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Flushing Food Down the Toilet? Be Careful

Many of us rely on our garbage disposals, which must be one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century. It’s so convenient to rinse the bits off your dinner plates and, with the flip of a switch, all the food scraps are magically macerated and washed away.

But if you don’t have a working disposal, you may be tempted to flush food scraps down the toilet after each meal. For many, it’s because they don’t want to fill their garbage cans with organic matter that will start to smell up the kitchen the next day. Others who have garbage disposals are tempted to flush down food items that are not supposed to go down garbage disposals, like coffee grounds, eggshells, and fish skins.

So, Can You Flush Food Down the Toilet?

The short answer is, no.

Why? Because the pipes that vacate your toilet are too narrow to handle food scraps. And because food scraps can potentially clog your sewer line and back up raw sewage into your home. (Food doesn’t break down as easily and quickly as human waste and toilet paper, which are the only two things that should ever be flushed down a toilet.)

Flushing a bite here and a bread crust there will probably not cause much trouble. However, making a habit of flushing food down the toilet is more damaging than you might think.

If you insist upon flushing food down the toilet, exercise caution. Here are a few kinds of food you absolutely should never flush down the toilet:

  • Oils and fats – This includes any food substance that hardens when it cools: bacon fat, butter, or cooking oils. These substances congeal inside your sewer lines, constricting sewage flow or stopping it entirely. As cooking fats gather and harden inside sewers, they collect other bits of debris down the line and form fatbergs that can affect entire communities. In recent years, these massive chunks of fat and debris have made the news by bringing entire branches of sewer systems to a halt in major cities across the world.
  • Hard food scraps that break down slowly – Animal bones, corn cobs, and apple cores are just a few examples of food scraps that take a long time to decompose. Honestly, if you flush these kinds of scraps all the time, it’s a miracle you haven’t plugged up your toilet drain already. Not only can these items jam up your sewer pipe, but they are prime fodder for building fatbergs. They can also disrupt your city’s wastewater treatment processes. Throw these items in your trash can, instead.
  • Grains – Rice, oats, and other grains swell when they absorb water. When you flush a bowl of oatmeal, the oats can keep expanding and stop up your sewer line.
  • Starchy foods – Think about the consistency of a pile of mashed potatoes. If you flush a big glob of spuds, the gelatinous obstruction can easily slow the flow of your sewer pipe.

Alternatives to Flushing Food Down the Toilet

Instead of flushing food down the toilet when you have food waste to get rid of, consider all your other options.

  • Consider keeping your leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer for later use; there are a million ways to repurpose leftovers.
  • Pour unwanted liquid-based foods like soup or cooking fats into an old can or leak-proof plastic bag and toss that in the trash.
  • Nearly one hundred percent of your food scraps can be composted, so see if your city has a compost program, and separate your compostable scraps for this purpose. If not, make your own compost pile.
  • Put your smelliest food scraps (fish skins, soggy meat wrappers, etc.) in a plastic bag and store it in the freezer until trash day, when you can add it to your bin and take it immediately curbside for the garbage hauler.

Is Your Toilet Plugged? Stop Flushing Food Down the Toilet and Call Mr. Rooter Plumbing

If you’ve flushed one too many scraps and you can’t get your toilet flowing, it’s time to call for professional help. A backed-up sewage pipe can pose serious health risks to you and your family so don’t delay. For fast, friendly, and reliable plumbing service, call your local Mr. Rooter® Plumbing at (855) 982-2028 or request an estimate online.

Rather than tossing food scraps down the toilet, have you considered composting? The Grounds Guys have an excellent resource on the basics of building a compost pile. Part of Neighborly’s community of home service brands, The Grounds Guys are your source for professional landscaping and lawn maintenance services.