It’s no coincidence that garbage disposers often break on Thanksgiving Day—or that the day after is Roto-Rooter’s busiest of the year. Poultry skin and pumpkin pulp are prime clog culprits. Add well-meaning guests who want to pitch in and you can see how disaster makes it onto the menu. 

It's a recipe that keeps plumbers busy unclogging toilets and sinks as well as garbage disposers. "We get about a 50 percent increase in business the day after Thanksgiving compared to an average Friday," says Paul Abrams, director of public relations for Roto-Rooter. "And we see a 27 percent uptick in business that weekend compared to the other weekends in November." 

Stringy, fibrous, and starchy foods are hard to grind and tough on a garbage disposer. Better to toss them in the garbage or the compost pile. Poultry skin, potato peels, rice, celery, banana peels, and pumpkin pulp are also on the hard-to-grind list. 

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Oils and fats solidify and can choke drains. So collect the fat in a jar, let it congeal, then throw it away. In most cases, if the disposer is broken and clogged, the sink won’t drain easily. "If you have a single sink with a disposer, try a plunger. Accordion-style ones worked best in Consumer Reports' past tests," says John Galeotafiore, associate director of home-improvement testing at Consumer Reports. Cans of pressurized gas, sold at home centers and online, worked even better in our tests. 

If you have a double sink, use a small, hand-cranked plumbing snake on the side without the disposer to push debris into the branch line. You can also use a plunger, but first be sure to put a drain cover over the drain you’re not plunging to seal it. This allows the plunger to create the pressure it needs to work. And what about drain cleaner? It should be a last resort before you give in and call a plumber. If it doesn’t do the trick, let your plumber know that it’s in the line so he can protect himself against its caustic lye.  

Clog-Preventing Tips From Roto-Rooter

Follow these tips so you don't become one of its customers:

  • Remove grease from pans with paper towels, then toss.
  • Run cold water for 15 seconds before using the garbage disposer and 15 seconds after to flush waste down the main line. 
  • Start the disposer before adding food waste. 
  • Use the disposer as you go instead of waiting until it's full. 
  • Ask weekend guests to wait 10 minutes between showers so slower drains have time to clear.
  • Toss cotton balls and swabs in the trash. They don't dissolve and can clog toilets.

Consumer Reports' 2017 Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more. And be sure to check our Daily Gift Guide.

Holiday Stain Removal Guide