When you are stir-frying, searing, sauteing or grilling your meal each night and using delicious artisan oils to complement your flavors, accentuate your textures and cook your ingredients, proper cooking cleanup is most likely the last thing on your mind. After your dish is done and you portion your culinary creation onto plates for yourself, your family or your guests, your first instinct might be to place your pot or pan in the sink — used oil and all — and pour the extra oil runoff down the drain when it is time to clean.
You may have heard that disposing of used cooking oil by pouring it down the drain could be harmful to your sink, pipes, and the environment, but perhaps you consider it just a myth and continue to deal with used cooking oil disposal in the same way. Unfortunately, it is true that dumping used cooking oil down the drain can be damaging — not only to your home’s or apartment building’s pipes but also to the entire sewage system or wastewater treatment plant in your area.
Here is what you need to know about used cooking oil disposal, what happens when you pour oil and grease down the drain and how to avoid creating environmental problems with waste cooking oil.
What Happens When You Pour Used Cooking Oil Down the Drain?
Many people think nothing is wrong with pouring their leftover used cooking oil into the sink and washing it away with your soapy cleaning water — after all, it is liquid and seems to drain smoothly without immediately seeming to cause any clogs. When disposing of your used cooking oil, however, it is important to remember that oil and grease do not behave like other liquids. When hot, they can be in a liquid state, but if oils have time to cool and accumulate over time, they can coagulate and solidify — especially when they mix with the fats and greases from the meats and other ingredients you have been cooking.
After you pour your leftover cooking oils down the drain along with the other liquid remnants of your meal prep, they will wash into your pipes — mixing with other flushed ingredients, floating around, and accumulating over time into solid or sticky masses of fats that can cling to the sides of the pipes. When you continue to flood your pipes with oil and grease — even only a little at a time — the solid fat mass accumulation will only continue to build up, narrowing the pipes’ diameter, preventing smooth, quick drainage, backing up your sink and causing increasingly serious clog issues.
The longer your oil clogs build up, the harder they are to clear out, especially when you live in an older building where others have rinsed their oils and fats down the same sinks for years before you. Plus, plumbers can only work to clear the pipes accessible pipes, but the grease and fat you wash down the sink travel much farther than your drain.
How Improper Cooking Oil Disposal Is Harmful
When you use your drain to dispose of your used cooking oil, it makes its way from your sink through your pipes and travels to the local sewer, where it mixes with all the area’s other wastewater and an assortment of other chemicals and substances — including fat and oil from other sources and calcium from the sewers themselves. When the oils and fats from your cooking reach the sewers, they break down into their components parts of glycerol and fatty acids, which bind with calcium to create a compound with a soapy consistency that remains in the sewer system.
When water levels rise, the fatty blobs of “soap” cling to the ceilings and sides of the pipes, building up and becoming waxy “fatbergs” that can grow to enormous sizes, block the sewer lines and lead to dangerous backups that will affect everyone in the area when overflowing sewage waters rise back into the pipes and up into your drains. Fatberg masses can also block water treatment processes, becoming detrimental to the environment and the water supply in general.
What to Do Instead
To avoid plumbing issues, blocked pipes, sewage supply buildups of greasy fatbergs and environmental damage, it is vital that you handle your cooking oil disposal in an appropriate, environmentally friendly manner. Instead of taking your pan straight to the sink after you finish cooking and dumping your leftover liquids down the drain, let your used cooking oil cool and pour it off into a resealable container — like a glass jar or a coffee can — to save for recycling. Let your supply of saved used cooking oil build up over time and take it to a local organization or facility that accepts oil deposits to recycle into biofuel. If you would like, try reusing your cooking oil while it is still good.
If you cannot find anywhere to recycle your used cooking oil, let it solidify and toss it into the trash — the garbage is a much better choice than the drain. Either way, make sure to wipe out your pans with a paper towel to soak up all the excess oil and throw those in the trash, as well. Even a small amount of grease can be damaging to your pipes and the sewer system.
When you enjoy the delicious benefits of cooking with oils, you should handle your used cooking oil disposal responsibly, as well. Cook confidently and safely with La Tourangelle artisan oils today.