In this post we will explore how cooking oil became the bane of my house and how it was responsible for my foundation failing and all the misery it brought along with it. Well, that’s sensationalist enough, isn’t it? But just like a lot of episodes in ‘The Simpsons’ where the actual plot of the episode is triggered by a completely unrelated and highly implausible situation, today we will explore how the incorrect disposing cooking oil can definitely have such an adverse impact to your home that it could even reach the foundation, and use this subject as an entry point to talk about plumbing signs of trouble and prevention tips.
Now going back to cooking oil I know it might sound a little far fetched, but bear with me. A fairly common problem of many house holds is the disposing of cooking oil. Sometimes it’s just easy to pour it down the kitchen sink when washing the dishes. Or sometimes we’ve heard that we’re not supposed to do it, but what are a few drops of oil, right?
Well this is what happens:
Pretty. Darn Nasty. Isn't it? I mean, no one would blame you for thinking ‘Oil is liquid, it will just keep flowing through the pipes’. I wish I could tell you this was the case, but the damage that this can cause is much worse than you might imagine.
First of all, this is illegal and could bring about hefty fines. Or if it is a business that you are running and you are pouring cooking oil into the sink then you might even face a shutdown. The problem is that, even though it is liquid as it travels along your pipes it leaves residues behind that will build up over time. Not to mention that sewer lines are full of chemicals, oxidization and decomposing waste and when all of this comes into contact with oil it forms a soapy, waxlike substance called fatberg. (You can imagine where the name comes from) What is astonishing is that you might think well, it might clog one or two pipes, but the thing is they can reach 100s of tons in weight! I mean, just look at this monster:
And if they can do that to a city’s water infrastructure, what do you think can happen to your puny sewer lines? As you can imagine they are extremely destructive to pipelines and sewer systems; they can completely clog a pipe and when they become very large they can make pipes burst. And in a place such as our beloved state where we are famous for our high plasticity soil, what do you think will happen to the soil when exposed to large amounts of water? Moisture. Expansion of the soil. Foundation damage.
See? We told you cooking oil could damage your foundation.
And the consequences? The consequences are expensive. Very expensive. Get caught? Face a fine. Damaged your water lines and even foundation? Costly. Damage to the environment? You bet. So, in order to avoid all this what can we do? The answer is incredibly simple. First, you can reuse some of the oil, by straining it through a coffee filter to remove particles and crumbs, pour it in an airtight container and store in a dark area until ready to use. One thing to note is that oil should only be reused once or twice, tops, given that it deteriorates with each use. Once you need to dispose of it you simply need let it cool, place it in a disposable container with a lid and into the garbage it goes.
And in case you have a restaurant or for any reason you use lots of oil, an oil and grease trap is essential. Also there are companies dedicated to collecting used oil at no charge and which will then process the oil into renewable fuel. So, disposing of your cooking oil correctly will help the environment while taking care of your plumbing and therefore your entire house and wallet.
But now that we have touched upon the subject of clogged pipes, let’s take advantage of this and dig deeper into it.
Now, we have discussed how a clogged pipe can burst, be it because of fatbergs or not, so it is not something that should be put off. With water escaping damage to your foundation, drywall or flooring will follow soon after. This is a very real danger, specially since some sinks and tubs are made of plastic, which tends to crack as it ages, bringing forth chronic water damage that could go undetected until the damage has become extensive.
And beside the damage to the structural elements of the house, a clogged drain can also become a breeding ground for mould, insects and larvae. Pests love stagnant water. Mosquitos and other insects lay their eggs in it, specially if the clog is made out of food, as it will provide a steady source of food for the insects, which can include cockroaches. Maybe I should’ve started with that, and save all these previous paragraphs, uh? Drain flies, phoried flies, fruit flies…. And there’s also other health risks associated with contaminated water like bacterial infectious and typhoid which can cause diarrhea and fever. Bacteria in the water can also contain H. Pylori which causes peptic ulcers in the lining of the stomach. Other risks, which we have previously touched upon is mold and mildew. Their spores can cause severe respiratory problems and issues to the nervous systems. It is specially harmful to people who suffer from asthma and allergies. Odors coming from clogged drains can also cause headaches, dizziness and nausea as well as causing eyes, nose and throat to irritate; even increasing anxiety and stress levels on some people.
So what are the signs that can help you determine if you have clogged drains or pipes?
As Master Yoda would say: ‘Pay attention to your senses’ The first signs of clogged drains can be determined by seeing, hearing and smelling. Stains are a sign that due to clogged drains, water level has been rising above the floor leaving sediments from dirty water around the drain. This could also take place around showers or tubs. Gurgling sounds coming from the sink, shower or tubs might also indicate a clog; the sound happens because of the disruption of flowing water caused by blockages. And then there’s the odour. If there is something smelly it might very well be that organic material is blocking up the pipes. As it breaks down it lets off foul smells that will make their way into your living area. Also something else that can let you know when there might be a clog is if the level of your toilet water is changing. And finally if you notice gunk and debris coming out of the faucet on a regular basis this a sure sign that there is a clog, so be mindful of what you allow to go down the drains. And just like we mentioned at the start of this post, make sure no oils or greases go through. Also avoid paper products and vegetable peels.
So what steps can be taken to prevent clogs?
Drain strainers are essential. You have now idea how bad hair washing down the drain can be to your sewage lines. This can cause clogs with incredible ease and trust me when I tell you, repairs are expensive, and you definitely do not want to pay large amounts of money because of hair clogs. So a simple way of preventing this is with drain strainers in sinks, bathtubs and showers which will prevent the hair from going down the drain. These are also good for kitchen sinks, in order to keep food bits from washing down. Oh, and did we mention, not disposing of cooking oil down the sink? Oh, we did? Just making sure.
Now, what can I flush down the toilet? Simple: toilet paper and bodily waste. That’s it. No wipes, no menstrual products, paper towels or anything else. Not even products that are advertised as flushable as they take a long time to breakdown and in the meantime they can contribute to clogging.
And remember that garburators are not trashcans! These are not built to dispose of large kitchen scraps, this can blunt the blades and block the mechanism. They are made for small food bits and should be used only for this.
One thing to remember is that leaks will never get better on their own. And secondly once a leak is there the sooner you deal with it the less expensive it’ll be. Waiting will only make matters much, much worse. So if you suspect clogs in your pipes then nothing better to call the professionals to secure a proper job of taking good care of your pipes and home.