Don't Be A Pain in the Drain

There's a small handful of things you absolutely don't want to flush down the drain, such as money or time – and also old cooking grease, unused medicines, and household chemicals.  

That's right - modern American homes are full of things that CAN go down the drain but SHOULDN'T.  Here few tips on what those are – and how to deal with them responsibly.

Your doctor will tell you that grease clogs your arteries - it also clogs the arteries of your city or town, which are the sewage pipes that connect your home to the water treatment plant.  When grease clogs these pipes, the results aren't pretty: sewage can back up into the street, yards, and even into neighboring homes.  

Oil & Grease

The best thing to do with cooking oil and grease is to reuse it.  If the oil is used for frying mainly one thing, such as french fries, it can be used several times.  Just strain the oil through cheesecloth or coffee filters into a covered can or container.  Bacon grease can be used when making other recipes such as to flavor potatoes.  

If you must throw old grease away, here are the steps to do it responsibly.  When the oil gets old, cool and pour put it into a container with a strong lid.  You can throw that in the trash if it's a small amount.  If you compost or have a large happy family of worms in your backyard, you can safely pour the vegetable oil out there.  Another possibility is finding a friendly restaurant that will add it to their oil to be recycled.


Sometimes, we end up with medicines we don't use or need any more.  In the past, it was thought safe to flush them down the toilet.  We thought that would keep it away from kids and pets, but now those unused medicines are coming back to haunt us by appearing in our drinking water.

As it turns out, when you flush old medicines down the toilet, they go to the local water treatment plant – which weren't designed to remove them.  The dissolved medicines end up in the nearest river, and can be found in the tap water of downstream communities.  Find out if your doctor, clinic, or area hospital will take your old meds for disposal.  You can also check out this blog post about Medication Safety Week for disposal ideas. 


Modern American homes are full of toxic chemicals – paint, varnish, turpentine, antifreeze, solvents, and more.  The common trouble spots are the garage and kitchen.  That's where you'll find those half or mostly empty cans, bottles, tubes, and other containers of toxic stuff.

It's tempting to pour them down the drain - out of sight, out of mind!  But the water pollution control plant you house connects to wasn't designed to remove that stuff, so it will find its way into local waterways.

Don't do it!  Your local government is working hard to help you dispose of the stuff responsibly.  The magic word here is «household hazardous waste.»  You can call you local municipality or check their website to find out what programs are available to dispose of these chemicals responsibly.  

Remember, we all live downstream.  If you don't take the time to carefully dispose of the materials that can pollute water supplies for the families that live down stream, can you ask the families that live upstream from you to do the same?

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