It’s always a good idea to have a few freezer packs tucked away in the freezer at home. They are very useful for keeping the inside of your cooler cold or for treating a swollen sprain.
When it comes to disposing of your old freezer packs what do you do about the stuff inside? Can you safely dispose of freezer packs down the drain and what should you do if you've already poured it down the drain.
You should NOT dispose of freezer packs down the drain unless they are the liquid type. Gel packs can absorb water and clog the pipes. If you've put a gel pack down the drain running hot water can help dissolve the gel otherwise use a plunger or drain snake to remove the blockage.
Whether you've accidentally poured some if your freezer pack down the drain, done it on purpose or are considering it there are a few things you should be aware of.
Some people have even been advised to wash the inside of their freezer packs down the drain so they can then recycle the outside of the freezer pack. But is this wise or is there a better way to do things?
How to Tell if Your Freezer Pack Can be Emptied Down the Drain
There are A LOT of different freezer packs that contain a lot of different ingredients so it can be difficult to know whether or not it's ok to empty them down the drain.
The biggest cause for concern is the gel in the freezer pack clogging the drain. This is because some freezer packs contain ingredients that absorb water and swell in size when they do – becoming thick and gluggy. This viscous material can clog your sink and cause damage if you aren't careful.
If you want to know if your freezer pack can safely be emptied down the drain you need to ask yourself what the inside of the pack contains.
The easiest way to make a decision is to look at what's inside your freezer pack. The ones that contain a gel should NOT be emptied down the drain whereas the ones with a liquid refrigerant are safer to be disposed of down the drain.
However, this is not always a guarantee and if you're concerned then you should do a test before you go ahead and dispose of your freezer packs. This is simple to do and won't take long.
Test Your Pack First In A Bucket Of Hot Water
To know whether or not you can empty your freezer pack down the sink it's a good idea to test it first in a bucket of hot water and see what happens.
Empty your freezer pack into a bucket filled with hot water and stir.
Now observe what happens to the contents of the freezer pack.
If it dissolves in the water then you can assume it's safe to empty down your sink without any risk of clogging.
However, if it swells in size, becomes gluey in consistency or fails to dissolve at all then you might want to think twice about emptying them down the sink as it could cause a clog.
Why You Should Not Pour Freezer Pack Gel Down the Drain
The gel inside freezer packs is almost always made from water and a thickening/gelling agent.
Because of the high viscosity of the gel, it will not flow through your pipes as freely as water would. If you pour too much down your drain at once, there is a good chance that you will clog your pipes.
The thickening agents used in these freezer packs also have the ability to absorb large amounts of water and expand in size. This means if they get stuck in the P-trap of your pipe they can expand with more water and the clog can get even worse.
If you are wondering if these refrigerant gels are poisonous they are generally fine and not poisonous. You should take a look at this article and learn all about the toxicity of the stuff inside freezer packs.
It can be particularly concerning when this strange gooey substance happens to leak from its container and onto your skin! But don't stress! Read here to find out if you should freak out or not.
What About the Liquid Freezer Packs?
If your freezer packs contain a liquid as appose to a gel you can get away with pouring it down the drain without the risk of clogging.
I've actually done this before without any issue.
You can see me doing it in the video below that compares a yeti freezer pack to a pack filled with only water.
Again, this is simply an attribute of the viscosity of the fluid. A less viscous fluid will have an easier time going down the drain and through your pipes.
As an extra precaution you could also run the tap as you pour the liquid into the sink. This will dilute the liquid even further as it goes down making it extremely unlikely to cause any blockages.
I’ve Emptied Gel Freezer Packs Down the Drain and Blocked My Pipes. What Now?
Nobody wants to spend money unnecessarily so if you ever find yourself in this unfortunate situation here are a few things to try before calling the plumber:
- Run very hot water down the drain. Hot water is more likely to dissolve the gelling agent.
- Try using salt
- Use a sink plunger to unclog the pipes with air pressure.
- Try using draino to clear the pipes
- Use a “drain snake” or similar product if you have one.
- Remove and clean the sink trap.
Run Hot Water Down The Drain
If your drain is draining slowly and only partially clogged then using hot water can help to dissolve and wash away the gel from the freezer pack.
