7 Biggest Kitchen Sink Drain Mistakes People Make, According to Plumbers

published Nov 25, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

Nothing brings kitchen activity to a halt like a clogged sink drain. Dishes pile up as your sink is rendered useless with standing water, and then you’re at the mercy of whenever your plumber can address the issue. But what if you could prevent these issues from happening in the first place? To help you save time and money, I asked two plumbers about the most common kitchen sink drain mistakes they encounter.

Here are the seven biggest blunders you should avoid with your kitchen sink drain.

1. Pouring Cooking Oil or Grease Down a Drain

Discarding oil down a drain is one of the most common mistakes people make, according to Dave Jones, a Master Plumber with Roto-Rooter. “Whether from a frying pan or a broiler pan, hot grease will coat the inside of a drainpipe and garbage disposal and solidify like candle wax as it cools. Enough of it will completely choke off the drain,” he says. When that happens, Jones says only a professional cleaning will fix the problem.  

But you can prevent costly repairs by keeping the oil and grease out of the drain. “Homeowners can let these substances solidify and then dispose of them in the trash,” says Tony Perez, owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of the Twin Cities.

2. Overusing Chemical Drain Cleaners

“While these cleaners may provide a temporary solution, they can cause long-term damage to pipes, leading to corrosion and deterioration,” Perez says. Patience is essential when treating a clogged drain with a chemical cleaner. “More isn’t better,” says Paul Abrams, Roto-Rooter spokesman. “Follow the directions on the bottle. Give it time to do its job,” he says.

Abrams warns the heat caused by chemical reactions in harsh drain cleaners could soften or even melt older pipes or very light schedule plastic pipes.

He suggests swapping harsh cleaners with “a bio-based drain maintenance product.” It “introduces ‘good’ bacteria into the pipes. He says you can use it monthly to eat away at grease and food waste and prevent clogs from forming. Abrams recommends Roto-Rooter Pipe Shield (from his own company) or enzyme-based Green Gobbler.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

3. Not Having a Drain Catcher

“Another common mistake is the absence of a drain catcher,” Perez says. “Without a catcher, food particles, grease, and debris easily get into the drain, causing blockages,” he says. Perez suggests “installing a mesh or perforated drain catcher” to easily prevent more damaging clogs.

Jones adds that not having a drain strainer is “especially bad if the sink is not equipped with a garbage disposal.” With nowhere else for the food to go but down your pipes, the strainer is your best defense.

4. Shoving Starchy Foods Down a Drain

Despite many thinking garbage disposals can handle anything, Jones warns against putting starchy foods like pasta, rice, and potatoes down the drain — especially in large quantities. “Don’t peel potatoes in the sink and push the peels down the drain,” he says. “The garbage disposal pulverizes these into a sticky, starchy paste that will eventually clog the drain,” Jones says.

If you do get a heavy clog, Abrams recommends using a plunger, but if that doesn’t work, you’ll need a professional. “The goo can go pretty deep into the branch drain, which is out of reach for liquid drain cleaners,” he says.

5. Disposing of Fibrous Foods Down a Drain

“Fibrous foods like celery, rhubarb, peanut shells, pumpkin pulp, and onion skins can jam a garbage disposal and add strong building blocks to whatever clogs are already forming inside your drainpipe or sewer,” says Jones.

Once your disposal is jammed, you’ll need an expert to safely clear it out.

Credit: Manu Vega / Getty Images

6. Putting Eggshells and Coffee Grounds Down a Disposal

The urban myth that eggshells and coffee grounds “sharpen the blades of your garbage disposal” is just that: a total falsehood. “Coffee and eggshells are bad for your garbage disposal,” says Abrams. “The fragments can jam the moving parts in a disposal, and the particles stick in the grease and goo to create a super clog,” he says.

Abrams adds that drain cleaner can’t do much for these tougher clogs, although you could go at it with a plunger before you have to call in a professional. 

7. Not Using a Plunger

Jones advocates for keeping a sink plunger in your kitchen. “These differ from a toilet plunger and can resolve most minor clogs if you attack them early,” he says. A sink plunger has a shorter handle and a shallower cup than a toilet plunger.  

For double sinks, seal the opposite drain [with a drain stopper] before you plunge. “[Otherwise], the energy from your plunging force just goes right out the other drain instead of against the clog below,” Jones says.