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2davidc8's avatar

Has anyone heard of pouring car engine degreaser down your drains to keep them from clogging?

Asked by 2davidc8 (9701points) December 12th, 2014

Way back, many years ago, a plumber told me that I should pour car engine degreaser down my kitchen sink (and down the toilet, too, I think) to keep it from getting clogged.

He explained that even if you never pour cooking oil and grease down your sink, organic material like vegetable and fruit peel become an oily blob when it decomposes and degrades. This then tends to solidify and prevent proper drainage.

He recommended pouring car engine degreaser down the drain from time to time to dissolve and break up the oil. He said that the degreaser is sold in auto parts stores and, IIRC, that it was pink in color. Has anyone heard of doing this? How did it work? Can you give me a brand name?

(I can believe that plant material becomes oily when decomposed. I have a lot of mushrooms on my lawn, and when they shrivel up and die, they get very oily and sticky.)

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24 Answers

Bill1939's avatar

I have not heard of using a car engine degreaser to keep drains open. However, upon the suggestion of my city’s sewer department we have been using Dawn dishwashing detergent for this purpose and it works. About once a month or so I pour about a half-cup down the kitchen sink on the disposal side to keep emulsification from clogging the drain lines.

dappled_leaves's avatar

I’ve never heard of this, and it sounds like a terrible idea – why would you want to regularly flush that stuff into your rivers? How many sink clogs are you experiencing that you think this kind of pollution is worthwhile? Wouldn’t it be simpler to buy at $5 plunger?

kritiper's avatar

Never heard of that. Degreaser is only a strong industrial soap used in steam cleaners. Oven cleaner will degrease engines but is hard to pour down drains. Have heard that white vinegar and Alka Seltzer will keep your drains clear.

Coloma's avatar

Ewww…horrible idea, we have enough toxins in our water supply as it is.

CWOTUS's avatar

Boiling hot water will do quite nicely. By the time the water cools it will be at larger diameter pipes that are hardly in danger of clogging. And there is absolutely no need to do this in a toilet, since that already flushes into a (usually) 4” line and from there directly into a main drain. The tub might benefit, however, but if all that goes down the tub drain is soapy water, hair conditioner, etc. (and the occasional hair), then that’s a minimal benefit, too.

Be very careful when handling large pots of boiling water. Obviously, that can be catastrophically injurious to anyone in the house, and to pets. Best to do that with no one else around to get in the way.

JLeslie's avatar

I never heard of doing that. You can buy good bacteria if you want to do a natural clean. As far as chemicals I like Drano foam. I feel like it cleans out everything, and garbage disposals are disgusting. Once every six months I put half a bottle of Drano and feel like it’s refreshed.

orbutsbi's avatar

Terrible idea and deadly to septic.

Do as JLeslie suggests and buy good bacteria.

kritiper's avatar

Not a good idea to pour hot or boiling water down the toilet. Would melt the wax seal ring!

StaceyD's avatar

I have not heard of this but a friend recently recommended vinegar and baking soda for clogged drains. I haven’t tried it yet.

2davidc8's avatar

@Coloma Car engine degreaser is probably just a detergent, maybe a stronger version of something like the Dawn dishwashing detergent that @Bill1939 mentioned, so it’s probably not all that toxic.

In the previous house where I lived, we used to put just about any food (except bones and really hard stuff like avocado, cherry, and mango pits) down the kitchen sink (after proper grinding by the disposer), and we never had any problems whatsoever, even after 25 years. This included orange, banana and potato peels. We did try to avoid putting onion skin down the sink, as we did not think the disposer would handle that well.

What prompted my question was that we’ve been in the current house just 2.5 years, and already we’ve had to call the plumber twice to “snake” the line. And we’ve been VERY CAREFUL not to put anything larger than a grain of rice down the sink, plus we run the disposer frequently, with plenty of water. So this brought to mind what the plumber had told me years ago, and I wondered if others had tried the method and if it worked.

orbutsbi's avatar

You can get beneficial bacteria and enzymes that you can put down the drain periodically to keep the lines clear @2davidc8.

