Spending just 5 minutes a month will keep your drains from getting backed up. No chemicals, no environmental damage, and it's easy!

Keep Drains Working

Five minutes of preventive maintenance a month will go a long ways towards keeping your drains, well, draining.  And not backed up like mine was this morning because I’d been, well, a bit lazy.

Every day, little bits of grease and food particles go down the galley drain.  Little by little, they clump together and slow the drain down — particularly right at the waterline.  Eventually, the clump gets large enough that the drain’s not just slow, it’s backed up.

Aboard Que Tal, one of our once a month maintenance chores was to boil a big pot of water (I usually got a bucket of sea water so I could use plenty) and quickly pour the whole thing down the galley drain to melt and flush away the congealed goo.  The only two “tricks” are to use plenty of boiling water and to pour it in all at once (obviously, be careful with boiling water and do this on a calm day). Like most other preventive tasks, it’s easier than dealing with a plugged up sink.

By the way, it’s good to do this in the head sink and shower drain as well.  In both of those, soap will congeal and cause clogs (especially when there’s long hair around).

And if you do get a clog, check out my article on clearing one.

And this morning’s little experience that led to this?  I’d been sort of lazy and hadn’t done the boiling water for a few months.  Well, maybe more than a few.  And when I poured the leftover coffee into the sink this morning, it just sat there.  Luckily the plunger made quick work of it and then a big pot of boiling water had everything flowing again.  And yes, I immediately boiled more for the shower and other sink.

There’s now a repeating entry on my calendar each month:  “Boiling water down drains”

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  • JayTami Klassen on Facebook
    Posted at 19 October 2012 Reply

    Works on shore too 🙂

  • The Boat Galley on Facebook
    Posted at 19 October 2012 Reply

    Yep, same likely causes for slow for stopped drains!

  • Charlotte
    Posted at 19 October 2012 Reply

    I pour white vinegar down as well, once a month. Don’t know if it is worth it, but I always have good drainage!

  • Diane
    Posted at 08 November 2012 Reply

    I do the vinegar also, but put a heaping tsp of baking soda down the drain first…When you add the vinegar it bubbles up. Put the vinegar in slowly. Even when it looks like everything has run down the drain, pour in a bit more vinegar and it will bubble and clean the entire line. We have also used this to clear the line for the air conditioner/heater when it got clogged. Works like a charm. I do all drains once a month – on the boat and at home. Can’t remember the last time I’ve had a “backed up” sink.

  • Lauren Reese Dehaan on Facebook
    Posted at 30 June 2013 Reply

    I need to do this…..thanks!

  • Kris Steyn on Facebook
    Posted at 30 June 2013 Reply

    compliments of a fellow cruiser : cant remember who, said coffee grounds have a way of sticking to all the goo and carrying it away, kind of like abraiding your skin – start the day with a fresh pot 🙂

  • Dawna Bate on Facebook
    Posted at 30 June 2013 Reply

    We just cleaned our drains last night. Good reminder. Thanks!

  • Steven K. Roberts on Facebook
    Posted at 30 June 2013 Reply

    There is one factor to consider with this… many people advise against pouring boiling water down the drain if it is PVC pipe, and it can soften. It depends on the quantity… but I’ve read this enough times that I’m careful with mine and even let pasta water first mix with cool water in a bowl. Otherwise… yes! Best grease-cutter, and no nasties.

    • Mike
      Posted at 24 May 2017 Reply

      I used to do the boiling water trick but heard the same thing – it can loosen fittings, soften pipes etc. your regular hot water should be hot enough to shift the fats and gunk but I’ve also had very good luck with the baking soda and vinegar method too which seems a bit safer 🙂

  • Shirlee Smith on Facebook
    Posted at 30 June 2013 Reply

    Great idea although in more than 5 years of full-time living aboard and cruising, we never had this problem. Maybe draining pasta and potato water did the trick.

  • David J Warman on Facebook
    Posted at 30 June 2013 Reply

    Rule #2: know where your drains are. We used to own a Morris Minor Traveller van. Not a boat, no, but it did have a varnished wooden frame.with sliding glass windows. With little rain drain holes along their feet. Which we found out about only after the rot had spread un-noticed under the varnish to the rear frame, when the back door came off in my hand.

  • Stephanie Hamilton
    Posted at 11 May 2015 Reply

    Hey Caroline – I don’t believe I ever told you about the couple who had a boat just like ours that we ran into in LaPaz. She wanted a garbage disposal on her boat and she engineered one! She mounted a macerator pump between the kitchen sink drain and the hose and – VOILA – garbage disposal! Any spare bits of food that made their way into the bottom of the sink were severely dealt with. Pretty cool, I always thought….

  • Susan Kam
    Posted at 26 January 2017 Reply

    We have little strainers in the galley sink drains to catch all but very tiny food bits which then go in the trash. In the shower sump drain we have a cut-to-fit piece of the yellow version of the flat scrubby material you use in the kitchen. This catches the hair that will mess up the pump. We also use these in the cockpit drains.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 26 January 2017 Reply

      Fats and soap still get through those strainers and will congeal, we’ve learned. But the boiling water clears them out.

    • Sherry Matas
      Posted at 26 January 2017 Reply

      We have the same strainers. Haven’t experienced a clog since.

      Fats and oils go into jars for re-use or disposal. I love cooking meatballs in leftover bacon fat!

  • Tammy Nielsen Joeright
    Posted at 27 January 2017 Reply

    Thanks. Had not thought about doing in the shower. Boiling some water now!

  • Relinda Broom
    Posted at 16 October 2017 Reply

    I had read this probably s couple times before, but a thought just came to mind. Since you are in salt water and so are we. Have you used salt water? And if so would you need a special Pam for it?

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 16 October 2017 Reply

      Yes, I have used salt water with no problem. No special pan.

  • Mike Mershon
    Posted at 16 October 2017 Reply

    For those of us still stuck on shore, this works in a house too.

  • Donna Lynn Tourt Cantwell
    Posted at 16 October 2017 Reply

    We’ve been using Marine Digest with good results. Just ordered the Drain cleaner and stain remover to try.

  • Susan Kam
    Posted at 16 October 2017 Reply

    We’ve had issues in the past so do all sorts of preventative things! We wipe off our dishes with that last bite of bread! Any greasy pans are wiped with your paper dinner napkin or paper towel. We also have fine mesh strainers in the sinks to catch all the little bits that get stuck. Another trick is to cut up those scrubbies (Scotch Brite is one brand) to fit into shower drains and cockpit scuppers to catch hair. Water still goes through but not all the other stuff! I also put baking soda in the drains and then pour some white vinegar over which bubbles out stuff in the drain. We also do the boiling water and have stuffed a hose down as well to blow out the drain.

  • Thom Hounsell
    Posted at 16 October 2017 Reply

    This tip is one month late for me. Already learned this one the hard way!

  • Lindsay Powell Neuber
    Posted at 17 October 2017 Reply

    Love all your ideas!!

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