Fats are one of the mortal enemies of plumbing and sewage systems. Recently, boulder-sized chunks of fat and other nondegradable materials have appeared in sewer systems from the U.S. to Australia and the U.K., causing massive and expensive clogs. Dubbed “fatbergs,” these disastrous clogs all start with someone making the wrong decision about what to put down their drains or toilets. So what contributes to the formation of fatbergs, and what can you do to make sure you aren’t accidentally contributing to one?
First, some basic science: Fat is hydrophobic, meaning it does not dissolve in water. This is important to note because many people pour liquid grease or cooking oil into their garbage disposals. This can not only cause you plumbing headaches and be very expensive for you personally, but it is also a major contributor to the formation of fatbergs that jam entire sewage lines. At no point should you put any type of fat, whether animal fat, grease, or cooking oils, into your plumbing system. Instead, wait for the fat or oil to cool, then scrape it into the garbage.
Second, avoid putting wipes—even “flushable” wipes—down the toilet. Non-flushable wipes are made of synthetic, oil-based materials, so when flushed they do not dissolve and can combine with cooking fats in giant, disgusting fatbergs. Even one baby wipe can cause a major blockage in your home’s sewer system. Meanwhile, “flushable” wipes may be designed to break down, but they often get caught up with other, nondegradable items in the sewer lines, and this slows their deterioration process to the point where they end up contributing to clogs anyway. Plumbers often refer to the creation of these kinds of wipe-driven item snarls as “ragging.” Notably, as usage of sanitary wipes increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of fatbergs also shot up.
Do your part to fight the fatberg—throw your grease and oils in the trash, and never flush any kind of wipe down the toilet. That said, if you do encounter any blockages in your plumbing system, Powell’s Plumbing is here to help! Contact us today for a service request.