Are you Doing the Dirty?

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aftermath-in-bathroomA few years ago my mother’s neighbour had to call out a plumber. Her kitchen sink was blocked and dirty water was threatening to flood her kitchen floor.

After an hour or so of his arm down the drain, the plumber eventually pulled out a block of what looked like concrete.

It was, in fact, old cooking fat that she had poured down the drain!

18,000 blockages

Yorkshire Water are all too aware of the problems householders can cause when putting the wrong things down their toilets and sinks. They have cleared 18,000 blockages in its sewers with 37% of these caused by people flushing away or pouring the wrong items down their sinks.

Baby wipes

Last year there were 1064 incidents of flooding in Yorkshire homes as a result of people putting fats, baby and make-up wipes and sanitary items down the toilet and sink.

Are you doing the dirty?

In order to raise awareness, Yorkshire Water have teamed with Sarah Beeny for their “Are you Doing the Dirty” campaign. The campaign includes two graphic videos about the devastation that can occur if you pour fat down the sink or flush wipes down the toilet. Take a look at the videos to see a bathroom filled with the contents of an overflowed toilet – if that’s not an incentive to be more careful when dumping things I don’t know what is!

Reusable options

The message is simple – if it doesn’t belong in the toilet, put it in a bag and then bin it. However, my message would take things one step further: take a look at reusable options to the things you might flush away; you’ll save yourself a potential blockage in your toilet, reduce landfill waste AND save money!

  • Swap make-up wipes for reusable ones
  • Buy cotton buds with cardboard sticks and put them in the compost heap

Bird fat cakes

One great way to re-use cooking fat is to recycle it into bird cakes! Customers in Yorkshire can get their hands on a free fat cake making kit. If you’re outside Yorkshire you can buy one from Ethical Superstore. Each kit contains a silicone mould, a pack of bird seed, string and full instructions.

Prevention not cure

Find out more about Are You Doing the Dirty including videos, advice on correct disposal and giveaways. Fran Winter, network protection manager at Yorkshire Water reminds us that “it might seem like pouring a small amount fat down the sink will not cause a problem, but a small amount every day could eventually lead to a big problem”. Well that’s exactly what my mother’s neighbour discovered!

If you don’t want a blocked drain, here’s a way to clear them without using toxic chemicals using bicarbonate of soda (baking soda), salt and vinegar.

Prevent drain blockages

  • Pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup of salt and finally a cup of white vinegar.
  • The acid and alkaline will fizz, bubble and expand, break down grease and fats and the salt will act as an abrasive, which can help keep drains clear.
  • Leave this to work for 15 minutes before pouring boiling water down the drain to rinse everything away.


  1. Arri on May 26, 2011 at 4:02 am

    Hi, you sent link for birdfat cakes, which links to bird feeding site, and now i quote:

    Cooking fat

    Fat from cooking is bad for birds. The problem with cooked fat from roasting tins and dishes is that the meat juices have blended with the fat and when allowed to set, this consistency makes it prone to smearing, not good for birds’ feathers. It is a breeding ground for bacteria, so potentially bad for birds’ health. Salt levels depend on what meat is used and if any salt is added during cooking.

    Lard and beef suet on their own are fine as they re-solidify after warming and as they are pure fat, it is not as suitable for bacteria to breed on.
    Polyunsaturated margarines or vegetable oils

    These are unsuitable for birds. Unlike humans, birds need high levels of saturated fat, such as raw suet and lard. They need the high energy content to keep warm in the worst of the winter weather, since their body reserves are quickly used up, particularly on cold winter nights. The soft fats can easily be smeared onto the feathers, destroying the waterproofing and insulating qualities.

  2. Mrs Green on May 28, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    @Arri: Hi Arri, thanks for the clarification with this; it’s really helpful information – I’d hate to cause our feathered friends health issues 🙁

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