A Grease Clogged Drain: Causes And Cures

Grease accumulation inside drain pipes is a major, yet surprisingly common plumbing problem. Dealing with a grease clogged drain can be a frustrating experience. When grease accumulates inside the drain pipe, it blocks the passage of water and leads to an overflow from the affected plumbing fixture. When a grease clogged drain occurs everything can get smelly, messy, and unhygienic in quite a hurry. Grease is perhaps the nastiest of drain issues, and the hardest to deal with.

grease clogged drain

Main house drian

Where does grease come from?

Grease, oil, and fat are common by-products of foods or cooking processes. Many other things can build an accumulation of grease inside drain pipes such as meats, food scraps, dairy products, butter, coffee grinds, rice, eggshells, many soaps, and detergents a swell. Basically anything else that comes from food or is used for cooking can be a potential cause of a grease clogged pipe. Even when you are a very cautious person, you may not notice the existence of grease in the drain pipe until overflowing happens.

Likewise, you may not be aware that a certain article contains grease; such as fat based soaps. Most soaps are either animal fat of vegetable based. The problem is that grease doesn’t appear to be problematic until it overwhelms your drainage. Grease tends to build up over a prolonged period of time.

Most soaps are based on animal fat, or vegetable fats. These types of soap can help to cause a grease clogged drain. Fat free soaps are readily available. Fat free soaps come in a variety of types, shapes, and sizes.

tallow-free soaps

Animal fat-free and vegetable fat-free soaps

Where can grease accumulate?

The most easily clogged pipes are those directly connected to a kitchen sink, especially in the sink trap. FOGG (fat, oil, grease, and grit) is contained by water and everything may appear to flow easily down the sink, especially when you use warm water to flush it. Inside the pipe, warm water loses temperature and becomes cold. The water itself will flow, but the FOGG become solidified when exposed to cold air. It can either sink to the bottom of the pipe. But more likely, float on top of water, and slowly coat the top of the pipe. As you flush more FOGG into the sink, they accumulate to make an even bigger grease accumulation, then eventually a clog. Over time, the grease can completely block water passage, causing overflows without warning.

Drain pipe clogging is possibly caused by a mixture of calcium and fat as well. Human urine and corrosion from pipe produces calcium; when mixed with fats from any source, formation of dense and fairly hard soap takes place. It means that any pipe located in any room in the house can get clogged by soap formulated by the mixture of calcium and fats on day-to-day basis.

If you have persistent grease clogs, it can due to a lack of proper pitch of your drain pipes. Grease clogs are not a normal occurrence. A lack of pitch, or “slope” of the pipe, allows grease to settle inside the pipe. A normally functioning drain system will take many years to formulate a grease problem.

How to remove grease?

A grease clogged drain is an alarming problem, and there are varying degrees of difficultly in clearing them out. Sometimes it is easy to restore everything back to normal; sometimes that is not so. If you are addicted to washing food scraps down your drain, try to mix in hot water with dish soap when flushing down food scraps or cooking residue. Dishwashing liquid does break up grease, but only to small extent. These soaps are not meant to be effective for grease removal, but they can help to prevent grease from accumulating more. Better yet, break the habit of abusing your drain system.

A caustic cleaner is more effective to clean a grease clogged drain. A generous amount of caustic cleaner can penetrate a dense and hard accumulation of grease. To do this, pour the cleaner into a sink with standing water, and leave it for about an hour. As the cleaner slowly sinks down the drain, it washes away dense grease to the sewer. In case the grease is stubborn enough, you may have to pour a larger amount of caustic cleaner and leave it overnight. In the morning when you see a reduced amount of cleaner, make sure to pour a mixture of warm water and dishwasher soap.

In some cases using compressed air (such as CO2) to push down the grease is good idea, too. This is because of the corrosive property of caustic cleaner. Caustic cleaners are not advised for everyday flushing of clogs. Frequent usage will not only get rid of grease, but also corrode away the drain pipes. Overly corroded pipe is prone to severe damages which potentially lead to more expensive repair. The corrosion can also clog the pipe in addition to grease.

In some cases it is easier to simply remove and clean out a sink trap than to use chemicals or a drain cleaning machine. Physically cleaning grease from out of a trap is also a more complete cleaning.

Commercial chemical-based cleaners are effective to tackle a grease clogged drain, but a homemade cleaner can be equally as good. The most common homemade cleaner is a mixture of hot water and vinegar in 1:1 ratio. This mixture works in the same way as a caustic cleaner, but vinegar and water are non-toxic and less corrosive. Adding boiling hot water will increase temperature inside grease clogged drain, and help to melt the clog. At the same time, vinegar removes all the grease sticking to the pipe walls. After some minutes, follow up the treatment by pouring more boiling hot water (without additional substance) into the sink to flush the remaining grease.

For a more complete cleaning, using a powered drain auger in conjunction with hydro jet equipment is sometimes advisable. You can rent them from a hardware store and start the cleaning process; but it is recommended to use a professional drain cleaner. If you are not sure with what you’re doing you may not be successful, or worse, injure yourself in the process. A grease clogged drain can produce a bad smell that lingers in your house for quite a while. You can neutralize the bad smell by pouring a mixture of hot water and a bleach solution into the sink.

In the case of a grease clogged house drain, or main sewer, a high pressure water jet is the ideal solution. Using the proper nozzle, and in he hands of a skilled professional, can provide a long-lasting solution. Simply using a standard sewer cleaning machine can result in just pushing the snake back and forth past the grease, without removing it at all.

How to avoid a grease clogged drain?

Prevention is the key to avoid a grease clogged drain and all the struggles that follow the problem. When cooking or manually washing the dishes, do not flush fats, oils, butter, egg shells, and any other greasy substances into the sink. If you have to clean greasy kitchen utensils and plates, you may want to soak them in a grease-dissolving cleaner before the actual washing. Some important keys to remember:

• A grease clogged drain happens only when there is an accumulation of greasy substances; so do not pour fats, oils, grease, and grits down the sink.
• Pots, pans, and dishes must be wiped of solids prior to washing. Scraped materials must be disposed of in the trash.
• Install a garbage disposal under the sink to prevent a grease clogged drain.

Garbage disposals or grease traps are designed specifically to separate fats and greasy substances from water. Placed under the sink, it prevents possible clog-causing materials from going into the pipe. When installed and maintained properly, grease traps can capture large amount of greasy substances with ease. Keep in mind that grease traps are not designed to handle solid materials such as food scraps. To make sure the traps don’t catch solid objects, also use sink strainers. If you follow all of these steps, yet still get stoppages, you may have a serious drain pipe issue that needs repair.

Sometimes you need a professional drain cleaner

There will be times when you need a professional to clear your grease clogged drain, or attend to some other drain issue. If you need professional drain help, or simply expert advice, contact Balkan Drain Cleaning. The Balkan family has been serving the NYC area for over 65 years. Our team is available 7 days a week, and after hours as well.