Apartment Advice

5 Items to Never Put Down Your Apartment Sink Drain

This guest blog comes to us from The Cove, home to stylish and luxurious modern apartments in Hingham, Massachusetts.

When you live in an apartment building, all your plumbing is interconnected. The drainage system takes a beating from all the tenants and is often prone to trouble. If you’re not careful about what you put down the drain, you could easily find yourself (and those around you) dealing with plumbing issues.

In a house, you might be able to catch clogs and pipe problems before they cause major damage. But in an apartment, someone else could be paying the price for what you put down your sink or vice versa.

Even if you have a garbage disposal, there are things that simply must not go down a drain. Take extra precautions in your sinks, showers, and toilets to make sure these five items stay out of your apartment’s plumbing.


1. Grease

When you’re frying up something like hamburger or bacon, it’s tempting to dump the sizzling oil down the kitchen sink. What harm can a little bit of hot liquid do to your plumbing, anyway?

Well, as it turns out, a lot.

Fats and cooking oils may go down as liquid, but they solidify in the pipes. Mayonnaise, lard, and even salad dressing do the same thing.

Just as they clog your body’s arteries, they have the same effect on your plumbing. And if they build up for too long, they can cause major issues.

It should go without saying, but motor oil should never go down your drain, either. This, antifreeze, and other auto-related substances should be taken to a recycling center or hazardous waste facility.

How to Get Grease Out of Your Sink Drain

If any oil or grease makes it down your sink, follow it up with a natural anti-clogging remedy. There are many chemical-based cleaning products on the market, but the best way to fix the problem without causing damage is to go natural.

Try this quick fix  that expert plumbers suggest:

  1. Mix boiling water and white vinegar in a gallon jug in a 1:1 ratio.
  2. Pour the mixture down the drain.
  3. Wait five to ten minutes.
  4. Pour half a gallon of boiling water down the drain as a follow-up measure.

 
You can adjust the measurement size as necessary, but keep the ratio at 1:1 and be sure to use boiling, not hot, water. The boiling water will liquify the grease to detach it from your drain pipes and get it to the septic system.


2. Coffee Grounds

That magic substance that gets you out of bed in the morning can’t be dangerous, right?

Wrong. Coffee grounds are one of the top causes of drain clogs around the world.

Your magic bean mixture may go down in little grains, but those grains thicken up and clump together to clog your pipes.

How to Remove Coffee Grounds From Your Drain

It’s easy to remove coffee ground clogs. Instead of using harsh chemical cleaners, plumbing experts recommend this method for clearing out coffee grounds from your pipes:

  1. Place a plunger over your kitchen sink drain
  2. Fill the sink with water until the plunger is submerged
  3. If you have another kitchen drain, seal it with a stopper
  4. Push down the plunger, then pull up
  5. Repeat this process until the sink is draining efficiently and the clog appears to be fixed

 

In the future, use a trash can to dump your coffee grounds. Or, you can repurpose them (they make great compost for plants!).

Related: The 9 Best Coffee Makers With Grinders


3. Medications

Disposing of unused or unwanted medication can pose a problem. You aren’t supposed to throw it away, but what else can you do?

Lots of people think they’re doing a good thing by flushing their meds instead of tossing them. But chemicals are released when the pills dissolve, and those chemicals can end up in the ocean.

Just think of all the harm you could cause to marine life by releasing toxic chemicals into their environment!

If you are stuck with meds you don’t use, ask your doctor how to dispose of them. Depending on the prescription, the physician may be able to donate it to another patient in need, with your information removed.

When that’s not an option, use this FDA-approved drug disposal process to get rid of medication:

  1. Mix the powder or liquid medication with cat litter, used coffee grounds, or a similar substance that would deter others from obtaining it.
  2. Seal the mixture in a container and throw it in the trash.
  3. Remove your personal identifying information from the prescription bottle and throw that away, as well.

 

With this process, there’s no need to flush your medication down the drain.

See also: How to Organize and Keep Track of Odds and Ends


4. Eggshells

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Similar to coffee grounds, eggshells seem like they won’t be much trouble if they go down the drain. They’re often so tiny and flimsy that they appear perfectly innocent.

The problem isn’t the shell itself, but what it runs into along the way. Eggshells stick to just about everything. When they do, they form a barrier that prevents other items from passing through the drain.

If you’ve ever tried to remove an accidental piece of shell from your cooking ingredients, you know how sticky they are. It’s difficult to pull an errant shell out of the food it falls in, and it’s even harder to get it out of the pipes.

Unlike coffee grounds and grease problems, eggshell clogs may require professional help to get rid of them. So, it’s better to just toss your shells in the trash.


5. Cotton Products

Cotton balls, Q-tips, paper towels, and feminine hygiene products are frequent culprits of clogged drains. They’re so dangerous for pipes that you’ve probably seen signs warning against flushing them in every establishment you’ve been in.

These products don’t dissolve in the pipes, no matter how much water is flushed down. You can try an enzyme-based cleaner to remove these clogs, but if too much cotton piles up, you’ll need to call a plumber.

To avoid this problem, make sure that toilet paper and flushable wipes are the only paper products that go down your drains.

Note: Produce stickers (the kind that come on your fruits and vegetables) have the same effect on your pipes as cotton products. Even worse, they can get stuck on your disposal blades and cause your garbage disposal to be less effective. So next time you put lemon rinds or potato peels down the disposal, make sure to remove the sticker first!

Looking for more DIY tips? Check out: 5 Tactics to Organize Your Living Room for a Cleaner 2020


Conclusion

Living in an apartment means you have to pay extra attention to what goes down your drain. Clogs aren’t as easily noticed, and other people are adding to the pipe damage, too.

As a reminder, here are some things you should never put down the drain:

  • Cooking fats, oils, and other types of grease
  • Coffee grounds
  • Unwanted or expired medications
  • Eggshells
  • Cotton products like paper towels and Q-tips

 

Unfortunately, in an apartment complex, when one person messes up the plumbing, everyone pays for it. To ensure the problem doesn’t start with your sinks, make sure these five items never go down your drain!

 
Dominique Daniels leads the property management team at The Cove, a community of luxury apartments in Hingham, MA.
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