Does Adding Hot Water Make It Okay To Pour Grease Down The Drain?

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We, the people, love our oils. In 2022, Americans consumed over 17.67 million metric tons of edible oils, with some of our favorites including soybean oil, rapeseed oil, and palm oil, via Statista. Of course, most of those oils were minor ingredients in various food products, but some of our oil consumption comes directly from cooking oils. Think about how many tablespoons of oil you go through each week to make stir-fries, fried foods, or baked goods, and multiply that by over 330 million Americans. 

Fried foods are delicious but can be messy to prepare and even messier to clean up. Liquid grease is often too hot to handle, but it starts to solidify if you let it cool. When washing your way through greasy pots and pans, tossing everything in the sink and calling it a day can be tempting. Surely hot water will help the grease dissolve and flow down the drain, right? Learn the truth behind this messy myth and what to do if you're in a sticky situation. 

Never put grease down the drain

Even if you add near-boiling hot water, you should never pour grease or fats down the drain or garbage disposal. Eventually, the hot water will cool in the pipes, and the fatty mixture will congeal. In fact, using hot water will likely make things worse, forcing the fat deeper into the pipes. Once it cools, the grease will cover the walls of your pipes and cause other food particles to stick and build up, eventually forming a clog. 

Remember your fifth-grade science lessons? As your teacher poured some olive oil into a cup of water, you probably noticed how the two liquids create a distinct line of separation, with the oil on top. Oil is hydrophobic, meaning it won't mix with water, no matter how hard you force it. It doesn't matter if the water is hot or cold either. When you mix grease with hot water, the water will flush down the drain, but the fatty, oily substance will be left behind. Because oil floats, all that leftover fat will bubble back to the surface the next time you turn on the faucet. It'll never really wash down completely; over time, the oil and particle buildup will overflow back into your sink. 

Everybody makes mistakes

So you gave in to the hot water myth? Here's what to do. If you've only made a mistake with a bit of grease once, don't worry too much. Plug the drain and fill the sink basin with hot, soapy water and a splash of white vinegar. Give it a stir, then pull the plug from the drain to flush the hot mixture down. After draining the sink, run the hot water faucet for a few minutes. The hot water, soap, and acidic vinegar will clear most of the grease in your pipes, as long as it's just a small amount.

However, you could have a grease clog if you've been pouring grease for years and things are stuck. Some signs of a grease clog include slow drainage, gurgling noises, or a rotten, rancid drain odor that won't go away with cleaning solutions. For minor clogs, you can try a liquid drain cleaner, such as Drano or Liquid-Plumr. A small drain plunger may also help to dislodge chunks of fat and get things moving again. If your drain is still clogged, it's best to call a professional to avoid damaging your pipes or causing further problems. In the future, remember to dispose of grease correctly; allow it to cool, pour it into an old container like a soda can or sour cream tub, then seal it and throw it away in the garbage.