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Preventable Clogs and Household Waste – A Primer

While the sight of a free-flowing drain might not bring a tear to your eye, our team has a soft spot for a healthy system. Clogged drains are not just one of the most common reasons for residential emergency plumbing services, they are also one of the most preventable.

In this era of disposable products, it is easy to consider your sewer lines as a quick method to get rid of occasional household waste. However, just because you can no longer see the items you are dumping into your lines doesn’t mean they are gone. Many of these items can return to haunt you later. Preventing clogs from forming is the best way to avoid emergency plumbing services, and the best way to stop them from forming is to avoid flushing household waste into your drains. Here are 4 types of waste that cause the majority of residential clogs.


Your plumbing was not designed to handle food waste. Garbage disposals were designed to help break down occasional food scraps and are not a license to treat your sewer drains like a garbage dump. Most types of food are not water-soluble, meaning they do not break down when submerged in water. While your plumbing and pipes are large enough for most scraps to pass through, some of these scraps will not make it into your mainline.

Unprocessed foods, like whole grains, meats and vegetables, do not break down quickly and tend to be swept along the bottoms of pipes instead of washed away. Large, slow and solid masses are easily caught up in existing clogs – increasing their bulk while they slowly rot inside your pipes.

Processed carbohydrates like bread and pastries fair slightly better but can still turn into gummy clogs. While more susceptible to break down, bread products still take time to disintegrate and dense scraps may fail to break down for long periods of time.

Fiber is a non-soluble material found in relatively small amounts in an assortment of different foods. At these levels, fiber does not pose a significant risk to your system. However, fiber supplements and fiber-rich foods (such as flax-seed) contain extremely high levels of fiber that can create extensive blockages when they are released into your system. Fiber absorbs water and develops a dense, gel-like coating that solidifies over a short period of time. When allowed to settle into your pipes, large amounts of fiber create blockages that can require removal and replacement of your pipes.

Fats, oils and greases are the most common and well-known causes of residential clogs. Also known as FOG, these products build up on the walls of your pipes over time and are a common issue in both commercial and residential kitchens.


Nearly all household clogs involve some amount of hair. Hair on its own is not an insurmountable problem for your system. When it begins to catch on the build-up inside your pipes, however, it becomes tangled into net-like mats that catch grease, scum and other debris.

These hair mats create a sort of structural nursery in which future clogs can grow. Installing removable hair strainers in your bathroom drains can go a long way toward keeping your drains clog-free.

Flushable Items

When you want to know about the latest trends you talk to a marketing team. If you want to know how to keep your plumbing safe, then you call a plumber. Despite claims to the contrary, items marketed as “flushable” should not be disposed of in your sewer line. These items include hygienic wipes, disposable tampon applicators and cat litter which can cause big problems for you, your sewer treatment plant and the environment.

Non-Flushable Items

Occasionally we flush things we know we shouldn’t. This includes items such as sanitary napkins, condoms and paper towels. No one needs to tell us it’s a bad idea – we already know.

It’s important to remember Newtons Third Law – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. You easy disposal method can quickly backfire, costing you a pretty penny. It is much cheaper and just as quick to use a bathroom bin.

What you aren’t putting into your pipes is just as important as what you are. Keeping your pipes free of food debris, hair, “flushable” products and non-flushable items will go a long way. However, sometimes a clog is unavoidable. If you’re experiencing a slow or clogged drain contact Bay Area Plumbing online or by phone at (813) 620-0044 to schedule plumbing service in your area.