How to avoid a holiday headache: Clogged pipes

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — It’s great to have friends and family over for the holidays, but no one wants to invite the plumber.

Often, we complain about those fatty foods at the holidays depositing on our hips, but have you ever thought about what they’re doing to your pipes?

Many people just rinse off their plates and pans and turn on the garbage disposal. Wastewater experts say we’re doing it wrong.

“Surprise for most people is what we would like to see is for them to stop using their garbage disposal, because it’s one of the worst implements in the kitchen,” City of Norfolk Environmental Specialist Brian Wilson told

Stop using the disposal?! Yes, Wilson pleads.

“Because most of those food scraps have fat, oil or grease in them and then they stick to the pipe and it accumulates.”

What Wilson recommends instead is to scrape your plates into the trash, then wipe it with a paper towel to soak up as much as possible before it goes into the sink, pour cooking grease in a can to throw out and don’t fool yourself into thinking hot water is a quicker alternative.

It may melt the fat and get it down your sink, but it will turn back into a solid and this time of year, that doesn’t take long.

“As the temperatures get colder the fat, oil and grease congeals quicker, so the back ups and the blockages occur more frequently.”

Norfolk Public Works gets between 400 and 800 calls a month for clogged pipes. The higher numbers usually come between November and March. It costs hundreds of thousands in man hours and equipment for city taxpayers, and if you have to call a plumber, you’re looking to pay at least $200 and that can make even a delicious dinner difficult to digest.