Protect your pipes this season

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Whether you’re celebrating football season or having guests over for the holidays, it’s as important as ever to protect your pipes. This time of year, it’s pretty standard to prepare special foods especially when friends and family are visiting. Here are a few simple tips for protecting your plumbing (and treatment plant infrastructure) as you entertain.

Save your disposal

When cleaning up from a party or holiday meal, garbage disposals can be a big help. While these appliances are great for fruit and vegetable scraps, they can’t handle hard, non-digestible items. And neither can the treatment plant. Here’s what shouldn’t go in the disposal:

Hot wings, nachos, pigs in a blanket, pretzels, beer and popcorn for a football or tailgate party spread.
  • Bones from your chicken, turkey, beef or pork dishes. Shrimp or seafood shells should also be avoided.
  • Large fruit seeds or fibrous plant scraps are too tough for blades to cut. Avocado and peach pits are great examples.
  • Shells, like eggshells or nut casings (from chestnuts roasting on an open fire, for example) shouldn’t go in disposals.
  • Skins from onions or potatoes can slip past blades and clog pipes.
  • Coffee grounds and starchy comfort food scraps (rice, doughs and pastas) can clog your sink over time.
  • FOGs – fats, oils and grease – can solidify and clog the disposal.

If you want to save your garbage disposal and protect all of your pipes (including the kitchen sink), consider putting these items in your trash or compost bin.

Consider compost

An organic compost bin on a kitchen counter for flushables and composting education to protect your pipes.

Composting at home is a fantastic way to recover resources from party foods you prepare and holiday meal scraps you don’t eat. Using organic compost in your garden can improve soil health and promote healthier plants while reducing waste in local landfills. You can either build a compost pile, tumbler or bin for your backyard or use a convenient Madison-area composting service to take care of the scraps for you.

Clear the FOG

Golden roasted turkey in the oven with a meat thermometer and juices in the bottom of the dish for FOG or fats, oils and grease disposal education to protect your pipes.

Fats, oils and grease (FOG) should never go down drains. FOGs come from meat fats (like bacon grease or turkey drippings), cooking oils, butter, mayonnaise, salad dressings and other food products you may be prepping for holiday meals or parties.

Allow FOGs to cool after cooking and scrape them into the trash or pour them into a special grease container before throwing them in the garbage bin. You can learn more about FOGs and proper disposal in our blog article “FOGs clog: No fats, oils and greases in drains” or on the City of Madison Engineering Fats, Oils, Grease page.

Don’t flush that

Friendly reminder toilet sign in blue basket that says 'Please do not flush anything in the toilet (especially not your hope and dreams) for flushables and non-flushables education and to protect your pipes.

Beyond FOGs, there are many other things that don’t belong down the drain. Toilets aren’t trashcans and only the 3 Ps – pee, poo and toilet paper – belong in the potty. Plastic wrappers, tampons, dental floss, any type of wipe (even those labeled flushable), medicines and more should never be flushed.

If you’re hosting a party, consider placing a small sign in your bathroom to help educate your guests on what should be flushed … and what belongs in the wastebasket instead.

Learn more ways to protect your pipes and ours, any time of year, in the Pollution Prevention section of our website or our blog. For more tips delivered by email six times per year, sign up for our e-newsletter offering helpful info on caring for our local waters.