In a previous Fix-it Friday column, I wrote about how to unclog a toilet, which got me to thinking… an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or a quart of Liquid Plumr.

Back when I did a lot of plumbing work with my cousin Sal in Brooklyn, I unclogged more toilets, clean-outs, shower drains, sewer mains etc. than I can count. It never ceased to amaze me the things we’d find in waste lines.

I think the funniest of all colossal-clogs was in an Italian Mama’s house. She dumped leftover Sunday Sauce down her toilet, whole sausages and all! When we asked her why, she explained dumping old food in the toilet avoided her trash bins from getting a puzza (stink). Bless her heart…

So this one’s for you nonna! Here’s my hit list of things you should NEVER put down your toilet, drain, or garbage disposal.

Flushing Faux Pas

  • White toilet bowl and boots (Clipping path)Tampons: I know some are packaged as “flushable,” but trust me, I’ve seen inside enough pipes, especially in older homes, to know they’re all little trouble makers. That goes for the applicator AND plug part. Instead, wrap it up in TP and throw it in the garbage. (ps – while we’re on the topic, I recently did some Tam-pondering, so be sure to check out what I just discovered about tampons… the good, the bad, and the bloody.)
  • Hair: Folks know about trying to keep hair out of shower drains, but they don’t hesitate throwing clumps of hair in the toilet. Don’t! It will make it down the toilet drain, but will eventually become part of the stuff that clogs things down the waste line.
  • Food: Like the Italian Mama I mentioned above, it’s understandable why you’d want to throw liquidy-smelly food down the toilet, but only do so if it’s soft like baby-food and NOT greasy.
  • Paper Towels: Especially the very thick ones, they won’t break down and will end up causing a clog.
  • Wipes: And this goes for wipes of any kind, even make-up. They may say “flushable,” but I’ve seen how they can wad up and create blockages in pipes. Avoid!
  • Cat Liter: Again, I don’t care what the label may read, don’t do it.
  • Condoms
  • Cigarettes
  • Cotton Swabs/Pads/Balls

Down the Drain DON’Ts

  • grease canGrease: The worst clogging culprit of all! Pour off fat in a jar, not the sink! We keep a fat-jar in the fridge then dump it in the garbage when it’s full. This goes for any kind of fat – butter, lard, shortening, oil, etc.
  • Food Scrapings: They seem harmless enough, but will build up over time! Scrape all food particles in the garbage.
  • Chemicals: This is more of an environmental warning. Any chemicals, paints, turpentine, nail polish remover, anti-freeze, etc. is best collected, then brought to your local disposal site.
  • Medications: Another environmental concern. Keep meds out of our water supply.
  • Coffee Grinds
  • Tea Leaves
  • Eggshells

Garbage Disposal DON’Ts

  • garbage disposalStringy or Thick, Fibrous Peeled Fruits and Veggies: Celery, banana skins, asparagus, corn husks, artichokes, etc.
  • Ice: There’s a myth about ice cleaning and sharpening blades. Truth is there are no “blades” in a garbage disposal and manufacturers don’t advise grinding ice anyway.
  • Coffee Grinds or Tea Leaves: You’d think this would be ok, but large amounts of grinds or leaves can clog up the trap.
  • Any Food that Expands When Wet: Rice, pasta, bread, cereal, etc.
  • Eggshells
  • Bones
  • Grease
  • Non-food items

On a final note, you may be able to get away with a few no-no’s here and there, but believe me when I tell you, long term dumping and flushing fouls will set you up for failure and a date with a plumber… which is fine as long as he/she’s buying, and has spectacular glutes in the likely event of plumber’s crack.

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Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally, the former host of Discovery Home Channel’s series “Toolbelt Diva” and a show on Sirius Satellite Radio by the same name. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.