Is Vomit Capable of Ruining Your Home Plumbing System?

May 20, 2022
Plumbing Pipe in South Charleston, WV

Like most things that get flushed down the commode, vomit isn’t generally something that people like to talk much about. However, if you’ve just heard the widely circulated tale about ruined plumbing in sorority houses due to residents with eating disorders, you might be worried about the integrity of the plumbing in your Kanawha Valley home. After all, stomach acid is strong enough to corrode tooth enamel, create painful ulcers in the stomach, and cause damage to the intestines and esophagus. In fact, it is one of the most corrosive biological materials known to man. The good news is that most major warnings about putting vomit through your pipes are largely based on urban legends.

About the Legend

Stories about damaged plumbing caused by excessive vomiting have been circulating in one form or another since the late 1980s. These tales have been reported as hearsay in magazine editorials and in newspaper articles. In each incarnation of this urban legend, the plumbing in question was installed in buildings that were heavily frequented by large numbers of people with extreme weight loss or weight maintenance in mind.

These tales have included prestigious ballet schools and the dorm rooms of equally prestigious colleges. Two things that they’ve always had in common are incredibly large numbers of bathroom users and the widespread existence of one or more eating disorders. Although this urban legend has yet to be definitively proven either true or false, you’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about unless you’re constantly hosting a massive troupe and have numerous people vomiting into your toilets multiple times per day.

What Vomit Really Means for Your Home Plumbing System

This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that vomit cannot have a negative impact on your plumbing system. How you respond to these upsetting events and how you clean up after them both play important roles in determining how much damage is ultimately sustained. After suffering an especially violent case of reverse peristalsis, most people aren’t in the mood to do rigorous spring cleaning. You may be tempted to stumble off to bed without even flushing the toilet. Corrosive stomach acids can both discolor the interior of your commode and wear away protective coatings or any special features you’ve got installed. Making sure to give the toilet a quick flush after you or someone else in the home has been sick is a worthwhile preventative measure.

Where You Place Your Sick Matters

There’s also the fact that vomit doesn’t always make it to where you’d like it to go. When the urge to clear your stomach hits, you may be far away from a commode. If you throw up in the sink, solid materials can certainly result in a clog. This is especially true if your sinks don’t have drain catches currently installed. Moreover, when throw-up gets into the overflow drains of sinks, it can lead to massive problems with odorous and potentially harmful bacteria.

How to Safely Remove Vomit From a Sink

Flushing full toilets is one way to avoid testing the corrosive limits of stomach acids after someone has thrown up. But what’s the best way to get vomit out of a clogged sink? Flushing the drain with hot water might seem like the best solution, but excessively hot water can cause some plumbing fixtures to crack. It can also force solid debris deeper into the drain, thereby compounding an already unfortunate issue.

It’s far better to don a pair of gloves and manually remove the waste from your sink before attempting to clear the drain. If the drain is already clogged, go ahead and use a drain auger or plunger to loosen and eliminate the blockage. You can then use disinfectants and deodorizers to prevent bacterial growth and lingering odors. Putting baking soda down the offending drain and then chasing it with a cup or two of white vinegar is a safe, easy, and natural way to freshen the drain up. Finally, you can certainly flush the sink with hot water, but you should first make sure that this water isn’t boiling hot.

Excessive Vomit Can Be Much Harder on Septic Tanks

Many plumbing professionals argue that there’s definite merit to the idea that excessive vomit can ruin plumbing systems. For homes with septic systems, too much vomit could prove far too acidic and corrosive over time, given that flushed waste materials remain stored. However, whether true or untrue, in all formerly reported incidences, plumbing damages caused by vomit were reported in buildings that serviced vast numbers of chronically ill people.

At Mullen Plumbing, we’ve been serving residents of South Charleston, WV and the Kanawha Valley since 1996. We’re committed to helping our customers distinguish between unsettling urban myths and genuine plumbing concerns. We also provide top-rated heating, cooling, and plumbing services. If you’re worried about the age or integrity of your home plumbing system, call us today for a whole-house plumbing inspection.

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