Dealing with a clogged drain can be a real nuisance. Dirty water backs up, your sink or tub doesn't drain properly, and any effort to rinse dishes or take a shower is thwarted by the blockage. But how do you unclog a drain naturally?Before you reach for harsh chemical drain cleaners, try some of these natural homemade drain cleaners and clog removal methods first.
Many common household products can help dissolve, break up, and flush away whatever is causing the clog. Simple ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, boiling water, and salt can be used to unclog drains in a safe, eco-friendly way. Even tools you already have on hand like plungers, wire hangers, and drain snakes can help clear the clog without damaging your pipes.
In this article, we’ll explore these natural ways to unclog a drain, the science behind why they work, and tips for getting the best results. We’ll also cover how to prevent clogs in the future with some easy maintenance steps. Let’s pour some science down the drain!
One of the most popular homemade drain cleaners is the classic combination of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid). Here’s how this DIY drain unclogger works:
How It Works: Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid. When these are combined, the acid-base reaction produces carbon dioxide gas bubbles. As the foamy bubbles expand, they help force clogs free. The reaction also dissolves some of the gunk and buildup.
Recipe: Mix 1/2 cup baking soda with 1 cup vinegar in a measuring cup. Slowly pour the mixture down the blocked drain. Cover the drain with a plug or rag to contain the reaction. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then rinse with hot water. The bubbles and pressure should help dislodge the clog. Repeat as needed for tough clogs.
Tips: Run hot water after to rinse away any residue so it doesn’t clog again. The order is important - pour baking soda down first, then vinegar to activate the reaction. Scrub with a drain snake or wire hanger if needed to help break up the clog.
For another science-powered drain unclogger, combine baking soda with table salt (NaCl). Here's how:
How It Works: The abrasive salt acts as a scrubber to break up the gunk. When combined with baking soda, it creates an alkaline cleaning solution that dissolves some clogs. The reaction also produces foam and bubbles to lift the clog free.
Recipe: Mix 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup salt. Pour hot water down the drain. Follow with a pot of boiling water. Let it sit for 15 minutes to work, then flush with hot water.
Tips: The boiling water helps activate the reaction. If needed, use a plunger or wire hanger to help dislodge the loosened clog after letting it sit. Rinse the drain thoroughly afterward.
Hot water by itself can help melt and clear grease clogs. But bringing the water to a rapid boil makes it even more effective for unclogging drains.
How It Works: The agitated molecules in boiling water can help dissolve sticky gunk faster than tap water. Grease and fat clogs melt easily when hit with boiling water.
Instructions: Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil on the stove. Carefully pour it down the blocked drain. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then flush with cold water. Repeat as needed.
Warning: Don't pour boiling water down plastic pipes - it can melt and damage them. Test a small amount first and check for any deformation before pouring down larger amounts.
For extra power, add a few tablespoons of dish soap to the boiling water. The degreasing action of the soap boosts the drain-cleaning effects.
A simple household plunger can create enough suction and pressure to dislodge a clog after some initial drain cleaning steps.
How It Works: The plunger needs water to create pressure against the clog. Fill the sink or tub with a few inches of water. Quickly plunge up and down over the drain opening. The suction forces water against the clog, helping to break it up.
Tips: You may need to repeat several times to dislodge a stubborn clog. Apply petroleum jelly to the rim of the plunger to create a tighter seal. Use quick, firm thrusts straight down for best results.
A regular wire hanger unbent into a hook can reach into drain openings to fish out hair, debris, and other gunk that may be causing the clog.
Instructions: Straighten out the wire hanger and bend one end into a small hook shape. Carefully insert it down the drain opening and pull out any hair or debris you can catch with the hook.
Warning: Don't scratch or poke holes in the drain pipe. Only insert a few inches at most, and pull out debris gently.
For clogs deeper in the pipes, a drain snake can reach them where other methods can't. Feed the metal coil down the drain and rotate to grab and clear debris. Use a hand crank auger or an electric-powered version for deeper blockages.
Enzymatic drain cleaners provide a safe, effective way to break down organic buildup and unclog drains without harsh chemicals. They contain concentrated enzymes and bacteria that feed on hair, food particles, grease, and other gunk that collects in pipes.
To use an enzymatic cleaner, first remove any drain covers and manually extract built-up debris. Then simply sprinkle or spray the enzymatic cleaner down the drain according to package directions. Allow it to sit for several hours to work. The enzymes will break down the organic matter into smaller pieces while the bacteria consume and digest the particles.
Over time, this process will clear even severe clog-causing buildup. The bacteria will continue reproducing and spreading throughout the pipes to prevent future clogs. Just be patient - enzymatic drain cleaners work slower than chemical ones. But the natural bacteria and enzymes are safe for pipes and the environment. Used regularly, enzymatic cleaners provide an effective, eco-friendly way to keep drains free of organic clogs.
Acids like lemon juice and vinegar can be highly effective at dissolving buildup and unclogging drains when used properly.
Start by pouring 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain to coat the pipes. Let it sit for a few minutes to work on any debris. Next, pour 1 cup of heated white vinegar or lemon juice down the drain.
