There’s something gross lurking in your city’s sewers. No, it’s not mutant crocodiles. It’s gallons of sticky, slimy, grease that’s clogging pipes and causing backups from Belleville, Illinois to Oakland, California. Where’s all the grease coming from? Some of it’s from restaurants that haven’t installed grease traps in their sinks, but the majority is coming from you. According to the Seattle Times about 70% of grease clogs can be traced back to a single-family residence. The problem isn’t that people are dumping a gallon of bacon fat down the drain; it’s much smaller than that. Every time you wash your dishes, you’re washing small amounts of fat down the drain. Even the little things like the grease from a steak or sour cream from your baked potato can gum up the works. The garbage disposal is the worst offender. Why? Because we dump everything down there that we’d normally dump in the garbage, including food that’s mixed with fat particles. All those little, chewed-up bits are adding up to a big problem.

In Seattle, 544,000 gallons of grease slide down the sewer pipes every month. That’s enough to fill seven swimming pools! Once the grease is in the sewer, it solidifies, and sticks to all the debris that’s floating around in the water until it’s one big solid, sticky mass. Then, when the rains come or the snow melts, all those big, mucky piles of grease and debris get in the way of the water flow, and you’ve got nasty, smelly, grimy water backing up into your home. So what’s the fix?

  • Never pour oil or grease down the drain. When you’re cooking with fats, let them cool down and then toss them in the trash with other solid waste.
  • Always scrape your plates into the garbage before washing them. If your city has a lot of backups, you might want to wipe them down with a paper towel before washing or putting them in the dishwasher.
  • Use your garbage disposal as little as possible, that way you’re washing fewer fat particles down the drain.