Why You Should Start Squirting a Little Bit of Dish Soap Down the Drain

updated May 11, 2020
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Pouring some dish soap down the drain of a kitchen sink
Credit: Joe Lingeman

Have you ever had to call a plumber on a major holiday because your drain picked that precise day to clog up and leave you with a sink full of greasy water and dirty dishes? No? Just me? 

I’d love to blame our home’s previous occupant, but in all honesty we’re probably partially at fault, too, for not doing a good-enough job preventing cooking grease from going down the drain. 

Nobody wants to deal with a mess like that, let alone an emergency plumbing bill. Luckily, there are few preventive measures you can take.

To start, here are some words of wisdom from my plumber, Mike Streible of Streible Plumbing in Louisville, Kentucky. It may seem obvious, but apparently (hi!) it’s not. “What works best is limiting the amount of grease left on dishes and pans,” Streible says. He suggests wiping out pans that had a lot of oil, and disposing of leftover grease. (I would also add that, if you’re cooking with bacon grease or duck fat, that it deserves a place of honor in your fridge for later reuse.)

Credit: Joe Lingeman

But look, none of us are perfect and we can get in a hurry. I’ve seen my husband pour cooking oil straight into the sink (to my horror). If you know you may have an issue on this front, Aaron Mulder, co-owner and operations manager for Mr. Rooter Plumbing of San Antonio, a Neighborly company, has a pro tip: “Adding a squirt or two of dish soap into your kitchen sink drain will help to keep grease build-up to a minimum,” he says, “It also keep your drains smelling great too!” 

They actually do this at home almost every time someone does the dishes, Mulder says. 

So how should you go about this? 

Start with an empty sink, Mulder says, and remove and clean the sink strainer, if you have one (you really should!). Next, using a scrub brush, clean off any food or grossness from the  portion around the drain where build-up often collects. (“Never put your hand down a drain with a disposal on it!” Mulder reminds us.) Then give a couple squirts of dish soap into the drain. Wait about 30 seconds for the soap to run down the drain, and follow with hot water. 

“Continue using your brush to agitate any soap on top of the drain and the bottom of the sink and allow the hot water to run for about 60 seconds,” Mulder says. It’s OK if you still see some bubbles, he notes, because “allowing them to remain in the drain will increase the amount of time the degreasing soap spends on the sides of the pipe, and this will help to become more effective at removing any unwanted buildup.”

Mulder recommends doing this at least once a week. That said, “It’s also a good idea to do this any time you have a lot of dishes that might’ve contained greasy foods.”

I’m still going to work on making sure we’re not letting grease get down the drain, but I’m also definitely going to start squirting dish soap down the drain. No offense to Streible, but I’d rather not see him if I don’t have to.