I have been told that both too much and too little pitch to your drain pipes will cause buildup. If my sinks slow, I find that filling them to the top with hot/boiling water then pulling the plug usually helps.

I believe that low water pressure can also cause your drains to build up. You might check that.

susanc's avatar

Baking soda followed by vinegar (the cheap white kind) absolutely works. Less
corrosive and poisonous than Drano, and I have a septic system I have to treat like a newborn infant, very delicate, can’t afford to replace. No garbage disposal; I compost everything that
I possibly can. Easy routine.

2davidc8's avatar

I should mention that when the kitchen drain got clogged, we tried the plunger, hot water, and then Drano/Liquid Plummr. None of these worked. Only the plumber with a power snake could get it unclogged.
Have not tried the baking soda/vinegar or the hot water methods mentioned above. Maybe next time if it gets clogged again.
@orbutsbi I took a look in the crawl space under the house and I do think that the pitch of the drain pipe is too little and, because of the location of the sink, it has to go a looooooong way before it gets to the street.

orbutsbi's avatar

You might want to get a plumber to look at the waste pipe @2davidc8, see if you can get the problem fixed, once and for all. Cheaper than regular rotor-router service in the long run.

I had this problem with my kitchen sink and hopefully a re-plumb and increased water flow has stopped it.

CWOTUS's avatar

When the drain line is plugged, there isn’t much that’s going to fix that except some kind of mechanical or hydraulic solution: a snake, a plunger or some kind of pressurized flush, or even removal and replacement of the piece with the blockage. The hints above are mostly suggestions that you can do on a maintenance basis before the blockage occurs, and which may prevent (or at least delay) the next one.

At the crawl space, if you were looking at the main drain (“to the street”, suggests that it was the main house drain), then 1/8” per foot is normal and sufficient pitch.

orbutsbi's avatar

OP …“to keep them from clogging?” @CWOTUS.

CWOTUS's avatar

Yes. Your plumber’s advice (and most of the advice above) is a “maintenance solution” – to the point of your original question. Once the clog / pluggage occurs (unless it’s in the trap immediately underneath the plumbing fixture), few of those maintenance fixes will work any more.

2davidc8's avatar

You are absolutely correct, @CWOTUS. Right now, my drain is not clogged, and I was looking for a maintenance/preventive solution. I will try one of the suggestions above.

Next year, we are looking at a remodel, and I want this problem fixed once and for all. Just 1/8” is sufficient pitch? Would twice the pitch (¼”) be better?

CWOTUS's avatar

Actually, no. Too much pitch would allow liquids to drain more quickly, without carrying solids. You’d actually be more likely to have problems.

2davidc8's avatar

@CWOTUS OK, I see. Thx.

jca's avatar

@CWOTUS: I’ve done the boiling water method on my sinks, and I don’t use a pot of water, as it would be too large and heavy, I just boil the water in the tea kettle and bring that over to the sink.

I think if you put boiling water in the toilet you might crack the porcelain, as the toilet water keeps the porcelain cold, so boiling water would probably be too large a temperature change too quickly.

I recently had a clogged bathroom sink, and a friend recommended I buy some stuff at the store. It was about $4 a bottle, it was a gel, Liquid Plumr (that’s how it is spelled). I let it sit in the drain overnight, and by morning, voila.

CWOTUS's avatar

For those who prefer to clear the drain trap instantly, safely and without such chemicals as Liquid Plumr and others, there’s always the Zip-It (or equivalent), which can be had for a dollar or two, used once and thrown away, or cleaned and saved for re-use. But that only works as far down the drain as it will reach – which is usually the sink or tub P-trap and maybe a little beyond – excellent for cleaning hair from a stopped up sink or shower drain.

prairierose's avatar

In our city it is illegal to put car engine degreaser down the drain because it kills the good microbes in the sewer system. Course, if anyone did put care engine degreaser down the drain, there would be no way to know who the culprit was, no way to trace it.

prairierose's avatar

Oops typo ^^ should be “car” not “care”, second sentence.

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