Defend Your Drains

Pipe clogged with fats, oil and grease

Disposing of the wrong items down your drains can cause serious damage to your pipes and the public sewer system. 

Fats, oils, grease, wipes, trash, medicine, paint, and other items should never be flushed down your toilet or poured down your drain because they can cause blockages, flooding, sewage back-ups, and health hazards.

Fixing these issues can require costly and disruptive repairs for you and public ratepayers. Don’t let your hard-earned money go down the drain. Follow these guidelines at home and at work to ensure the reliability of our wastewater removal services.

Spread the Word!

Help others learn about the dangers of FOGs, wipes, and sewage backups. Share this webpage with friends and family, or download and distribute our Defend Your Drains handout to your community. 

Protect Your Pipes

Can the Grease

Man taking a roasted turkey out of the oven

When fats, oils, and grease (FOG) are poured down kitchen drains, they harden inside household pipes and public sewers, restricting the flow of wastewater.

These blockages can cause untreated wastewater to back up into buildings, resulting in expensive cleanup and repairs. If FOG buildup gets bad enough, sewage can even overflow into yards, streets, parks, and storm drains, exposing the public to health hazards and contaminating streams and rivers. Removing FOG clogs from sewers is dangerous for our workers and a costly public expense.

FOG comes from things like meat, butter, margarine, lard, dairy products, cooking oil, salad dressings, sauces, gravy, mayonnaise, peanut butter, coffee grounds, and other food scraps. 

Protect your pipes and the public sewer system: 

  • Never put FOG or food scraps down sink drains or in-sink garbage disposals.
  • Scrape food scraps from dishes and utensils into the trash or compost as appropriate. 
  • Wipe up FOG on dishes and utensils with paper towels and discard them in the trash.
  • Pour cooled oil and grease into a sealable container, like a jar, and dispose of it once it is filled.

Flushing Wipes Clogs Pipes

A fatberg made of wipes, fat, oil, and grease clogs a sewer pipe

Wipes and cleaning cloths are designed to be stronger than toilet paper, so they don't break down when flushed down the drain.

Wipes of any kind can clog your sewer lateral and our public sewer system, leading to nasty sewage backups and expensive cleanup and repairs. Even products labeled as "flushable" have plastic fibers that do not break down and will clog sewer pipes. 

When wipes combine with fats, oils, and grease (FOG) flushed down the drain, they become huge clogs known as “fatbergs” that can cause breaks in home plumbing systems and our sewer infrastructure. Removing a fatberg from the sewer system is dangerous for our workers and a costly public expense. When they clog your sewer lateral, it’s an expensive repair that the homeowner incurs.

Only flush the 3 Ps: Pee, Poop, and Toilet Paper!

Everything else goes in the trash:

  • "Flushable" wipes
  • Paper towels and tissues
  • Too much toilet paper
  • Baby wipes
  • Bathroom wipes
  • Personal hygiene products
  • Facial or cosmetic wipes and cotton balls
  • Dental Floss
  • Hair
  • Disinfecting wipes
  • Bandages
  • Cigarette Butts
  • Floor cleaning and dusting wipes 
  • Kitty Litter

Toilets Are Not Trashcans

Image of various hygiene products, with cotton balls, floss, cotton swabs, and wipes crossed out, and a check mark over the toilet paper

No matter how small, any personal care or cleaning products flushed down your toilet can clog your household plumbing, causing sewage backups into your home and expensive repairs to unclog your pipes.

Flushing these products can also clog public sewer pipes and equipment. This causes sewage backups and overflows, harming the environment and public health. Clearing out sewer clogs is dangerous and expensive. 

Toilets, sewers, and wastewater treatment plants are not designed to handle materials other than toilet paper and human waste. Wastewater treatment plants cannot completely remove medicines or household hazardous wastes. If these substances are flushed down the toilet, they end up polluting our rivers and harming drinking water supplies. 

Only flush the 3 Ps: Pee, Poop, and Toilet Paper!

Everything else goes in the trash:

  • Cotton balls and cotton swabs
  • Dental floss and dental picks
  • Menstrual products such as pads or tampons
  • Paper towels and tissues
  • Wipes and cleaning cloths
  • Hair
  • Medicine
  • Household cleaning chemicals
  • Household hazardous wastes (paint, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers)
What Can Go In the Trash and What Can't?

To check on what items can be collected with your normal trash pickup, visit: The City of Pittsburgh Bulky Waste information page.

But what should be done with items in your home that are difficult to dispose of or recycle? Some examples of these products include paint, pesticides, drain cleaners, batteries, and motor oil. 

Visit the DEP's Recycling and Waste Reduction webpage for resources!