The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

starter in the kitchen drain

msbreadbaker's picture

starter in the kitchen drain

The post a short time ago about having a clogged drain from what I gathered was a one time dump of some starter that had hardened and a plumber had to remove, interested me.

I always dump my starter discards on my compost pile and am very careful about my kitchen drain. But when you stop and think about all the dough residue that gets rinsed down the sink when making sourdough bread, from your hands, the dish rag, the bowl interior, the spatula, measuring cup, etc., does it maybe build up over time and create what the person above described? Has anyone had any plumbing issues attributable to this? I wonder where all the stuff actually does go, as sticky as it is, maybe it does form it own clog.

Then if it does cause a problem, how the heck do you keep it out of your sink, such a tiny amount each time.

Thanks for any help and advice. Jean P. (VA)

tananaBrian's picture

I don't know what's different about starter versus just a flour and water mixture, but when starter dries, it turns to cement and becomes difficult to clean off.  I noticed that long ago and now when I pour starter down the drain, I put it in a bowl and run water into it to dilute it down as it overflows the bowl and goes down the drain.  Sometimes I will run a shot of dish soap into the boat too, to help emulsify the starter as well.  Never a problem yet!  I'd be scared to dump it down the drain and then walk away without at least making sure you flush the drain with lots of water and/or soap...



MangoChutney's picture

We have never had a problem with accumulating traces of dough in the kitchen plumbing.  Whenever our drain has been plugged, the plug has been built from coagulated grease and bits of the scrubber pads we use.  The grease comes from draining the cooking water off boiled sausage.  What's in the drain isn't in our arteries, so we accept this as a cost of being healthier.

While my starter does dry rock hard, it also softens quickly in water.  By the time it is off the surfaces of the vessel it was dried to, it is dissolved/suspended in the dishwater.  It even wipes off kitchen counters with a wet washrag, after a few swipes.  Given that, I think the only way you would get dough to form a block in plumbing would be to put a large enough lump in all at once, to prevent any water from flowing past it.  Even then, I think it would have to be far enough down to not be reached by water moved around by a plunger.  Otherwise you could slowly work at it from the top side.

fminparis's picture

Flour + water = paper mache. Paper mache = hard blockage and trouble in pipes. Let as little as possible dough, flour down the drain. Any flour left in bowls, on cookie sheets, brush  into the trash. After washing utensils, bowls, hands with dough, run the water for awhile to wash it down and away and dilute the mixture so it never hardens.  

mrfrost's picture

Agreed. Just as a general pricipal, I avoid letting as little flour or dough as possible into the drain. Doesn't seem difficult at all doing so.

flournwater's picture

Having only recently finished opening up my residential system and spending a lot of time cleaning out the accumulation of flour/water paste in the pipes I can tell you that mrfrost offers great advice.  I thought I was being careful (scraping "most" of it into the trash) but over time the lines accumulated flour/water paste on their inner surfaces and those deposit attracted other materials until it all finally came together.  I do my own household maintenance/repairs so it wasn't terribly expensive but I'd prefer not to work on plumbing when I could be enjoying myself in a nice kitchen with the scent of fresh bread in the oven.

gingk's picture

King Arthur Flour sells great drain covers that fit standard sinks.   I think they are about $15.00 each and well worth it if you are dealing with sourdough.   They have tiny holes nothing gets through except water.

flournwater's picture

Can you help us with a link for that item?  I searched their site for "drain", "drain screen", "drain filter", "filter", etc and can't find anything even close.

MangoChutney's picture
gingk's picture

Yep, that's it and it's worth it's weight in gold!


alldogz's picture

you can find equally cheap screen strainers (2 bucks maybe) at walmart, target, and i think Lowes...also saw them at camping world (they have big and little camper sized ones too)...they work catching the big chunks..i have never had a problem, i am on a septic system, so any yeast that goes down is getting fed pretty well..the screens do a fab job of catching globs of flour, dough, nuts, seeds and anything bigger than that mesh...i have several and just rotate them through the dishwasher.

Salilah's picture

OK this is probably way too basic but...

The biggest lesson I learned with flour / starter / dough etc is - use COLD water!!!

It sounds silly but - if you wipe the counter with a hot sponge, it goes gloopy
If you clean a container with hot water, it's gloopy

Cold water clears most things, including surfaces (and hands) - worth knowing!
(sorry to everyone who knew this before - I didn't!)

plumasgal's picture

After lurking on this fantastic site for over a year I finally joined so I could reply to this subject, of all things, just in case it may help someone.  I am confused as to hot vs cold water when cleaning up after bread baking.  I know that cold water makes the residual dough easier to clean off of hands/bowls etc., so that is how I initially clean up, but it seemed the sink always got a good flush of hot water afterwards.  All I know is the plumber just left (we are on a septic system) after spending two hours trying to unclog the big pipe that goes from the house to the septic tank.  When he first began flushing it out it looked like bread dough that came up out of the pipe.  He was unsuccessful at clearing the clog until we hooked up his hose thingy to our hot water - which is REALLY hot - and ran that for 20 minutes into the septic pipe.  He thinks the clog is likely from a build-up of dough.  It is the only thing that came up - no old tp or anything gross, just dough.  I didn't know it could potentially cause problems so just washed everything down the kitchen sink, always assuming it was being diluted enough to be benign.  I always figured the yeast was good for the septic!  I have been baking bread twice a week for a year, just to give a timeline.  After this is posted I am going to the KAF site to purchase one of those drain things. 


LindyD's picture

Always use cold water.  Hot water will cook the dough particles and turn them into lumps.  I wouldn't bother with that wire mesh drain screen.  Oxo makes a much better one out of silicone, which really cleans up easily as the dough particles won't stick to it.

Welcome to TFL.


plumasgal's picture

Thanks for the welcome Lindy, and the recommendation! 

The plumber said that by the time the water, whether hot or cold originally, is always cold by the time it hits the outside drain.  The clog was pretty far down the line....

All I know for sure is that I'll not be letting the dough go down the drain like I was, using all the advice offered in this thread.

sunnspot9's picture

I was washing discard down the drain and diluting with running warm or hot water, when someone else posted on here previously about this problem I started doing what mom used to do, using empty milk/orange juice/granola cartons like compost collectors, I dump discard in the carton and when it's full, it goes in the trash.

So far, I haven't seen the plumber here, hope I don't have too! :)