Home Remedies For Clogged Drains

The best way to keep your drain clear is to be sure you don’t put any material into it that can clog it up in the first place. It can be an embarrassment to have a friend over to watch the game, and he finds a clogged sink in the bathroom. 

Preventative Measures For Keeping Drains Clean 

A drain sieve will catch a lot of what you don’t want in your drain. Never pour grease or dump coffee grounds into your drain. 

 I once heard that coffee grounds were supposed to be useful for sweeping pipes clean. Wrong! I once took a drain cleaning job and had to take a p-trap apart to clean it. It had coffee grounds caked up inside it a half-inch thick. Horrible!

Dump grease and coffee grounds into an empty aluminum can. When it’s full and cooled down, throw the can away. The same goes for greasy or chewy food. Trash it!

Environmentally Friendly Home Remedies For Clogged Drains

Preventative maintenance should be practiced day by day. Still, drains can (and do) get clogged. Let’s explore some environmentally clean home remedies for blocked drains that work to open them up, and may even clean up a lingering smell.

You probably already have most, if not all, the ingredients sitting in your cupboards that you’ll need for these clogged drain home remedies. 

What to do About Hair Clogs

Hair can be problematic to clear from a drain. Soap scum or other small debris usually accompanies hair to help plug things up. 

Wait until there is no water standing in the sink or tub. Remove the drain sieve. In a bathtub, you can remove the overflow vent to gain direct access to the drain itself. Carefully pour 1/2 to 1 full cup of baking soda into the gutter. Then, pour in a cup of white vinegar. 

After about 10 minutes, chase everything through with a large pot of near-boiling water.

In a sink, you can use a plug or a rag to cover the opening after pouring in the vinegar. Doing so can help force the chemical reaction down into the clog instead of sitting on top of it.

If the hairball isn’t too massive, this recipe should work well. You can increase its effectiveness by mixing salt into the baking soda before you begin. 

Dawn dishwashing detergent is also really useful for loosening hair clogs. It will cut through soap scum that may have combined with the hair. A half-cup poured into the drain, followed by slowly pouring a large pot of boiling water, may loosen the surrounding scum. It will also clean the pipe.

Lastly, try using a short, simple snake to grab the hairball. Many hairballs are close to the top of the drain. A snake can often pull a hairball out in no time. If you don’t have one handy, try a bent clothes hanger. 

Still, it’s a good idea to keep a simple, cheap, and easy to use snake handy. 20″-26″ is suitable for the majority of clogs. Here’s a handy one I found on Amazon that should take care of most hair clogs.

a hand held auger with a drill attachment

If you’re a handy person, you may want to keep a 25 footer around, too. Make sure you get one that won’t break after one use. Here’s a hand-cranking 25′ auger that’s pretty tough. Or, if you want a motorized auger, you can check this one out on Amazon, too.

Drains Clogged From Food and Grease 

Organic matter buildups are potentially more manageable to handle than solid materials like hair. Food particles are broken down in at least a couple of ways.

One cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid followed by a pot of boiling water cuts through grease and cleans your pipes. 

One cup of baking soda chased by one cup of white vinegar will break down and loosen most organic matter. Let it work into the problem clog for several minutes, then pour some boiling water down the drain to flush everything through. 

Again, adding salt to the baking soda can boost its effectiveness as well.

1/3 cup of borax mixed with 2 cups of water, slowly poured into a clogged drain, followed by a couple of quarts of boiling water, can loosen many organic clogs, too.

Using a Plunger to Open a Clogged Drain

A plunger can be very effective against many drain clogs. Make sure you have water in the pipe. Then, using short quick “pumps,” plunge for several seconds and check to see if the water begins to move. If it starts moving, keep going! Always remember to use more force to pull up on the plunger as opposed to pushing down. Beware, though, if you have a clogged drain made from PVC, forceful plunging can cause the pipe connections to come apart.  

cup plunger for clogged drains

Buy one of those red, cup plungers and not a flanged plunger for sinks. You won’t get a very tight seal with a flanged plunger. Those work best in the toilet.

Clearing a Plugged Toilet With Dawn Liquid

For a clogged toilet, pour a full cup of Dawn dishwashing liquid into the bowl and let it sit for half an hour. Slowly pour in a gallon or two of hot water, then use a plunger to force the clog loose.

Drain Clearing Chemicals

There are more than a few harsh chemicals available for clogged drains. Sometimes, with occasional use, they may be the best solution to a severely clogged pipe. I believe you should always work environmentally friendly solutions first, and then move to harsher methods. Sometimes harsh chemicals are the best way to remove a stubborn clog.

Most of them use lye as a main ingredient. Lye can eat away at pipes, and using too much can cause expensive-to-fix damage. Use commercial drain openers sparingly.

Let’s Review

Home remedies for clogged drains using mild household chemicals are always an excellent way to begin working on any clog. They are highly useful for simple clogs.

However, when a clog becomes more serious, it can be problematic for mild solutions. Occasional use of a harsh chemical may be necessary. 

After exhausting clean and environmentally-friendly methods, and they don’t work, go ahead with a more potent chemical. If the problem clog persists no matter what, then, by all means, call in a professional. Don’t go crazy on a clogged pipe and jeopardize your entire plumbing system over a single drain.

More Clogged Drain Home Remedy Tips

Don’t ignore a slow drain. It may be a hairball forming, or grease and food building up. Addressing a slow drain as soon as possible before it becomes a massive problem is good common sense. The result of solving drain problems early on is almost always open and clean pipes.

Ice cubes made from vinegar (mixed with a little water to help them freeze) can help sharpen disposal blades and keep them clean! Following the frozen vinegar with frozen lemon wedges will help make the vinegar smell go away, too!

Regular maintenance is always the best solution for most problems. You can find lots of plumbing maintenance tips for your whole house in this article I recently wrote.

Dummies.com has some drain maintenance tips that I found useful as well. 

And finally, always remember the simplest, most straightforward solution: Don’t put tangly, gooey, cakey crap down the drain in the first place.

Phil Vandermeer

Philip Vandermeer is a husband, father, retired contractor, and handyman who enjoys playing the guitar, building things with wood, and cooking. Simply, he loves everything about creating a pleasant house and home. In the past several years, he has successfully rehabbed and flipped more than a half-dozen homes.

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