Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekend Wonderings: Can unsaponified butters clog up pipes?

In this post on bath melts, PsaltyDawg asks: I have been hesitant to make/sell any bath bomb truffle type products because I am concerned about what happens to so much unsaponified hard butters when they get into the drain. They will harden up and coat the pipes eventually causing blockages or slowdowns. Do you have an opinion or a science-based explanation for how that would or wouldn't occur? I would really like to use them and sell them but don't feel I can.

In the recipe I posted, we use 1 part citric acid, 2 parts butter, 3 parts baking soda. If you had a 100 gram bath melt - which I think is way too much - you'd be using around 34 grams of butter. That's around two tablespoons or a little more than one weighted ounce. That's not a lot in 80 litres - 20-something gallons - of bath water.  It's liquid when it goes down the plughole, and it'll be in the sewer pretty quickly after draining.

On a similar note, I've been using my emulsified scrub in the shower for years and years, and it's never occurred to me that this might be an issue. My scrub is basically lotion when I rinse it off, and I would imagine it will stay that way for a while. If you're worried about the melts, consider adding a bit of emulsifying wax to the recipe to make it more lotion-y.

This is just my completely uneducated opinion. Anyone else have an opinion? Any plumbers out there who have an expert opinion to share? (My dad was a plumber, but I know nothing on this topic. Probably less than nothing...) We'd love to hear it! 

9 comments:

SweetAirSoapworks said...

Susan, my view is that the butters shouldn't pose a problem. First, like you said, they're being diluted in 20 gallons or so of water.

But the other thing I was thinking is that the vast majority of butters that we use in our products, both soft & hard, melt at body temp or below. Most people tend to use warm or hot water for their showers & baths. The warm/hot water should keep the butters in liquid form, where they'll then move down the drain. Subsequent warm/hot showers & baths should keep the drain clear of any butter buildup.

I'm not a plumber, this is just my opinion, but just seems to me that the hot water will keep those butters in a melted state, so they shouldn't cause a problem.

Eliza said...

I've been using a butter based scrub for 3 years and the only thing that clogs us my drain is my hair. I think the hot water melts it all the way down, but it might be wise to throw some lye or something down on occasion.

beckster said...

I am a soap maker, and I end up putting more oils and butters down my pipes than I would like. Although you are putting hot water down the drain, it cools off quickly within just a few feet, especially in the wintertime, which causes fats to solidify. I do think it can clog up your pipes over time, but it may depend on how old your pipes are. I live in an old house, and I generally have pipes that clog more easily than when I lived in a new house. I have remedied this situation by using a vigorous dose of original formula Dawn down my drains when I clean up after making soap. I got this suggestion from a professional soap maker, and it seems to have helped quite a bit.

Girl said...

I think at those levels, drains are safe. I mean, its never a good idea to put oil down the drain for sure, but also it is mixed in with a lot of water and bicarb which is a natural light drain cleaner. So I spose by that logic (mine not always being sane of course)...one kinda balances the other?

Re the soap, I accidentally left my soap bowl uncleaned overnight once, and I was ready to dump it in the bin - then I noticed it was flaking off. I managed to use a stiff spatula and it all flaked off quite easily. So I popped the flakes in the bin and have been doing this ever since. As for spoons and my stickblender, I just wipe them clean with paper towel really well before giving them a soapy wash.

Lise M Andersen said...

This is something my husband has complained about for years - my clay and butter face wash clogging the pipes. I was in denial for years. Last year, we moved to a new place and after a few months, the shower drain was clogged (like the drain in our old place was regularly). Lifting off the drain revealed a layer of 'goo' that needed a stiff brush to remove. It was clear that my face wash (which I had been rinsing off in the shower instead of removing with cotton rounds) was the culprit. I use cocoa cutter, palm oil and coconut oil mixed with clays and powdered herbs in these (soap free) face cleansers. Since I stopped rinsing them off in the shower , the pipes haven't clogged. Hot water isn't enough to remove the residue.

anna said...

Oils in drains can definitely pose a problem, especially in older houses where the pipes are shaped differently and in the winter (like beckster said already). It's even more of an issue if you have long hair (like me) and shed a lot because it gives the oil something to stick to. When I clean out my drain it's almost always half hair, half oil. Baking soda and vinegar with boiling water helps to push the oil through, but if the hair remains in the drain it will grab the oils from the next shower immediately. I wouldn't stop using oils in the shower for anything though, they are so important for the skin. But the upkeep of the drain is definitely frustrating.

Carla Polston said...

I just found your site and am excited to learn all you share. This topic caught my eye right off the bat. I have been concerned about using scrubs and bath melts with oil/butters in the bath and rarely do. I just moved to a place with a septic system, so I probably won't use in the bath at all. Just getting ready to start soap and lotion making. I plan on wiping all containers and utensils with soap and paper towels prior to washing, as I do with oils when I cook. Glad some responded with what they do and why. Thank you.

Tina CPH said...

I am not sure about the drains but I make soaps and I can tell that my bathroom sink is more greasy since I started using them.
When I boil water I usually pour the rest of the boiling water down the drain and I cant be sure of course but it could help.

renie said...

As someone who works in the wastewater treatment field I can tell you, yes, it does and will clog your pipes. And not just your pipes, the city sewer pipes as well. People in rural areas, with their own leach field, tend to take better care of their wastewater treatment system, because it is theirs. Those on a city sewer system tend to lean more towards "out of sight out of mind" but it isn't really. It may not be clogging your pipes, it'll be clogging the city pipes but you will pay for it in the end with increased taxes or increased sewer bills etc.... It is never "OK" to flush or rinse hard oils (they might melt or be liquid when the rinse down the drain but they will be hard again soon) down the drain. Just Google "sewer grease ball" and see what you are doing to your city sewer! I'm on my own leach field so I take great pains to scrape and wipe all residue off all soap making tools before washing. Only then will Dawn make a difference, otherwise, you're just wasting Dawn.