Don't call a plumber this Thanksgiving: 10 tips to keep your drains flowing

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- While you and your family are enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, the team at Phoenix-based Donley Service Center will be hard at work.

As owner Michael Donley explained, the holiday season is the busiest time of year for plumbers.

"Everybody's using their kitchens more than any other time of year." he said. And they're doing things they shouldn't be -- things that cause problems only a plumber can fix.

Garbage disposals are one of the biggest culprits.

Donley suggested putting a tray of ice cubes and a few lemon of grapefruit slices down your disposal before you start cooking.

"The ice cubes clean out the cracks and crevices," he explained. "They'll also sharpen the blades a little bit."

The lemon or grapefruit slices -- peels and all (but not the produce stickers) -- will freshen up your disposal.

Below are Donley's 10 best tips to avoid inviting a plumber to your Thanksgiving celebration.

1. Do not, under any circumstance, dump grease directly down your drain. Grease solidifies when it cools and will solidify on the inside of your plumbing.

2. Always collect excess grease in spare containers. Wait for it to solidify and then dispose of it.

3. Never force large amounts of food down the garbage disposal at once. Give the unit plenty of time to grind the food before adding more.

4. Don't use your garbage disposal as a trash can. Turkey bones splinter (That's why you can't feed them to your dog.) and fibrous vegetable skins can wind around the blade, causing the disposal to come to a screeching halt.

5. Always turn on the water before starting the garbage disposal, and keep it running for a minute after turning off the disposal to move the waste through the pipes.

6. Thanksgiving leftovers can do a number on your sink. Make sure all food scraps are scraped off plates before rinsing. Letting food remnants slide down your drain with cause backups in your kitchen pipes.

7. Sticking with the same theme, also make sure dishes are scraped clean before placed in the dishwasher. Food scraps can collect in the dishwasher and prevent proper drainage.

8. Keep the area around your sink and disposal clear. Utensils and other kitchen tools can slip into your garbage disposal, bringing it to a screeching stop.

9. Avoid leaving paper towels in bathrooms. If toilet paper supplies run empty, guests may reach for paper towels instead, which can stop up toilets. 

10. And finally, don't offer to host Thanksgiving dinner if your sewage system tends to run slow. The sheer volume of additional guests can strain your system and cause bathroom backups. There's no quicker way to ruin a Thanksgiving dinner than having a main line backup in your home.