If you're finding just running hot water isn't doing much you can fill up a bucket with hot water and then from a height empty that hot water down the drain as quickly and as forcibly as you can.
The gravity combined with a lot of water at once can sometimes be enough to clear the drain.
You can also try boiling the jug and using boiling water down the drain to dissolve the gel. This worked for this person on Reddit:
with a ton of patience – boiling hot water did the trick (twice for good measure.) Please note I used a turkey baster to get rid of the offensive gel first, until I could not suck up anymore (and poured it outside!) Then used the boiling water. Whew!
Try Using Salt
It seems salt has the ability to break down and unclog sinks after you've emptied freezer packs down them.
This user from reddit had success by pouring salt down their sink:
I had standing water in sink for over 12 hours because I misread the instructions, I thought it was liquid and could go down the drain. DON’T DO IT. Instant clog. Threw about a quarter cup of table salt in there and it drained in minutes.
Use A Plunger
A plunger is a simple and effective way to unclog your sink.
The plunger creates a lot of pressure
Try Draino (or Something Similar)
If you've got Draino or something similar you can try that.
The ingredients in these products create heat and help to break down the clog in your pipes.
Use a Drain Snake
It's possible that the gel from the freezer pack has mixed with other items already clogging your drain and that is what clogged your drain. The freezer pack could be the straw that broke the camels back (so to speak).
Drain snakes are like mini flexible drills that are designed to move through your pipes and grab onto and pull out items clogging your pipes.
You can get hand powered ones that are very affordable and can even be attached to your drill to make them move convenient to use (or to add that extra power when you need it).
I recommended this drain snake from Amazon as it's very affordable and has good ratings. Click the link below to grab one yourself, it's a good tool to have in your house for dealing with all sorts of blocked drains.
I did find one person who had issues using a drain snake to clear a clogged drain from freezer gel. They said this in this reddit post:
the drain snake somehow punctured the pipe and sent water (and gel) everywhere. I assume it’s from the pressure of the gel pressing down on it, as the drain snake was not sharp or anything
Below you can see a video on exactly how to use a drain snake.
As you can see it's pretty simple to use and can be quite effective.
Remove and Clean The P-Trap
A common reason your sink is clogged after emptying a freezer pack is the gel from the freezer pack gets stuck in the p-trap of your sink.
The p-trap exists to create a water barrier that stops smelly sewage air from leaking up out of your sink and into your home.
While it may sound overwhelming to remove and clean the p-trap it's actually pretty easy, doesn't require many tools and can be safely done without needing to call a plumber.
Below you can see a video walking you through exactly how to do this.
What About Flushing the Contents of Freezer Packs Down the Toilet?
You might also be wondering if it will be okay to flush the gel or liquid down the toilet. Well, the same rules apply as for pouring it down the drain:
If you are dealing with a liquid you are probably okay, but if you are disposing of the gel then there is always going to be a chance of causing blockages in your pipes.
Recommended Method to Dispose of the Gel in Freezer Packs
Did you know that freezer packs do not really expire and can be used almost indefinitely? Ideally you would give your unwanted freezer packs to someone who does want them. Donating them to a friend or charitable organization should be the first option.
That being said, in the event of ever having to dispose of a gel freezer pack it is best to err on the side of caution and NOT send the contents down your pipes. Here is the correct way to do it:
- Puncture the freezer pack. Use a scissors or a drill, whatever works.
- Empty the gel into an ice tray or a bowl.
- Leave outside in the sun to dehydrate and shrink up.
- Dispose of the dehydrated gel in the garbage. (Wet gel can also go in the garbage if you are unable to do the dehydration step)
- Recycle the empty plastic container.
If you need to get rid of some of your freezer packs and you can’t give them away, you will likely be tempted to empty them down the drain or toilet. Before you do so however, take a second to inspect the contents of the pack.
If you are dealing with a liquid then you are likely safe pouring it down the drain. If you have a gel to dispose of then rather not send it through your pipes.
The risk of clogging is not worth the convenience. It is relatively easy to dispose of the gel in a safe manner as outlined above.