Bacon Grease & Why It's Bad For Plumbing

Bacon Grease & Why It’s Bad For Plumbing

Plenty of homeowners here in Memphis, TN, have found out the hard way that there are some things you just can’t put down the drain. While some of the items that should never find their way into a drain are obvious, others are less expected.

Some of the items people don’t realize they should keep out of their drains include:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Eggshells
  • Celery
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Flour

And, of course, one of the very worst things you can send down your sink: bacon grease.

Bacon Grease: The Perfect Storm for Kitchen Clogs

The various food products that shouldn’t go down your drain each have their own way of wreaking havoc on your home’s pipes and plumbing system. With bacon, you have a number of key properties coming together to create the perfect storm that can have dire consequences for pipes.

Bacon Grease Doesn’t Mix with Water

Any kind of oil from your kitchen (or elsewhere) carries a special property that makes it unsuitable for pouring down the drain. All oils are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water and simply won’t mix with it. Instead, oils clump together, forming bubbles and deposits.

This property is why you need dish soap to clean your dishes. Just about any kind of food will have at least a bit of oil, and scrubbing and rinsing with water alone won’t get all of it off. Instead, you need something that will remove the oil or grease and wash it away.

Dish soap contains particles that have different properties at either end. One end is hydrophobic, repelling water like grease, while the other end is hydrophilic, which means it’s attracted to water. 

Because of this setup, soap takes hold of the grease, lifts it off the dish, and washes it away down the drain when you rinse it off. Problem solved, right?

This may be a good solution for dealing with a messy plate, but unfortunately, it’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card for dumping oil and grease down your sink. Even regular cooking oils can still mess with your plumbing system, and bacon grease is far worse.

If you’ve ever gotten advice that it’s fine to dump oil down your sink as long as you use plenty of soap, you shouldn’t follow it. The oil can eventually separate from the water, and because it floats on top, it could potentially get caught in your kitchen sink’s U-bend.

If it manages to get further into your plumbing system, there’s no telling where it might end up. And if you’re only doing this with vegetable oils, you could still find yourself in need of plumbing repairs. 

However, bacon grease has even nastier tricks it can pull.

Bacon Grease Is Solid When Cool

You might stand a decent chance of safely draining bacon grease if it were always a liquid, but it isn’t. Bacon grease is only a liquid when it’s piping hot. It quickly congeals into a thick, white grease that has no business going down your sink.

Once you send it down the pipes, it’s going to be in constant contact with water. Even if you run hot water for a while, the grease will eventually encounter cool water that will cause it to solidify. Now, instead of just dealing with an unmixable liquid, you’ve got a sticky solid forming in your plumbing system.

Combined with the fact that grease doesn’t mix with water, you have a real problem on your hands. Once solid bacon grease gets stuck, no amount of water can remove it. The grease doesn’t wear down or dissolve over time. It’s completely waterproof.

Pouring hot water down the pipes won’t help either because the grease is likely so deep in your home’s plumbing system that the water will cool before reaching it. The same goes for trying more soap, which will end up dispersed and mostly useless.

Plenty of solids can safely traverse your home’s pipes, but there’s one final reason that contributes to making bacon grease an absolute nightmare for drains everywhere.

Bacon Grease Builds Up

If your bacon grease formed into compact globs that washed downstream to the municipal water treatment plant, you wouldn’t ever need plumbing repairs to address grease clogs. However, that simply isn’t the case.

Instead, when hot grease cools and turns solid, it will adhere to pipe walls. This is again caused by its hydrophobic properties. It settles in a position with as little contact with water as possible. When you’re inside a pipe filled with water, the only escape is to cling to the walls.

If you continue to send bacon grease down your drain and through your pipes, it will continue to congeal and stick to any existing areas of buildup. That means that the pipe walls will slowly begin to close inward as more and more grease coats them. Eventually, the area that water can drain through becomes too small, and issues arise.

How Professional Plumbers Deal with Bacon Grease Clogs

If you’ve been putting bacon grease down your drains, you’re going to end up dealing with a clog eventually. The chances are that you have other solids going down your drain and becoming trapped by grease buildup. Sooner or later, this will likely result in a major clog.

Because the grease can go some distance before building up, this can occur almost anywhere in your plumbing system. It can even cause clogs deep in your sewer line, potentially leading to a local plumber having to dig your yard up to eliminate the problem.

In most cases, less intensive plumbing repairs will be enough to get the job done. While bacon grease is sticky and doesn’t mix with water, it’s also very soft. That means that conventional drain cleaning techniques can often eliminate the clog quickly.

Jetting is even more effective and can cut through most bacon grease clogs like they aren’t even there. This technique involves feeding a long nozzle into your drain and applying high-pressure water to blast through just about any obstruction.

However, clog complications can come up. The most significant danger is if other debris has contributed to the blockage. If more items that shouldn’t go down the drain start to accumulate because they’re blocked by the grease, they can make a more challenging clog that will need more extensive repairs.

The worst-case scenario for bacon grease clogs is a necessity for sewer line repairs. If the clog can’t be handled through other means, or if the clog has caused additional damage, you may need to replace a section of the sewer line.

While a local plumber can handle this as quickly and cleanly as possible, it’s much easier to avoid dumping bacon grease down the drain in the first place.

Professional Drain Cleaning Near Memphis, TN

Every plumbing system could use drain cleaning from time to time, even if you’re taking care to avoid sending bacon grease and other harmful materials down the drain. 

At Nance Services, our qualified local plumbers provide convenient and effective drain cleaning in Memphis, TN.

We have the skills and the tools to deal with clogs and other common plumbing issues. Our team uses the latest jetting technology to handle clogs from grease and other causes. Nance Services also performs video inspections to find the best course of action for more serious plumbing issues.

You can count on our plumbers for any of your home’s plumbing needs. Give us a call to schedule your plumbing service today.

Nance Services is a full-service HVAC & Plumbing Company based in Memphis, TN. Follow our blog for valuable homeowner tips, and updates from your favorite team of plumbing and HVAC professionals.