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How to Clean a Clogged Drain: Without Using Harmful Chemicals

Unclogging can be the source of a whole headache of problems. Running water in our homes is something we all take for granted, so when your sink or bathtub drain becomes backed up, it can become a massive inconvenience. Worse still is that chemical cleaners are often expensive, extremely harmful to the environment, and need to be kept safely locked away if you have young children.

Don’t worry, though, as there are several methods you can try to get your drains cleared without resorting to harmful chemicals. All of the techniques listed below are environmentally friendly, easy to try, and can be carried out using regular household items.

Unclogging Drains Without Harmful Chemicals

Method 1: Plunge it!

Plunging clogged sink

Before you put anything down the plughole, we recommend trying a plunger first. If you don’t have one, they can be picked up cheaply at most hardware stores and are definitely worth the investment. Plungers work by creating a suction vacuum between the base of the plunger covering the plughole and the blockage. The built-up pressure from “plunging” can force small blockages further down the pipe until they dissipate. If you can remove your blockage with a plunger, make sure to run your hot water for a good five minutes afterward to clear any remaining debris.

Method 2: Hot and Soapy!

Foamy sink

If the plunger didn’t work, then the next step is to try soap and water. This predominantly works on kitchen clogs as build-ups of fats or grease are the most common issue. Use boiling water and add a bit of washing up liquid to help it cut through the grease, then carefully pour 2-3 liters of boiling soapy water down the plug and leave it to soak for 20-25 minutes. This should be ample time for the washing up liquid to break down any grease blocking the pipe. You can repeat this process a few times if the first soak doesn’t completely clear the pipe. Be sure to use running hot water afterward to make sure the blockage is completely gone.

Method 3: Use Science!

Baking soda for clogged sink

If methods 1 and 2 haven’t worked, then it’s time to use something a little more crafty. You’re going to need some baking soda, borax or bicarbonate of soda, and some white vinegar.

While kitchen drain clogs tend to happen because of grease build-up and food debris, bathroom clogs tend to be a tougher mess of hair and dirt. For that, we need something that will dissolve or dislodge it in a safe and environmentally conscious way.

First, you will need to pour one cup of baking soda, borax, or bicarbonate of soda directly into the plughole. Next, pour one cup of white vinegar into the plughole. This may cause a fizzing sound, but don’t worry – it just means the compound is working. If you hear no sound, it may be because the blockage is deeper into the pipe. The important thing is not to throw more down the drain unless you start the process a second time.

Wait until the fizzing sound stops and leave it for another 5-10 minutes. This will allow it to really seep into the clog. After this, pour about 3 liters of boiling soapy water down the plug to clear out the compound and blockage in one go. The acidity of the vinegar and alkali of the baking soda will cancel each other out. The boiling water will dilute them into a completely harmless solution that can be washed away without environmental impact.

You can repeat this method as many times as you like until the blockage is cleared. For stronger results, you can try leaving the baking soda and vinegar to soak for up to two hours.

Other Methods

Baking soda and vinegar on Sink

You can use a combination of salt and vinegar or salt and baking soda in the same way as method three. The most important step of drain unclogging is allowing your compound to work at the clog for a sufficient amount of time. Sometimes waiting as long as overnight is necessary for really tough clogs. Be sure to wash the clog away at the end with boiling soapy water or, failing that, running hot water.

Wire hangers are sometimes suggested to pull clogs out manually. However, we don’t recommend it. You can risk damaging your pipes; the wire hanger can become stuck in the plughole. Pulling waste back up through the pipe can be extremely unsanitary. If you do resort to this method, make sure to disinfect all the surrounding areas afterward and, for the love of God, throw the wire hanger away!

Why can’t I just use a chemical unblocker?

Pouring clogged sink chemical

Truthfully, you can. In some rare cases, blockages may need something as caustic and aggressive as a chemical unclogger, but we would ask that you consider whether it’s absolutely necessary. Caustic chemicals in our water supply have a massive effect on the environment and pollution. While water treatment centers do their best to filter out these toxins, huge amounts of wildlife and nature are directly affected, causing health problems and even death.

Any number of harmful chemicals we can reduce is beneficial to environmental stability and sustainability. By using any of the unclogging methods we suggested, you’re doing your part for the environment and saving yourself a little money as well.

Keep your drains healthy!

Clean kitchen sink

Here are a few pointers to avoid clogs altogether.

Use strainers or food catchers in your sinks. As easy as it is to let small debris be washed down the plughole, it clogs your pipes faster. Stopping food going down will also help ward off any smells from your drain, as there will no longer be decomposing food in your pipes.

Clean your pipes once every couple of weeks using the listed methods. Problems are best solved before they become problems. Using a vinegar and baking soda wash, or even just a hot and soapy wash, can keep your pipes clear.

Don’t pour fat or oil down the sink. Wait for it to solidify so you can put it into the trash. For oil, put it into a sealable container, such as a bottle, so that it won’t leak out of your trash bag.

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