Common Household Items that Should Never Go Down Your Drain

Yellow, blue, and red paint dripping down a drain. The image has a header that says "Bad News for Your Plumbing"

It can be tempting to dispose of things around your house by just pouring them down a sink drain or flushing them down the toilet, but this can be bad news for your plumbing! Many common household products can cause major problems for your plumbing and sewer system.

The following four household items should stay out of your drains:

Gas, oil

Pouring gasoline or motor oil down a drain is not only a bad idea, but it is illegal in many areas. These substances can easily make their way into surface and ground water supplies and then contaminate drinking water. One gallon of motor oil can contaminate up to 250,000 gallons of drinking water. In addition, gasoline vapors that remain in the air after pouring it down the drain are flammable! Make sure these items are placed in a government-approved container for hazardous materials and then turned into your local hazardous waste disposal and recycling facility.


Over time, lint that comes out with the water in washing machine discharge can cause a nasty clog in your laundry drain. An overflowing washer drain can quickly cover the floor with a layer of water, causing significant damage. Thankfully, this is easily preventable. A lint catcher, which is a metal mesh sleeve that goes over your washer discharge hose, catches lint and other debris so it doesn’t go down your drain. An even more cost-efficient solution is to put a nylon stocking over the hose. With either of these options, replace the lint catcher or stocking when it is full of lint and can’t catch any more.


Pouring paint down your drain is bad for your plumbing, the environment, and you. Paint in your drain coats your pipes and hardens, causing clogs. It also leaches into the ground and surface water, causing contamination. Paint can also release toxic and flammable fumes in the environment. It’s always best to donate your unused paint so it can be used by others. If you have leftover latex paint, however, you can mix it with equal amounts kitty litter, allow it to set for at least one hour, and then throw it away. Be sure to remove the lid from the can and dispose of it separately. Alternately, you can also use a commercial paint hardener or, if there is only a small amount left, you can allow the paint to dry naturally. Oil-based paint should always be disposed of at your local hazardous waste disposal facility.

Flushable kitty litter

Even if the bag is labeled flushable, it’s a bad idea to flush kitty litter down your toilet. The extra solids in flushable litter can be too much for many plumbing systems to handle, causing a nasty clog. Septic systems are particularly likely to be unable to handle flushable kitty litter. Additionally, because pet waste can carry bacteria and other organisms that are harmful to humans, flushing pet waste is illegal in many states.


To learn more about why certain items are harmful for your plumbing and how sewer systems work, visit:

Think Before You Flush

How the Sewer System Works

And, if you make a mistake and need help with your drains, contact your local Benjamin Franklin Plumbing today at 1-800-259-7705.

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