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Can Coffee Grounds Go Down the Drain or Sink?
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Blog 11/19/18

Can Coffee Grounds Go Down the Drain or Sink?

They can, but our expert plumbers have found lots of causes for buildup and clogs, and coffee grounds are one of them.

What Happens When Coffee Grounds Go Down the Drain?

A few things can happen when coffee drains are put down the drain or are used to “clean” the disposer. Ideally, nothing could happen, which often occurs with clean, new, or ABS drain lines. With enough water, the grounds will be pushed down through the drain and never wreak havoc. Or, coffee grounds will settle in the drain line, attaching to the grease buildup and eventually cause a clog.

Why Do So Many People Mention Using Coffee Grounds in a Drain or Sink?

A quick Google search will lead homeowners to some very conflicting results on this particular matter. There seems to be a group of people that swear by coffee grounds as a remedy for foul-smelling sinks and dirty disposer, and those who will caution never to put coffee grounds in the drain line, with or without a waste disposer. There are also people who suggest using citrus rinds as a fresh smelling drain solution, but more on that later!

Bill Howe Plumbing certainly falls into the camp that advises never to put coffee grounds down the kitchen sink.

What if homeowners ensure they never put food waste and grease down the sink? Scraping plates into the waste bin and making sure nothing gets thrown down the drain is great practice. However, even the cleanest plates after dinner can leave residue that, when rinsed, will allow fats, oils and grease into the drain. Over time, this can build up on the sides of the drain lines.

How Do I Keep Drains Clear?

Keeping drain lines clear from buildup is all about prevention. If homeowners continue to ensure nothing goes down the drain unnecessarily, that is a good start. To help dissolve small amounts of oils, residue, grease and fats in the drains, homeowners can use a simple household item to help keep them clean.

Degreasing Dish Soap + Hot Water

Once a month, put a small amount of degreasing liquid soap in the kitchen drain and run hot water for about 30 seconds. For homes with a disposer, run the disposer while the water runs.

Citrus Rinds in the Disposer

Just like coffee grounds, some people swear by citrus rinds for a dirty disposal and smelly kitchen sink. According to Insinkerator, a popular brand of disposers, it is okay to put small bones, leftovers, peels, fruits and vegetables into a disposer. Bill Howe Plumbing politely disagrees.

Most disposers, even the smaller ¾ horsepower, have the capacity, blades and strength to grind up organic food items. This does not mean those items should go down the drain, especially starchy foods like potato peels. Anyone with a clogged drain on Thanksgiving knows this firsthand. The best place for all of these items is a compost system, or the trash bin.

Disposers will process food items, and in homes with plastic piping they will not stick, but these items do travel down and into main sewer lines where they can accumulate and clog, which could require repair services. When you find yourself with a clogged drain and last night’s dinner coming up through the bathtub, you will experience this firsthand.

If your pipes are cast iron, that is even more of a reason to not allow large amounts of food items or other materials in the drain as they can attach to the grease in the line, building up on the inside of the cast iron over time. Cast iron is good material for pipes because it is sturdy, quiet and long lasting. However, it is also a more porous material than ABS or PVC plastic piping and allows for accumulation of anything that goes into the line.

Even though a disposer may break up the rinds, it is not good for the drain lines themselves. If the disposer is older, it can also get jammed by anything in the blades leading to a broken disposer. Most often, a drain repair is not possible and a replacement will be the only solution.

How Do Homeowners Eliminate Drain Odors?

The best way to eliminate foul kitchen drain odors is keeping food waste out of the drain. Odors occur from grease and food buildup in the line that sits and causes the smell. If homeowners do have a disposer, treat it gently by only using it for small particles left on plates. A disposer’s best job is to push those last particles down the line. Use a degreasing soap once a month and always use water when running the disposer.

If there is a large amount of buildup and homeowners are experiencing bad smells and constant clogs, it is recommended that they invest in a kitchen drain hydro-jetting service. Using high powered water through a jetting machine, plumbers can eliminate the buildup and restore the inside of the drains diameter to clear the line. Many restaurants perform this as ongoing maintenance, but homeowners can experience the same buildup and clogs through daily use.

Drain Maintenance

Homeowners often wonder if there is maintenance for kitchen drain lines. While plumbers will snake a line as a preventative measure (unless there is already a clog), it is not effective at preventing one. Most plumbers’ advice is to save the money on unnecessary snaking or jetting.

The best drain maintenance is not putting waste, grease, oils, and other items into the drain or disposer. Homeowners should, however, schedule an annual plumbing check up for their home. During this, plumbers will check how drains are running and can investigate any potential issues and recommend further snaking services for current clogs.

If homeowners are currently experiencing clogged or slow drains, call the experts at Bill Howe. Since 1980, Bill Howe Plumbing has been the leading drain expert in San Diego and has experience with all drains, small and large. Call 1-800 BILL HOWE (245-5469) for free drain quotes or to schedule service today.

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1 Comment

  1. Building engineer

    When I was a building engineer at Nordstrom’s the Expresso bar would always have drain back ups flooding behind the expresso bar. What caused it. Coffee grounds. Think about how much coffee Nordstrom’s serve customers in a hour, day, week, or months. After each coffee or expresso was brewed they would dump the grounds in the sink. I got tired of calling Magnolia plumbing and set the rule all coffee grounds had to be dumped in a separate trash can. And would you know it drain back ups stopped. Some employees big into gardening took the bags of used coffee grounds for compost. In a home environment it will take longer but eventually your pipes will clog. Think about in a commercial building we rank hot water down the sink and it didn’t clear the drain. In a residential home it will back up. Any plumber who say it won’t then ask them to clear your drains for free if they do clog up.

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