Saturday 12 March 2016


It's not obvious to all thinking people but it's obvious to me: chewing-gum is not water soluble. Maybe it's not obvious to thoughtless people. If you spit chewing-gum into a urinal, it stays there until somebody else takes it away. It's a galling indictment of the quality of the education that is being taken on board at The Institute, if chewing gum is routinely, regularly found in the urinal basins of the toilets nearest to the Science Faculty office. Weirdly, the company that cleans the toilets seem to be largely chewing-gum blind, so it is up to me to find a rubber glove and de-gob the bowls myself. Simple solution: takes 120 seconds. Lots of people I know seem to think that lard, butter and bacon fat are water-soluble. So they pop a greasy plate and a frying pan in the dishwasher and press the GO button. The dish-washer is the bane of kitchen thrift and mindfulness far more matériel gets used if you know the robot will wash it for you. Washing up is widely seen as a chore/ burden/ task/ horrible/t ime-wasting, but that is only in the mind, for me it's restful and great for warming the hands in a cold house. If you add some detergent and water and heat the stew of claggy pans and unfinished plates up to 80oC then the fat leaves the plate and goes  . . . somewhere. It goes about halfway along the sewer pipe until it gets cold enough to precipitate out in a clot like a coronary artery plaque. The next weekend's breakfast fat gets deposited in more or less the same place and soon the 100mm diameter foul-water pipe is almost blocked.  If it gets really blocked, the toilets back-up and you have to spend a fortune getting the drains reamed out by Dynarod Drane-Klene Inc. I was visiting a pal o'mino a tuthree years ago and found that the neighbours had rented a mini-digger and were digging up 20m of  foul-water pipe because the drain-rods weren't long enough to get things flowing again. They have been more careful of the fat burden since.

Having a self-contained water supply/treatment system is a) good because we don't have to pay Irish Water for the utility b) not-so-good because I have to clear any blockage. I don't mind getting my hands dirty but if possible I'd rather not spend Saturday up to my elbows in shite.  Sooooo, we clean the fat off the dishes and pans before we plunge them into the sink to wash them.  Newspaper will usually serve or a bit of toilet paper; we long ago stopped buying paper kitchen towel.  If the washing up has been really greasy, I tend to carry the bowl outside and fire the contents into the ditch rather than risk atherosclerosis of the drains.

There are, it seems, stupider things to send down the sewer system than a bit of fat, like a product called a flushable wet-wipe which is flushable but about as soluble as chewing gum. Young scientist Kian Hennessy did a research project on the things a tuthree years ago.  He put a selection of these plastiwipe things in water and shook it daily for many months and found that the wipes still had structural integrity . . . were still capable of snagging on a small protrusion in a pipe and serving as fat catcher. At about the same time, I wrote (somewhat skeptically about the maths) about the West London Fatberg "the size of a double-decker bus" that blocked the main sewer. Sewer-clogging wet-wipe worms [L from Australia] were in the news (and widely on the blogosphere) again recently.  The cost of cleaning this un-shit from the system should be laid at the doors [which are also likely to be designed for dysfunction] of the product engineers who create them - you have to own the consequences of your actions.

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