With the holiday season winding down, local plumbers may finally have a minute to catch their breath. While it may not seem like an obvious busy season, dozens of households call plumbers after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s for plumbing help. Some companies even experience a 50% increase in calls during this time of year!

Why are the holidays so notorious for plumbing troubles? Simply put, people are so busy they tend to neglect regular maintenance and perhaps take a shortcut or two they wouldn’t take any other time of year. Just a little bit of grease down the drain can cause big problems, and a startling number of well-meaning cooks learn that the hard way.

Here are some of the top causes of holiday-related plumbing issues, and some simple steps you can take to keep them to a minimum.

You Put What Down the Drain?

Plumbers hear all kinds of stories about holiday food prep and the remnants that go down the drain. A helpful tip: If your sink doesn’t have a garbage disposal built-in, don’t treat it like it does! Unfortunately, this bit of advice often goes unheeded.

Even when garbage disposals are present, homeowners still make mistakes. Homeowners and guests toss in scraps and remaining food without running the water, creating loud and abrasive situations that may wear down garbage disposal components and result in otherwise unnecessary repairs. Plus, many people simply do not know that there are some basic foods and substances that never belong in the drain, even if it includes a garbage disposal unit. These things include bones, chicken and turkey skin, fats and oils, grease, peels from certain vegetables, like potatoes and onions, and tough, fibrous vegetables like pumpkin and celery. All of these things can clog up the drain, meaning you will be one of many calling the plumber this time of year.

Put out a garbage can in plain sight for well-meaning guests who want to help clean up, and politely ask guests to run the water if they will be putting anything into the garbage disposal.

Remind Guests To Flush Sensibly

If there are a lot of people in and out of your home, things can get a bit chaotic. Guests might flush items you ordinarily would not. Maybe they do it in their own home. If it hasn’t caused them problems yet, chances are that it will! Whatever the case may be, politely remind guests to flush toilet paper only. Makeup wipes, baby wipes, cotton balls, and cotton swabs all get stuck in sewer systems more often during the holidays.

Regularly clean out bathroom trash bins so guests know where to dispose of their things, and know that even wipes specifically designated as flushable can back up your sewer system.

Be Proactive About Plumbing Maintenance

If you are experiencing troubles before preparing large meals, inviting large numbers of guests into your home, and throwing a New Year’s Eve party, the odds don’t look too good for your plumbing to last all season. Look out for signs of trouble early. Look for sinks and showers that are draining too slowly. Listen to see if your garbage disposal is making a weird noise, or if the toilet water threatens to creep back up from time to time. If you notice any of these warning signs, call a plumber right away. Remember, leaks and other problems are normal–and costly if they are ignored. Every year, U.S. households waste $6 billion worth of water from leaky faucets, running toilets, and leaky plumbing alone!

The holidays are a demanding time of year for all of us–plumbers, too! Keep your holiday-related plumbing emergencies to a minimum by fixing plumbing problems before the holiday season sets in, carefully minding drains and garbage disposals after big family meals, and asking guests to toss their non-flushable items in the trash bin.