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Cooking Oil Down the Drain is a Home Kitchen Disaster

Fried foods are delicious and easy to cook at home, but oil clean-up can have a less than pleasant outcome if you don’t dispose of it properly.

Pouring it down the drain – or any bit of plumbing – can have catastrophic effects not only on the plumbing at your own house but also down the pipeline when solidified grease accumulates in public wastewater systems, leading to clogs, overflows and other health and environmental hazards. Some of the most common home kitchen mistakes are pouring oil down the drain or sink, into a toilet, or even directly into the trash.

So how should you handle that hot grease after you finish frying up that yummy bacon? And just what do you do with that vat that yielded such crispy and delicious French fries?

Let It Cool and Trash It

Experts say it’s best to let oil cool because it’s more dangerous to handle hot oil, and mistake spills are easier to clean. After it cools, pour it into a disposable container and put it into your household waste. If the oil has set up a little, you may also be able to scoop or scrape it out of the pan and then put it in a container to throw away.

No Co-Mingling

The whole point is to keep the discarded oil from mingling with the rest of your trash. It’s important to put oil in a non-breakable container with a secure lid – and never use a plastic bag because that can easily be punctured. If oil spills out, it can attract bugs, rodents, and other pests or rot and be smelly – either in your own trash or down the line. Old plastic bottles, like water bottles or disposable containers like butter or sour cream containers, are good choices for disposing of oil.

After you get the oil out of the pan and before washing it, you should also wipe the pan with a paper towel or a rag to capture as much remaining oil as possible to keep it from going the way of the dishwater. Be sure to throw that rag in the trash.

Make It Solid

Cooking oil can be mixed with other solid waste – like flour or sand or even kitty litter – which makes the oil solidify. This more solid waste can then be easily moved to the household trash but should still be put in a sealed container to reduce the possibility of attracting bugs, rodents, and other pests.

Reuse, if Possible, Then Recycle

If you have a very large amount of oil, say from frying a holiday turkey or doing a batch of French fries, it’s possible to reuse it two or three times as long as it doesn’t have too many small bits of food particles, still smells good, and is not rancid. After that, some recycling centers, restaurants, and household hazardous waste disposal companies accept discarded cooking oil. More and more companies are also using discarded cooking oil for biodiesel fuel, which is exactly the final step Filta uses for the oil it collects from commercial kitchens. Search your area for biofuel recycling options.

Compost, Make Soap or Non-Toxic Plant Spray

Finally, more industrious people may want to try their hand at some additional creative ideas for discarded cooking oil. These include composting the cooking oil but making sure the oil has only been used to cook vegetables and not meat. Meat remnants can and will attract unwanted visitors like raccoons, rats, skunks. Cooking oil is a common ingredient in soap and can also be reused as a non-toxic pesticide. To make pesticide, put oil in a spray bottle and lightly spray plants on a humid day to deter insects from munching foliage. Like composting, when you’re reusing to make pesticide, be sure to only use oil that’s been used to cook vegetables and not meat – unless you want your pesticide to attract varmints.

Vegetable oil, bacon grease, and all types of cooking oil are a delicious part of the home cooking experience, but without following a few tips and tricks for proper disposal, an enjoyable meal today can become a living nightmare tomorrow.

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