The Best Things You Can Do for Your Kitchen’s Drain, According to Plumbers

updated May 20, 2021
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Dealing with a drain issue in your kitchen sink is never ideal. Especially these days, as we find ourselves starting to emerge from our bubbles. After more than a year of being at home, no one wants to have to wait around for an expert to come to fix things. (Never mind pay for said visit!) Of course, you’re diligent about pushing crumbs and whatnot into the trash before you plop dishes into the sink, but stuff still gets by (you’re not perfect!) and drains can still act up.

Always curious about what professionals know that we don’t, we talked to some expert plumbers to find out the best things we can all possibly be doing for our drains.

Here’s what the pros had to say.

1. Skip the liquid drain cleaners.

Have a clogged drain? Laura Lee Pokavich, president of Gotelli Plumbing in San Rafael, CA, recommends skipping the liquid drain cleaners, which she says can make clogs worse or even do damage to your pipes. “The chemicals in liquid drain cleaners tend to be too harsh on PVC and other residential pipes, so stick to traditional methods like plungers or drain snakes,” she says. 

Credit: Lauren Volo

2. Never pour grease or oil down the drain.

According to Chris Manariti, director of Manariti Plumbing, oily substances can build up over time in pipes, causing a blocked drain, so it’s best to avoid washing fatty ingredients down your kitchen sink. Instead of dumping grease down the drain, line a bowl with aluminum foil and pour the stuff into the bowl. Once it’s full, toss the foil in the trash. 

3. Use cold water when rinsing plates, pots, and pans.

If a bit of grease in your drain is unavoidable, prevent clogs by using the coldest water possible when you rinse. Surprising, right? “Cold water will help the grease to remain solid, which allows it to travel down drain lines more easily,” says Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company. “Using warm water emulsifies grease, so as it cools while traveling through the line, it becomes solid and coats the inside of the line, which will eventually lead to stoppages.” 

4. Don’t put your garbage disposal through the ringer.

Just because you have a garbage disposal, that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to throw a container’s worth of leftovers gone bad down there. Only use it for grinding up whatever food is left on plates, pots, and pans after you’ve scraped them into a garbage can. “Do this and your disposal will last longer and your drains won’t clog as often,” says Paul Abrams, spokesman for Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Water Cleanup

5. Avoid putting starchy or fibrous foods down the disposal.

Another important rule of thumb for your garbage disposal: Avoid putting any fibrous foods (including celery, rhubarb, and potato skins) or starch (including pasta, rice, and potatoes) down the disposal. “These products turn to gel after some time inside a drain and will form clogs — the kind that are hard to clear,” says Abrams.

6. Perform regular maintenance with an enzyme product.

To make sure your drain and pipes stay up to par, it’s a good idea to perform regular maintenance. Abrams recommends using a gentle, enzyme-based product (like this one) that uses “good” bacteria to consume organic matter that may have accumulated, like grease and food waste. “These products work best after a professional cleaning and they’ll keep the drain clear for a longer period of time between cleanings,” he says. “But they’ll also work well if you put them down the drain at night before running water down the drain.”

Have you gotten any other great advice from a plumber? Share it in the comments below!