Historically, the day after Thanksgiving, U.S. plumbers received more calls for help than any other day of the year.
With American households preparing large dinners of turkey, side dishes, bread and pies every year for the annual Thanksgiving holiday, it’s no surprise that Black Friday has historically been considered the busiest day of the year for plumbers in the US.
On November 26, 2003, New Jersey newspaper The Record columnist Geoffrey Page published that grease and food running down kitchen drains, combined with guests having to flush the toilet, could potentially be a holiday nightmare:
If there is a disaster, there is a good chance that it will happen. [on the night of Thanksgiving or the following day] how millions of Thanksgiving cooks peel potatoes, scoop green peas out of their pods, cook apples for pie and pumpkin for bread, make sauce, peel walnuts, wash broccoli, and move a mighty turkey from the fridge to the sink to the oven.
The likelihood of clogging increases with the amount of food that can slip down the drain. The problem is that many people are oblivious to the dangers of holiday cooking. They are not sure what can and cannot be thrown into the garbage chute. They are not meticulous about keeping the little drain basket in place. They don’t care that the fat doesn’t seep through the basket into the drainpipe where it rolls up. Of course, there’s not much they can do about their guests’ toilet needs, other than invite fewer guests.
Precisely because there is so much to prepare for so many people and because the toilets are pushed to the limit, Thanksgiving turns out to be one of the busiest days of the year for plumbers. It is a day when sensible people give thanks for their blessings, one of which, whether they know it or not, is meeting a compassionate plumber.
We collected data from other newspaper articles published in the last two days or so. All stories reported that the day after Thanksgiving, sometimes referred to by shoppers as Black Friday and by some plumbers as “Brown Friday”, was historically the day when plumbers across the country received the most calls for help.
50% increase in calls
On November 22, 2000, Steve Wiegand published an article for The Sacramento Bee with the headline: “For plumbers, the day after Thanksgiving is not a holiday.” The article stated, “While hard statistics are not available, interviews with plumbers indicate that the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year for plumbers.”
He also added that as part of the survey, all plumbing companies in the Sacramento area said calls were up about 50 percent compared to the average on other days of the year.
Wipe grease in the trash, not down the drain
On November 23, 2007, the Associated Press reported that the national water company Roto-Rooter also reported a 50 percent increase in calls. “The main problems arise from the fat and vegetable oil that people throw into garbage chutes,” the article says.
To minimize stress on drainpipes, grease from pots and pans was recommended to be wiped off with paper towels and discarded in the trash.
Note. The same “50 percent increase in calls” number as of November 2022 was still mentioned on rotooter.com.
On November 27, 2014, The Californian in Salinas published an interview with Mary Kennedy Thompson, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing is headquartered in Waco, Texas.
“Black Friday is the busiest day of the year for plumbers,” Thompson said, adding that “trash pickup is not meant to replace a trash can.”
The article also contained some advice, one of which said not to use the dishwasher if there is a suspicion of a problem, as all the waste will come out of the garbage chute.
On November 28, 2019, the Citizen-Times of Asheville, North Carolina published an article mentioning Brown Friday.
The article began: “Forget about Black Friday. Plumbers know the day after Thanksgiving as something completely different: “Brown Friday,” so named because of the increase in support calls.”
According to plumbers, the article named 10 foods that consumers should not throw away down the drain. These include artichoke leaves, eggshells, carrots, vegetable skins, celery (or any other fibrous vegetable), bones, pineapple skins, asparagus, coffee grounds, and onion skins.
Can sewer cleaners be used?
The Citizen-Times article also included the following recommendations for using store-bought drain cleaners. Some homeowners may try one of the drain cleaners if they can’t get a plumber to the house quickly. However, Asheville-based Blue Planet Plumbing advised against it:
Should I use sewer cleaners?
Official message from Blue Planet Plumbing: No. Here’s another, from the plumbing company’s blog:
“The chemicals in many over-the-counter drain cleaners are highly toxic and create fumes that are harmful to inhale. These cleaners also damage metal pipes, often completely destroying them underground or under a slab.”
Toxic fumes can hang long after cleaning products have gone down the drain, and harsh chemicals can eat away at the finishes in your tubs and sinks.
Even worse, hydrochloric acid, the main chemical used in many sewer cleaners, can corrode underground pipes, flushing toxins into the soil.
We found many examples of other plumbing companies educating people about the dangers of using drain cleaners. If readers have any questions about this, we recommend contacting a licensed plumber in your area.
Lunsford, Mackenzie. “Leave the bones and butter out of the waste.” Asheville Citizen-Times via Newspapers.com, November 28, 2019, p. A1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/619316456/.
Page, Geoffrey. “We thank you for this festive dinner and for plumber Sal.” Record via Newspapers.com, November 26, 2003, p. A-1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/499917441/.
“Plumbers waiting for a messy day.” The Daily Oklahoman via The Associated Press via Newspapers.com, November 23, 2007, p. 8A, https://www.newspapers.com/image/455302173/.
Staff report. “Black Friday keeps plumbers at their busiest.” Californian via Newspapers.com, November 27, 2014, p. 4B, https://www.newspapers.com/image/111499629/.
Why are plumbers so busy the day after Thanksgiving | Roto-Rooter Blog. Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Water Treatmenthttps://www.rotorooter.com/blog/plumbing/why-the-day-after-thanksgiving-is-so-busy-for-plumbers/.
Wiegand, Steve. “For plumbers, the day after Thanksgiving is not a holiday.” Reporter via The Sacramento Bee via Newspapers.com, November 22, 2000, p. D1, https://www.newspapers.com/image/271072691/.