Your kitchen sink is an important element of your everyday routine. It’s so important that we’re assuming you’ll use it even if you don’t cook. (That coffee pot isn’t filling or rinsing by itself!) To avoid potentially costly repairs, you must take care of your sink — and its drain and pipes! — as you would any other home asset. So who better to seek for sink maintenance advice than the plumbers themselves? We chatted with a number of plumbing specialists this year to gather insider information on their favorite products, equipment, and tricks, and we’ve put it all together for you today in this “Plumbing Tips and Tricks” post.

1. Dishwasher-safe Cascade Platinum pods.

We polled plumbers to find out which dishwashing detergents they like. What is the most common response? Platinum ActionPacs from Cascade. These powder and gel pods, according to James Bedford of Roto-Rooter Plumbing and Drain Service in Greeneville, Tennessee, are the “perfect combo for cleaning grime off dishes.”
Ray Brosnan, a plumber who works at Brosnan Property Solutions in Ireland, agrees. Cascade Platinum pods, he explains, are especially good if you have hard water because the chemicals soften the water throughout the cleaning process, reducing the risk of hard water damage to your dishwasher.

2. Use cold water to clean oily pots and pans.

You’ll need the appropriate products — and the correct type of water — to clean greasy plates. While you might think that hot water is the best method to avoid oil, Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, says that cold water is the way to go. This is because cold water keeps grease solid, allowing it to pass through pipes more easily without blocking them. However, it’s always a good idea to attempt to reduce the amount of grease you flush down the drain. Before you wash a pan, always wipe it out into the garbage.

3. Flush clogged drains with baking soda and vinegar.

Do you have a nasty, filthy drain? In a basin, whisk together 1/3 cup baking soda and 1/3 cup white vinegar, according to James. Then, to flush it out, dump the effervescent concoction down the drain. It’s super simple and cheap!

4. Avoid putting starchy or fibrous meals down the garbage disposal.

According to Paul Abrams, public relations director for Roto-Rooter, “most home cooks aren’t aware that some foods are completely off-limits for in-sink disposals.” Stringy or fibrous foods, according to Abrams, should be composted or thrown away. “Things like celery, rhubarb, and poultry skin will exacerbate any slow drain problems that already present,” he says. “Fiber is a favorite of clogs.” It’s also a no-no to eat starchy meals. When starch is wet, it thickens and causes a clog in your drain.

5. When hand-washing dishes, use Dawn.

We weren’t surprised to learn that one dish soap stood out above the others when we polled plumbers about the best dish soaps on the market. Dawn dishwashing soap — the famous blue mix — is fantastic at eliminating fat from dishes and clearing remaining grease from drain pipes, according to Miami-based household plumber Ryan Thompson. Keep a bottle in your kitchen if you haven’t already!
Dawn is not just good for cleaning greasy, unclean dishes, but it’s also good for cleaning drains, according to Thompson. Simply squirt a few tablespoons of Dawn down the drain and run the faucet after a few minutes if you accidentally pour grease down the drain.

6. As the first line of defense, grab a plunger.

According to Abrams, most people use a store-bought drain cleaner to clear a clog. Stop. Try a plunger first before reaching for the drain cleaner bottle. “Use a sink plunger instead of a toilet plunger,” Abrams advises. The best tool for the job is a shallow red-cup-shaped plunger.
To plunge, fill the sink halfway with water and immerse the plunger’s cup. Close the other drain before plunging if you have a double-bay sink; otherwise, the water will go right up and out that aperture. Usually, a few fast plunges are enough to clear the obstruction.