Deep-frying your holiday turkey? Browning your Brussels sprouts in bacon grease? While cooking oil and grease add flavor to any meal, they can make a real mess in your kitchen when it comes to disposal, especially during the holidays. Make sure you know what to do with oil after cooking, because incorrectly disposing of grease and oil can have expensive consequences, such as emergency holiday calls to a plumber.

Keep reading to learn more about kitchen grease disposal and what not to do with used cooking oil.

The Best Way to Dispose of Cooking Oil and Grease

The right way to dispose of grease is simple; throw it in your trash can. Follow these steps to avoid pouring hot grease directly in your garbage:

  • Let the oil or grease cool and solidify.
  • Once cool and solid, scrape the grease into a container that can be thrown away.
  • When your container is full, place it in a plastic bag to prevent leakage and then throw it in the garbage.

Once you’re rid of the majority of the grease, use a paper towel to wipe down all pots, pans and dishes that came into contact with the oil before rinsing them in the sink. Even small amounts of leftover grease are dangerous to your plumbing because it will build up over time.

Infographic: How to Dispose of Cooking Oil

“Keep in mind that grease in drains, combined with food scraps from big meal preparation, is what makes our phones ring off the hook the day after Thanksgiving. That’s why it’s our busiest day of the year.”

Paul Abrams | Public Relations Director, Roto-Rooter Services Co.

How to Recycle Cooking Oil

1. Reuse Your Cooking Oil

As long as it has been used correctly and not heated past its smoke point, you can take steps to reuse your oil and fats. To reuse cooking oil:

  • Strain the semi-warm oil using cheesecloth, paper towels or coffee filters to remove any food particles.
  • Store in an air tight container in the fridge, freezer or other cool dark place.
  • Test the cooking oil before using by smelling it to make sure it’s not rancid.

You can reuse oil for deep frying, pan frying, sautéing and baking. After a few uses or when the oil goes bad, be sure to properly dispose of the oil in the trash can, as instructed above.

Cooking Oil in Deep Fryer

2. Find a Local Collection Site

Some municipalities collect used cooking oil for recycling. Use Earth911’s recycling locator to find a location near you. By using this option for kitchen grease disposal, you will keep your oil out of the landfill and turn it into a form of alternative energy, like biodiesel.

To recycle your oil:

  • Strain the oil to remove food particles.
  • Store in sealable container.
  • Deliver to your local collection site.

When you are recycling through a collection facility, you can mix different kinds of oils and fats in one container unless your collection site tells you differently, and you do not need to refrigerate the collection container.

How Not to Dispose of Cooking Oil

The trash can is the right way to dispose of cooking oil, but people often dispose of grease and cooking oil in other ways that are not advisable. Don’t get rid of grease using any of these methods:

Grease and Oil Build-Up Reducing the Diameter of Pipe

Source: Roto-Rooter

1. Don’t Pour Oil Down the Drain

Pouring oil down the drain or toilet causes clogs in your home plumbing system and contributes to larger clogs in the municipal lines that can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.

Oil and grease may be liquid when hot but will cool in your pipes, congealing and gathering other oil particles in the pipes. As the grease collection grows, it will prevent water from flowing through and causing it to back up into your kitchen and bathroom.

“Never pour cooking oil or grease down a drain. Hot cooking oil will solidify inside the drainpipe just like candle wax, which gradually decreases the diameter of the pipe with a greasy buildup until the pipe stops draining altogether.”

Paul Abrams | Public Relations Director, Roto-Rooter Services Co.


What if Grease Does Go Down the Drain?

Accidents do happen when it comes to kitchen grease disposal, especially when you have a bunch of relatives trying to help you tidy up after a holiday meal.

If grease or cooking oil does make its way into your sink, take immediate action with these tips from Roto-Rooter:

  1. Pour baking soda and white vinegar down the drain to clear some of the grease away.
  2. Try an enzyme-based drain cleaner, like Roto-Rooter’s Pipe Shield, which helps neutralize grease in both metal and PVC pipes.

If your sink is still slow, use a plunger to further dislodge the grease clog. If none of these fixes work, you will need to call a plumber.


2. Do Not Pour Used Cooking Oil Outside

Throwing used cooking oil outside is not a disposal option. If you pour oil on the ground, it will eventually end up in the sewer system and cause clogs there.

Additionally, animal and vegetable-based oils and greases can cause issues for wildlife when left outside, according to the EPA.

3. Do Not Dispose of Cooking Oil in Your Compost Pile

While small amounts of vegetable-based oils in your compost may be fine, a large amount will cause issues with airflow and moisture, ruining your fertilizer.

Animal fats should be kept out of your compost pile because they will smell, attract vermin and cause other issues that could make your compost unhealthy. No matter the type of oil or grease you’re using, do not dispose of it in your compost pile.


Whether you’re cooking a holiday meal or frying up breakfast, be smart with excess grease by disposing of it properly in your trash can or recycling it for future uses. Unless you want to invite your local plumber over for dessert, avoid pouring oil down the drain.

For more holiday tips, check out these posts: