic tank.
the basket strainer in your kitchen sink strainer and allow it to
capture larger food debris. Dump the debris in the garbage, don’t use
your fingers to push it through the slots in the strainer sending it
down the drain.
you use a disposer in your kitchen, fill your sink with water about
halfway before you turn on the disposer. Remove the disposer drain cover
and turn on the disposer. The giant slug of water will carry the sludge
into the main building drain under your home. All too often homeowners
turn off the water at the sink too early allowing the kitchen drain pipe
to have a liquid slurry laying in the pipes.
a month pour a gallon of boiling water down your kitchen and bathroom
sink. This hot water can dissolve rogue grease that somehow makes it
into the drain and it can dissolve some cosmetics that may be lurking in
a bathroom drain.
you notice a bathroom sink is starting to drain slower and slower, take
a few minutes and remove the stopper. The lever that makes your drain
stopper go up and down does a great job of capturing hair. It takes only
minutes of your time to remove that lever and any debris that’s in the
drain tailpiece where the lever operates. There are quite a few videos
on YouTube showing you how to easily remove and reinstall this simple
part of a bathroom sink.
Once a month pour a bucket of water into your sinks to get as much water as possible flowing down the drain as fast as possible. This is the closest thing you can do as a homeowner to pressure wash the inside of drain lines. Doing this can save you hundreds of dollars that you’d otherwise have to pay a drain-cleaning service should you abuse your drain lines.