In an ideal world, your plumbing would function without incident all the time. You would never have to pay for repairs or maintenance. Nor would you have to purchase new pipes because yours would never corrode or burst. However, like everything else in your home, your pipes have susceptibility to a number of dangers, like clogs.

Clogs occur either when something big fills the pipe all at once and stops the flow, or when many smaller particles accumulate over time and eventually form a barrier. Neither scenario bodes well for your plumbing.

To prevent clogs, make sure you never put anything in the following list down your drains. If you keep these items out of your plumbing, you also keep pipes functional and reliable for years-if not decades-to come.

1. Lard, Other Meat Fats, and Cooking Oil

These items exist as liquids during cooking. However, when you dump fats down your drain, those liquids don’t just wash away. Instead, they congeal into a slowly growing layer that’s not unlike plaque inside an artery. Eventually, the fats will close the waterway, and your drain will not work any longer.

To dispose of these fatty materials, wait for them to cool, place them in a bag, and then put them in your trash can.

2. Dairy Products, Including Butter

Dairy has many of the same effects as the oils and fats in the section listed above. The materials begin as liquids when they go down your drain, but as they touch cold metal, they may not stay liquid. Butter hardens. Milk turns to curd if it sits in the pipe for a few days as well. Dispose of these food items in a garbage can the same way you would with other fats.

3. Food Scraps, Including Coffee Grinds and Eggshells

By themselves, a single helping of lettuce or shell pieces from a single egg might seem to have no effect on your pipes. However, these scraps can accumulate in the plumbing’s tight bends and cause a clog. They can also attach to solid fats in your pipes and create a larger clog of food scraps later.

Additionally, coffee grinds may break down, form a paste, and create a sticky coating that traps more food. To avoid trouble, you must not put the grinds-or any other food scraps-in the drain. Use your trash can, or-for approved scraps-your garbage disposal.

4. Liquids from Vehicles

Automobile fluids harm your plumbing in two different ways. For example, anything made from fat or oil (like engine oil), acts the same way as cooking oil and other sticky residue inside your pipes. These liquids can clog pipes.
More importantly, automotive liquids like anti-freeze, transmission fluids, and others have toxic or corrosive qualities. Not only may these substances damage your pipes, their ingredients will enter the public water supply, harming plants, animals, and humans. Ask your auto repair shop how to safely dispose of automobile liquids.

5. Toxic Chemicals from Cleaners and Other Products

Household cleaners, paints, nail polish, nail polish remover, and other toxic chemicals must not go down the drain either. Again, they can corrode your plumbing and harm the environment, depending on how far they go.

6. Medications-Prescription or Otherwise

Medications will not harm your plumbing unless fats trap them, in which case they would only contribute to a clog. But medications can harm the ecosystem around your community, so dispose of them safely by dropping them off at old-medications drop boxes. Ask your city for the nearest location.

7. Paper Products of Any Kind

Paper towels, feminine hygiene products, paper plates, and similar products don’t dissolve in water the same way toilet paper does. Do not wash these items down the drain, as they will clump and cause a backup. Always put these materials in the paper trash.

If you forget, and accidentally flush any of the above products down your drains, call your plumber if your system clogs. He or she can safely remove the debris and get your plumbing back to normal.