Sunday morning brunch and it’s your turn to do the washing up, but what to do with the fat from the frying pan? Pour it down the sink and run the hot water tap for a bit, that should do it. No, no, that won’t do it. In fact, it’s the worst thing you can do!

Instead, when you’ve finished cooking, pour runny oil into a sealed container and take it to your local recycling centre. Wipe the frying pan with a paper towel if the oil can’t be poured into a container, then throw the towel in with your rubbish.

So, why is it such a complete no-no to pour oil down the drain? Here, Liam Houghton provides his best advice – having spent some time with South East based experts The Drain Guys.

From a householder’s point of view, when fats, oils or grease are poured down the drain, they harden and cause your pipes to block. In time, this can lead to a complete blockage of your sewage pipes and result in raw sewage flowing back into your home and possibly into the neighbourhood streets. And if it runs into a nearby stream or river it could affect everyone’s drinking water. Clogged pipes can be a very costly problem to fix, so never ever pour oils, fats or grease down the drain.

And even if the fat or grease you’ve poured down the drain makes is past your own pipes, it can cause problems further down the line. The fats in grease and oil mix together with other chemicals in the sewers and these form a clogging mass that can build up and block the pipes.

Here’s exactly what happens: When grease or oil is poured down your sink it travels through your pipes and into the sewers where it meets up with all the other wastewater, where it forms into massive globs.

The fats in the oil and grease is broken down into fatty acids and glycerol. These fatty acids create a kind of ‘soap’ compound in the form of a blob. When the level of the sewers rise, these ‘soap’ blobs stick to the ceiling of the pipes and creates a stalactite-like structure called a ‘fatberg’, and it’s these ‘fatbergs’ that can cause the pipes to become badly blocked.

If you think I’m being overly dramatic, take a look at this newspaper article from The Independent, or this one from The Mirror. It’s disgusting and dangerous, don’t you agree?

Image Source, linked article from the Mirror.

75% of all sewer blockages in the UK are caused by the improper disposal of grease, oils and fats from our kitchens. Because of the significant impact on our environment, this has now become a key issue of The Environment Agency and the water companies. It’s vitally important that householders are educated in the proper disposal of oils, grease, fats and bits of food left on plates.

It’s for this reason that you should try to get as much oil and grease into your bin rather than down the drain. Even a small amount of oil washing out with your wastewater can cause problems over time, especially in highly-populated towns and cities. The impact of accumulating grease and oils in pipes can be substantial. The long-term consistent discharge, even of small amounts, can lead to major problems.

If you accidentally get some oil in your pipes, the best thing to do is to wash it out using boiling water with baking soda and vinegar. This helps to break down and push out any build-up from the pipes, avoiding any future problems. Finally, here are a few simple guidelines to help you significantly reduce the build-up of blockages in your home’s pipes:

• Scrape solids and scraps of food into your kitchen bin, never down the sink.

• Food strainers are an essential item in every kitchen sink. Have one in place in your sink at all times to prevent bits of food slipping into your drains. Make sure the strainer fits the plughole snugly so that it collects all the scraps of food and minimises the risk of a blocked sink of pipe.

• Pour or scrape all your cooking oil, grease and fat into a drum, and arrange for it to be collected by your local waste disposal provider, or take it to your local waste facility. Remember, fats and oils from domestic kitchens cause major environmental problems. Contact your local council for details of certified oil disposal providers in your area.

• Finally, disconnect food disposal units from your main drain network – your local drain company can help talk you through this.

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