The Worst Thing You Can Do When Washing Greasy Pans, According to a Plumber

published Aug 17, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

How do you typically wash your dishes? Most likely, you scrape the plates, turn on the super-hot water (gloves on, of course!), wash, rinse, and dry. That makes sense! Unless, that is, you’re dealing with greasy pots and pans. In that case, our expert plumber says you need to take a totally different approach to protect your drain, plumbing, and even the environment. 

You probably already know that oil from greasy pots and pans can clog your drain or even potentially damage your pipes and contaminate waterways. While ideally you should pour the grease off into the trash, it’s not always possible to remove all of the oily residue. Sometimes, you might not even notice how much grease is in a pan until you’re already doing the dishes. 

Tip: Use Cold Water to Wash Greasy Pots and Pans

Turns out, you should never use warm or hot water when washing greasy pots and pans, according to Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

Here’s why: When you’re doing dishes, hot water and dish soap combined are an effective way to remove germs and other gunk. But that same combination can wreak havoc when fat, oil, or grease (aka FOG) are involved. Basically, hot water emulsifies grease, so as it cools traveling through your plumbing, it’ll solidify and coat the pipes, which is NOT good! Over time, this coating accumulates, leading to stoppages (and super expensive plumbing bills!).

However, cold water helps keep the grease solid, so it can travel easily and efficiently through the pipes without getting clogged. “When fat, oil, and grease meet the cold water, it quickly solidifies, [and] the principles of water and gravity take over and wash it away,” James says. 

While it’s better to use cold water than hot water, plumbers never recommend sending any type of grease down the drain if you can avoid it. Sure, you might avoid a major clog, but James says too much oil buildup can quickly overwhelm water treatment systems.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

3 Smart Tips for Washing Greasy Pots and Pans

In addition to rinsing with cold water, below are a few expert tips for FOG-free plumbing.

  1. Never pour FOG directly down the sink — even garbage disposals cannot properly handle fats, oils, and greases. Try to keep as much as possible out of the sink!
  2. Scrape greasy pans and dishes into the garbage. Wipe them with a paper towel or newspaper before washing in your sink or dishwasher.
  3. Instead of putting your FOG directly into the garbage, you can also put it into containers with lids, where they can harden and congeal for recycling or disposal in the garbage. We like old glass jars, yogurt containers, or coffee cans.

How do you wash your greasy pots and pans? Tell us in the comments below.