Why You Should Never Clean Paint Brushes in the Sink

South End Plumbing, Heating, & Air Expert Tips

never clean paint brushes in sink
Don’t dispose of paint in your sink.

You Never Want to Clean Paint Brushes in the Sink

Washing paint brushes properly after a project saves money. It’s easy to rinse brushes and other tools in the sink. You should never clean paint brushes in the sink. The biggest reason is paint can ruin a septic system. Even a small amount of paint can lead to blockages, contamination, a flammable hazard and costly repairs.

Paint and Septic Systems Should Never Mix

Blockages, Binding and Sludge

Paint has many ingredients to it which will create clogs, sludge and backups which septic systems are not built to handle. The binder part of paint includes many chemicals. Paint is made to bind to surfaces. It’s made to protect a surface from moisture or abrasions. It’s meant to be a long-lasting layer. For most paints today, the binder is a plastic, or a polymer. When paint runs through your sink, through pipes and into a septic system and tank, even out into a drain field, it will bind to all of these surfaces along the way. This can cause obstructions in the pipes. It can be a major trouble specifically if blockages occur in the drain field location.

A septic tank and system safely handles wastewater through a mix of physical and organic manners. Bacteria and enzymes, which in this case is good and by design, break down natural waste. Solids go to the bottom of the tank. This forms a sludge layer. Paint can’t be broken down by enzymes and bacteria. This results in too much solid material for a tank to process. The sludge layer builds too fast. The tank and other parts of the system fill too fast leading to major problems.

Contaminated Water

If you end up with paint in a septic tank, there’s a good probability it’ll get into the drain field. Then, there’s a good chance it will run into the effluent and stay in the drain field or surrounding environment. This can lead to polluted groundwater, well water, hazardous material or fumes, or more environmental issues. It could be a problem on your property, but also others near your property. Legislation in your city, county or state might make this illegal. Fines or worse are possible problems when all you needed to do was not clean paint brushes in your sink.

More Hazards of Paint in Your Sink and Plumbing

Cleaning paint brushes and disposing of paint and paint-related material right is important for more than just your plumbing or septic system. Paint, thinner, turpentine and other solvents are flammable. Many of these materials are toxic and have toxic fumes. Anywhere a child or pet might unknowingly touch, smell, be close to or prepare food near should be kept free of paint and other chemicals.

It is fine to clean paint brushes, and rinse a small amount of paint down a sink and drain if it is water-based latex paint and you use a public sewer system.

You should never dispose of oil or acrylic paints or paint thinners or solvents in any sink or system. It’s never safe to dump paint, in any amount, down a sink. Never wash paint brushes in a dishwasher. Again, never clean any of these items or dispose of paint or solvents in a septic system. If you have leftover paint, dispose of it at the closest toxic waste disposal facility.

What if Paint Gets into Your Septic System?

There are remedies for paint damaging a septic tank or system. They usually aren’t easy or inexpensive. Nevertheless, you might find yourself in a circumstance where paint is in the septic system. The steps you take from there depend on how much paint has entered the system.

If the quantity of paint is small, like say the paint came from cleaning your hands, it should not be too much of a problem. However, if excessive paint was poured down the drain, you may have to take more radical steps. You might need professionals to come and pump the tank and do “shock treatment” after the septic tank has been fully emptied.

Shock treatment is putting biological additives into a septic tank either by flushing them in a toilet or by putting them straight into the tank. The biological material puts billions of “good” enzymes and bacteria into a plumbing system. The additives are recommended to be used throughout the long lifespan of a septic system. In a shock treatment, they help a system get back to normal, correct enzymatic levels after having toxic material in it.

How to Clean Grout and Mortar Trowels

Similar to cleaning and getting rid of paint, grout and thinset mortar – concrete – should never be rinsed in or go down a sink. Dirty water from buckets you’ve been using with grout or mortar should not be dumped down a drain either. Any concrete material contains sand. Grout or mortar will build up and set inside pipes creating major problems.

It’s often convenient to wash out grout or mortar containers, trowels and other tools outside with a hose. Even with this, you still need to collect and remove as much of the concrete as possible; disposing of it as solid waste. If you use, and dispose of, concrete frequently, even the residue of it can kill plant life in your yard or garden.

Because of a job, or weather or other factors, sometimes clean up will take place indoors. It helps a lot to know how to clean everything the right way. It’s possible to wash grout from trowels and buckets using minimal water.

Scrape as much leftover grout or mortar as possible out of the container with a trowel into a lined garbage can. Wipe out the container as best as possible with plastic bags or newspaper. Add one mug of water at a time. Scrub the bags or newspapers around the container with a trowel. Throw the wet bags or paper into the trash. Repeat as many times as needed. You can use the same process to clean a trowel.

South End Plumbing specializes in sinks and septic systems, so remember, we are just a click away. We also specialize in leak detection – give us a call! South End Plumbing is one of the only companies that will give you a free estimate. Call us at 704-919-1722 or fill out the form online to schedule a visit.

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