4 Things That Should Never Go Down The Drain

4 Things That Should Never Go Down The Drain
Keep your drain toxic free

Keep your drain toxic free

A household drain can seem like a convenient way to get rid of unwanted liquid waste – we’ve all been tempted to flush away dirty mop water or to just dump cooking oil down the sink and be done with it. But have you ever stopped to think about where all that water goes once it leaves your sight? While it may seems safe – that water has to be treated eventually, right? – in fact a lot of what goes down your drains will eventually end up back in natural waterways and maybe even back at your own faucet someday. So to help keep your water clean (and your water treatment facilities running smoothly), here are four things you should never put down the drain.

1. Toxic chemicals like paint, cleaning products, oil, and solvents

Water treatment facilities can remove a lot of contaminants, but plenty of dangerous chemicals that go down your drain will still end up being dumped into our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Phosphates from detergents, chlorine from bleach, and the toxins in pesticides will all wreak havoc on fragile ecosystems once they leave your local sewage treatment plant. You wouldn’t throw paint, solvents, pesticides or other chemicals out in your yard, so why would you put them down the drain?

What to do instead: City waste centers will have drop-off areas for toxic chemicals. Some substances like paint and motor oil can be recycled, while non-recyclable liquids will be disposed of properly. You can also replace nasty, toxic cleaning supplies with eco-friendly cleaners made with enzymes, citrus, or oxygen.

2. Medications

We’ve all been stuck with expired or leftover medicine at some point. In fact, about a third of the medications sold in the U.S. never get taken. But you’ll want to avoid flushing those unused pills or liquids: much like other chemicals, medications you dump down the toilet will find their way into natural waterways. Studies have found everything from antibiotics to ibuprofen to antidepressants in drinking water supplies throughout the U.S.

What to do instead: Instead of flushing used pills look in your area for a medicine take-back program. While there is no national plan to collect unused medications, there are lots of local organizations that join together pharmacies, law enforcement, and hospitals to collect and responsibly dispose of everything from painkillers to blood pressure pills. If no programs are available in your area, mix pills with something unpalatable like kitty litter or coffee grounds to keep them from being accidentally ingested and include them with your regular trash.

3. Grease, fats, and oils

It can be tempting to just wash all that oil from the frying pan down the drain with the dishwater, but greases, oils, and fats from cooking will quickly cause all sorts of problems: when they solidify they can clog pipes and wreck not just your plumbing but also sewage treatment plants. Even worse, if it makes it out to the environment it can disrupt the natural balance of waterways (think of how oil floats on top of water in your sink) and interfere with plants, fish, and other wildlife.

What to do instead: It’s possible to compost fats and oils, but you’ll want to be very careful if you’re dumping them into a home compost bin. The smell can attract animals and too much grease can block access to oxygen, resulting in smelly, poor-quality compost. The best option is actually to recycle it: dirty kitchen grease can easily be turned into eco-friendly biofuel. Look in your area for companies or city programs that accept kitchen waste for recycling, then just stick a jar by your stove to collect cooking oil and drop it off when it’s full.

4. Paper towels, cotton balls, pre-moistened wipes, scrub pads, etc.

While toilet paper is made to break down in a sewer or septic tank, other paper products are designed to stand up to that sort of abuse. The same sturdiness that makes a paper towel perfect for cleaning up spills means that it’s likely to clog up pipes and increase the chance of sewer backups and overflows. So even though products like paper towels, baby wipes, and cotton swabs are biodegradable you’ll want to keep them out of your sewage system, even if they claim to be “flushable.”

What to do instead: Why not put all that paper to work? Paper products make a great source of carbon for home compost piles which means you’ll be keeping that waste out of landfills, too. Better yet, switch to cloth towels and other reusable products to cut out that trash altogether.

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