The acid will react with the baking soda, causing fizzing and bubbling that helps break up the clog. Cover the drain with a stopper for 5-10 minutes to allow the reaction to fully work through the grime. Finally, rinse the drain with very hot water to flush away the loosened gunk.
The citric acid in lemons cuts through soap scum, hair, and grease, while the acetic acid in vinegar dissolves mineral deposits and food particles. Using these natural acidic solutions instead of harsh chemical drain cleaners is an effective, eco-friendly way to keep drains free of organic blockages. Just be sure to give the acids time to react and dissolve the clog completely before rinsing.
Dish soap is an effective and eco-friendly drain unclogger because of its grease-cutting properties. Start by removing any drain covers and extracting any hair or debris you can see. Then pour 1/4 cup of liquid dish detergent directly down the drain.
For extra cleaning power, use hot water to rinse the soap down. The surfactants in the dish soap will lift and dissolve any greasy materials causing the clog. Let the soap sit for 5-10 minutes to fully penetrate and break down the gunk. After, pour a kettle of boiling hot water down the drain.
The heat will further melt any fatty oils or food buildup. Alternate between rounds of hot water and more dish soap until the clog clears. The soap helps scour the pipes while the hot water flushes away debris. For prevention, do this weekly to keep drains free of organic matter.
Dish soap provides an inexpensive, non-toxic way to harness the grease-fighting ability of detergents and the cleaning power of heat to dissolve blockages and keep drains flowing freely.
Installing hair catchers or drain screens is an effective way to trap hair and prevent it from clogging pipes. Hair catchers sit on top of drain openings and use a fine mesh screen to catch loose strands while allowing water to pass through freely.
The small holes in the mesh trap hair, soap scum, and other debris before it goes down the drain. Hair catchers are easy to install - simply place them over any shower, tub, or bathroom sink drain. Be sure to get the right size catcher for your drain opening.
Clean the hair catcher regularly by removing it and pulling off any accumulated hair or gunk, then throwing it in the trash. Routine cleaning prevents clogs from forming. Hair catchers are an inexpensive and easy way to stop hair from accumulating in drains.
By catching strands before they reach the pipes, hair catchers provide a simple preventative measure to keep drains flowing freely and avoid blockages. They eliminate the need for harsh chemical drain cleaners or snaking tools. Installing drain screens is a proactive way to stop clogs before they start.
Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to clogged drains. Follow these tips to keep drains clear and avoid blockages:
If DIY methods fail to unclog your drain, it may be time to call in a professional plumber. Signs you may need pro drain cleaning include:
Chemical drain cleaners can damage pipes and cause other issues. They should always be a last resort after trying safer methods.
Before turning to harsh chemical cleaners, try giving your drains a little science-powered cleaning. Simple ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, boiling water, and salt can safely break up or dissolve clogs when used properly. Basic tools like plungers, hangers, and snakes can also unclog drains in a pinch.
Remember to use these natural drain cleaning methods regularly to keep your pipes gunk-free. And install preventative measures like drain catchers so you encounter fewer clogs. With this arsenal of DIY drain unclogging tips, you can keep your sink and tub drains flowing freely without damaging pipes or dumping household hazardous wastes down the drain. The next time you notice a slow drain, turn to science - not chemicals! - to pour some problem-solving down the drain.
The simplest homemade drain cleaner is baking soda and boiling water. First, pour 1 cup of baking soda down the clogged drain. Let it sit for a few minutes to work its way down the pipes. Then slowly pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. The baking soda and hot water will react and bubble, breaking up the clog. Let it sit for 15 more minutes before running the tap to rinse away debris. This eco-friendly method can clear clogs without harsh chemicals.
Skip the store-bought chemical cleaners and opt for pantry staples instead. Baking soda, vinegar, salt, and boiling water can all dissolve and dislodge gunk in pipes. For example, mix 1/2 cup salt with 1/2 cup baking soda and pour down the drain, followed by hot water. The abrasive salt scrubs while the baking soda fizzes away. A classic is 1 cup baking soda + 1 cup vinegar - the reaction breaks up clogs.
While baking soda alone may not fully clear a severe clog, it can certainly help loosen debris in drains. The alkaline baking soda reacts with water and acids in pipes to fizz away grime. Let it sit to work before rinsing. For faster results, combine baking soda with vinegar or salt to boost cleaning power. But never mix baking soda with drain cleaner chemicals.
When using baking soda to clear drains, let it sit for at least 15 minutes or more to give it time to bubble away the gunk. For severe drain clogs, allow it to work overnight if possible. Apply a drain cover to contain the reaction. After letting it sit, run very hot water to rinse away any debris that was loosened by the baking soda.
While effective for sinks, tubs, and showers, baking soda and hot water may not dissolve clogs in all drain types. Drains in bathrooms or kitchens that see a lot of buildup may need repeat treatments or a drain snake. Make sure to check specific instructions for your drain. Consult a plumber if you're unsure.
Homemade drain uncloggers include baking soda and vinegar, boiling water and dish soap, a salt/baking soda mix, or a plunger to force out clogs mechanically. Table salt works as an abrasive scrubber. Vinegar dissolves gunk. Hot water melts away grease. A plunger creates pressure. Use supplies on hand to safely clear drains!