Don’t get drains in a knot – put fat in a pot

Help to keep sewers working over the festive season

Turkey dinner
Help to keep sewers working over the festive season

Pouring turkey drippings, oil, gravy and other festive leftovers down the plughole is a recipe for disaster that could make it a costly Christmas for unsuspecting households.

Noone wants to run the risk of a blocked drain or seeing their home flooded with sewage, yet many are unaware of the effect their fatty festive leftovers can have on drains and sewers if they are simply poured down the sink.

Fatty substances put a huge strain on the sewer network and can create giant pipe-blocking ‘fatbergs’ which feast on our festive leftovers, enabling them to grow up to 250 metres long.

Earlier this year, it took Thames Water nine weeks to defeat a 130-ton fatberg in Whitechapel, London.

Fatbergs are formed when cooking oil and grease mix with non-biodegradable items in the sewage system and solidify to cause blockages.

Blockages such as these are one of the main reasons the number of properties across England and Wales flooded with sewage increased by almost a third in 2016/17.

Steve Grebby, sewer expert at the Consumer Council for Water, said: “We all love a surprise at Christmas but seeing your home flooded with raw sewage isn’t one of them.”

Greasy leftovers can also clog up a property’s drains, landing the householder with a call-out charge for someone to clear up the mess.

Tony Griffiths from water company United Utilities said: “Each year we tackle on average 28,000 blockages on the sewers which serve the North West, costing around £10 million.”

Steve Grebby continued: “There are lots of simple ways to safely dispose of leftover fat or grease, including letting these substances cool in a container before scraping them straight into the bin. It might cost you a little more time but it could save you a lot of money.”

Waste company Junk Hunters has put together a list (below) of what not to put down sinks and toilets this Christmas to avoid a festive fatberg.

How to avoid a festive fatberg

1.       Flush only the ‘three Ps’

Toilets and the sewage system are designed to take three things only – pee, poo and (toilet) paper. Don’t flush anything else – including baby wipes, kitchen roll, any sanitary products and cotton wool. Even nappies and tights have been found in the sewers, and needless to say, they don’t belong there.

2.       Scrape plates

After Christmas dinner, scrape the plates and utensils well before washing them to get as much oil off as possible. Let the fat solidify first if that makes it easier to get rid of all of it.

3.       Get a grease trap

You can get one installed, but a very simple alternative is to pour any oil and cooking fat into an empty milk container or margarine tub while it’s cooled but still liquid, and let it solidify in that rather than in your drains.  Then chuck it away when it’s full. If you find there’s water collecting in the bottom, cut a hole in it and water your lawn before throwing it away.

4.       Use the hair trap

You might be washing your hair more often than usual for all the seasonal parties. Make sure you’ve got a hair trap in your shower or bath plughole and throw the hair in the bin.

5.       Don’t fall for the hot water myth

Some people might tell you that you can clear fat and oil from the drains by pouring hot water and washing up liquid down the sink. They’re wrong. Just don’t let fat go down there at all.