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The Do's and Don'ts for Clear Drains

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

Woman looking up at camera over her right shoulder with look of exasperation as she grips a plunger over her sink drain.

Every homeowner faces dealing with a clogged drain - and some more than others. According to, the average cost for hiring a plumber to clear a drain is between $100 and $300. How much you spend depends on a variety of factors. Let's take a look at what you should and should not be putting down your drains to keep them clear.

The Don'ts

The number one cause of clogged drains is grease. Body oils, food oils, oils from soaps and shampoos - these all cool and harden as they enter your drains and gradually build up until you have a badly clogged drain.

When you add hair or other food particles to the mix - well, you get the picture.

With that said, here are 11 other items you should never put down your drains:

  • Flour⁠ - water and flour make clumps.

  • Bones⁠ - most disposals don't handle bones well, and the shards can more easily stick to already coated drains, and then stop other items from getting through.

  • Rice⁠ - rice expands and contracts based on the amount of water. It is also starchy, and this starch will coat your pipes.

  • Coffee Grounds⁠ - coffee grounds do not dissolve or break down and easily stick to the buildup in pipes and create sludge.

  • Mashed Potatoes (starchy foods)⁠ - like rice, starch forms a sticky goo as it breaks down.

  • Banana Peels⁠ - the fibrous threads in banana peels do not break down quickly and can form a sort of netting when it sticks to your pipes.

  • Fibrous Vegetables (like celery, broccoli, and asparagus)⁠ - the fibers in vegetables are good for helping clean out your own "pipes" but work against you in your plumbing.

  • Eggshells - eggshells have a membrane that sticks to everything in your pipes, and the tiny shell fragments don't break down, instead they harden and form a block. Plus, the shells dull disposal blades.

  • Medicine⁠ - medicine won't cause clogs unless they are oil based (like vitamin E), but they do get into the water system. According to a report by the Associated Press, small quantities of pharmaceuticals, including antibiotics, hormones, mood stabilizers, and other drugs, are in our drinking water.

  • Gasoline - if gasoline is poured down the drain, it can ignite and cause an explosion, not to mention contaminate our waters.

The Do's

So other than dishwater, what can you put in your drains?

  • If you want to sharpen your disposal blades, put ice in your drain and run the unit.

  • To prevent future clogs, add an eco-friendly enzyme treatment that will organically eat away at the buildup in your pipes. You can find options like Zep Drain Defense and Biokleen here.

  • Try not to use harsh chemicals like bleach or chemical drain cleaners, which can soften PVC pipes and damage older plumbing. Enzymatic drain cleaners like Green Gobbler work overnight to safely clean a drain.

  • To help keep drains running, flush them for about 10 seconds after each use to make sure any loose materials are washed away. You can also add a 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water to your drain weekly to keep things flowing.

When It's Not Your Drain

If you find that all of your sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets are not draining well, the problem is likely not in your pipes but in your sewer line. Calling in a plumber to diagnose exactly what is going on is the smartest move if this happens.





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