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What Not to Put Down the Drain This Thanksgiving

What do you think is the busiest day of the year for plumbers? Would you believe us if we said it’s Black Friday or the day after the Thanksgiving holiday? Well, it’s the truth and there is a good reason why: garbage disposal problems. Garbage disposals are invaluable tools on Thanksgiving. If you’re hosting and doing the cooking for your family or friend gathering, there’s a good chance your garbage disposal is going to get quite the workout. Likewise, not all of the food that goes through the disposal will be perfectly suitable for disposal use.

With so much food being passed around, waste is almost an inevitability, and your garbage disposal is the fastest, easiest, and most sanitary way of rapidly disposing of food scraps. This not only helps keep rats and mice out of your trash bins (both inside and out), but also prevents foul odors and plenty of other food waste issues. However, a garbage disposal is not a one-size-fits-all solution for food waste and there are several types of food waste you shouldn’t put down your drain at all. In this blog, we’ll take a look at a few of these types of food you shouldn’t put down the drain so you can avoid having to make that pesky call for a plumber the following day.

Starchy Foods

Starchy foods include things like bread, pasta, or other foods that heavily utilize flour, potato, or another form of starch as an ingredient. This includes bread, mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, dinner rolls, bread pudding, and even pie crusts. All of these foods have something in common: when they get wet, they become extremely sticky and they expand. If you’ve ever put water into flour and seen how quickly the flour turns into dough, you know just how quickly and nasty this stickiness can be.

Now imagine that stickiness in your drain line, and you can quickly see the problem. Starchy foods not only expand to form blockages, but they also grab other debris in the process, creating a nasty clog extremely quickly. Any leftover mashed potatoes, bread products, or other similar starch-based waste should be thrown out in the regular trash, particularly if the waste has already become wet.

Stringy Foods

Foods that are high in fiber often have a stringy texture to them. Asparagus, celery, corn husks, green beans, and plenty more are all fairly common around the Thanksgiving holiday, and there’s a good chance you could have one or more of those choices on your table. While these foods may be largely good for you, they’re not quite the same when it comes to your drains. See, unlike your digestive system that benefits from fiber for cleaning purposes, your pipes actually just grab and hang on to the strings. These strings usually contribute to clogs, catch other debris quickly and effectively, and help form nasty clogs that are extremely difficult to get rid of.

To top it all off, too many strings could actually cause your garbage disposal motor to jam. While this isn’t common, it’s particularly possible if you have a weaker-powered unit or a motor on the verge of dying.


There’s a pretty common myth that floats around regarding garbage disposals: putting eggshells down the drain sharpens the blades in your disposal and makes it work better. This is completely false. First off, your garbage disposal doesn’t actually have blades, just rotors that it uses to grind up food waste into an easily disposable form. Eggshells, shrimp shells, nutshells, or other shells don’t actually grind up in this way, and instead never actually get any smaller than a fine gravel. While the shells will eventually get through the rotors, they can damage them in certain situations. More commonly what happens is that the shells themselves stick to the sides of your drain lines and contribute to a nasty clog that’s extremely difficult to remove. Shells are also particularly dangerous because they can form clogs almost anywhere in your drain line, from immediately behind your disposal to all the way down into your main sewer line. You’ll do yourself quite the favor by simply tossing these shells in the trash.

Excess Fat

Fat is a common ingredient around meat-heavy meals. Meat naturally loses fat as it melts away during the cooking process. We use fat to create foods like gravy or to glaze pans for cooking vegetables in them. During Thanksgiving, the largest source of fat will by far be the turkey, and you may be tempted to just throw the fat and other remains at the bottom of the pan down the drain. After all, it’s liquid waste so it should go down the drain without issue, right?

Not so fast. Fat is normally in liquid form because it melts, but when left at room temperature, fat will usually solidify. Fat that solidifies is sticky, gelatinous, and grabs on to just about anything it can. Fat usually is what starts the buildup that forms a clog in your line, and this usually starts because of colder temperatures in your drain line. If you know you’re going to be preparing the turkey, have something like an old, empty coffee can or pasta sauce jar available on the day of Thanksgiving. When cleaning up, empty the fat into this collection bin and then throw the whole thing away in your regular trash. You’ll be glad you did when you’re not worrying about an unexpected clog down your kitchen drain line.

If you’ve got a garbage disposal problem this holiday season, call Performance Air Conditioning, Electrical & Plumbing at (727) 877-1294 to schedule a removal service.