How To Unclog Drains Naturally
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You don’t always need a chemical drain cleaner. Most times, boiling water with a little dish soap will work. The rest of the time, these household ingredients can help.
Before You Begin
Always protect your skin and eyes when cleaning drains. Even without the use of chemical drain cleaners, you must avoid contact with the substances in your clogged drain. Rubber gloves, long sleeves, and some form of eye protection will keep you safe.
If you have already tried a commercial drain cleaner, do not add a different one hoping the combination will work. Some drain cleaners are acidic, and others are alkaline, and combining them can produce a harmful, corrosive chemical reaction. You can still try the hot water method to unclog your drain, but if that does not work, you’ll need to call a plumber.
Common Reasons That Drains Clog
Most drain clogs are caused by a combination of grease, hair, and other debris that builds up over time. Pouring food grease down kitchen drains or using certain bath products can cause soap scum buildup along the drain pipe. Then other debris like hair or “flushable wipes” snags on the buildup and clogs the drain.
Pour Boiling Water to Unclog Drains Fast
If you previously tried a chemical drain cleaner that did not work, this method may still spare you a call to a plumber. Hot water can quickly dissolve many drain clogs since it melts the grease contributing to the problem. First, use a pitcher to remove any standing water from the sink. Then, remove the sink stopper or drain popup and slowly pour boiling water directly into the drain.
If you have not previously used a chemical drain cleaner, you can add a couple of drops of liquid dish soap to the boiling water. A degreasing formula can boost the boiling water’s effectiveness at dissolving the clog. Wait several minutes to see if this is enough to unclog your drain.
Use Baking Soda and Vinegar to Dissolve Clogs
The combination of baking soda (which is alkaline) and vinegar (which is acidic) produces a foaming action that can dissolve clogs.
- Aim a funnel down the drain and pour 1/2 cup of baking soda in it.
- Very slowly, pour 2 cups of warmed vinegar down the drain.
- If possible, cover the drain with a stopper or piece of flexible plastic or cling film to keep the fizzing action within the drain itself.
- Once the fizzing stops, pour a cup of boiling water down the drain to flush it and replace the stopper.
Use a Wire Hanger
A plumber’s snake is essential for deep clogs, but shallow ones near the drain’s entrance may be removed with a wire coat hanger. Use the hook end, or unbend the hanger, form a small J-shaped hook at one end, and fish out the clog. Be sure you pull debris out, not force it further into the drain. Repeat until you can’t see any more gunk, then follow with the baking soda and vinegar method to scour your drain.
Use a Shop Vac to Remove Clogs
Another great way to unclog your drain is by using a wet/dry shop vac to suction out whatever is clogging your drain. Make sure to plug your shop vac into a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GCFI) Outlet and wear non-conductive (not rubber) shoes. Switch the machine to the “wet” setting and insert the nozzle down the drain as far as possible, then turn on the vacuum and let it suction the clog out of your drain.
Use a Drain Plunger
SAFETY NOTE: Do not use a plunger if you’ve already used a commercial drain cleaner on the clog, or you may wind up with dangerous, severe chemical burns.
- Hold the plunger vertically above the drain to create a strong seal. Keep the handle vertical over the drain opening the entire time you’re working so you don’t lose suction.
- If you’re working on a double-sided sink, block the other drain to keep water from coming up it.
- Push down on the plunger to force water against the clog, then pull up on it to loosen the matter. Repeat this several times, keeping the handle upright the entire time.
- Stop when you hear the clog break free, or the water level begins to recede.
Remove the Pipe and Empty It
As a last resort before calling a plumber, you can try removing the pipe to reach the clog. Do not use this method if you’ve already tried a chemical solvent or drain cleaner. Since removing the pipe will release all the backed-up water, you should first clear everything in the cabinet under your sink, line it with towels, and place a bucket directly beneath the drain.
- Unscrew the slip joint nuts on either side of the U or J-shaped pipe bend. If you can’t do this by hand, use a wrench or channel lock pliers. Set aside the O-rings, so they’re handy when you reassemble the pipe.
- Wait for the water to finish draining into your bucket after you’ve removed the joint. You can shove a rag in the pipe’s end if you smell sewer odors, but you must take it out before reassembly.
- Standing over a trash can, use an old toothbrush or the end of a screwdriver to dislodge whatever was clogging the pipe joint.
- Move to a different sink and clean the inside of the joint with warm, soapy water. Feed a rag through the pipe from one end to the other to remove any residue.
- Reassemble the joint and return the O-rings to place. Hand tighten the slip joint nuts then tighten them a quarter-twist more with the wrench. Do NOT over-tighten them, especially if they’re plastic, or they’ll crack.
- Dry the entire pipe well with a fresh towel, then run water in the sink and inspect the pipe for signs of moisture. Once you’re sure you’ve reassembled it properly, remove the bucket and towels and put everything back under the sink.
How to Prevent Clogged Drains
Make a homemade drain cleaner consisting of 1/2 cup baking soda poured into the drain, followed by 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap stirred into 1 cup of warm vinegar. Wait 15 minutes, then run the hot tap for 30 seconds. Repeat this monthly to prevent clogs and smelly drain odors.
- It takes about two years for human hair to dissolve in drains. To keep hair from causing clogs, brush your hair before bathing and use hair catchers over tub and shower drains.
- In the kitchen, use a sink strainer to catch food particles and empty them in the trashcan after doing the dishes.
- Run your garbage disposal regularly to prevent kitchen sink clogs.
- Do not flush wipes even if they claim to be flushable.
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The baking soda and vinegar really does work.
It’s so convenient, isn’t it?
I have rental properties, and I ask my tenants not to use chemical drain cleaners. If the vinegar and baking soda with boiling water doesn’t work you’re usually going to be calling a plumber, and they don’t want to have to work in drain cleaner.