Easy steps to take to avoid a Thanksgiving plumbing disaster

By HAL CONICK, Content Producer for Penton Media and CONTRACTOR Magazine and IAN SIMPSON, Correspondent for Reuters News Service


Every November, people across the country gather with friends, family and others for a feast of epic proportions (and usually, epic portions). With all of the trimmings, food packaging, guests and general excitement, not only is Thanksgiving one of America’s most beloved holidays, it’s also one of the busiest plumbing days of the year.

Clogged garbage disposal

Image courtesy Fox Plumbing & Heating, Seattle, WA.

Thanksgiving can be especially stressful for household drains.

Cooks, sometimes inexperienced (or in a hurry), overload garbage disposals with potato peelings, pumpkin pulp and other food waste. Often they fail to use enough water to flush them down the drain, then put cooking grease and oil in the mix.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reported in 2004 that grease is the No. 1 cause of blocked sewers, at 47 percent of stoppages. In New York, the nation’s biggest city, grease causes 62 percent of blockages, according to a 2013 report by the city’s Environmental Department.

Blockages cause sewers to overflow. The EPA report said that there were between 23,000 and 75,000 U.S. sanitary sewer overflows a year, discharging up to 10 billion gallons (38 billion liters) of raw sewage.

Don't let oyur Thanksgiving be ruined by plumbing problems

Image courtesy of WL Gary Company, Washington, DC.

To avoid home drain problems, here are some helpful suggestions:

  • Clean up oil and grease with paper towels and discard them. Or pour off the grease into a container, let it congeal, and discard the container in the trash.
  • Avoid putting stringy or fibrous waste down the disposal.
  • Do not wait until the disposal is full to turn it on. Use plenty of water, and let it run for 20 or 30 seconds until it is clear.
  • If there are a lot of house guests, wait 10 minutes or so between showers so slower drains can clear.
  • Do not flush wipes, cotton swabs or paper towels down the toilet.
  • Take care of plumbing problems before the holidays arrive.


For any drain or other plumbing problems, please set up a service call request with us at Brubaker Inc. at 717.299.5641 or email us.

For additional tips see photo gallery here; read more here.