9 Alternative Ways to Fix a Blocked Drain

When your bathtub or sink begins to back up, your first instinct is probably to grab a bottle of drain cleaner. However, the harsh chemicals in drain cleaner can cause permanent damage to your pipes over time and leave you with costly repairs. These products also cause damage to the environment and present a safety hazard for households with pets or small children.

Does giving up drain cleaner mean that you’re resigned to a life of clogged sinks and slow-draining showers? Absolutely not! There are many safe and effective methods to keep your drains flowing without harsh chemicals. Read on to learn about nine non-toxic, pipe-friendly ways to unclog your drain.

Grab Clogs With a Pipe Snake

A pipe snake is a long, flexible tool with barbs to grab onto the hair or debris that might be blocking your drain. Pipe snakes are available in both affordable plastic and more durable metal versions. Just push the snake gently into the drain and pull it back up. You should see whatever is causing the blockage attached to the barbs. Be sure to use the pipe snake on all sides of the drain to remove the entire clog.

Don’t have a pipe snake? Save a trip to the hardware store by making your own from a wire clothes hanger. It’s a great way to reuse worn or damaged hangers, and you won’t feel bad about throwing it away if it gets too disgusting from exploring the depths of your clogged pipes.

Push Blockages Down With a Plunger

The handy plunger isn’t just for toilet clogs. It can also work wonders on your sink, especially if degradable substances like soap or paper are the cause of the clog. If necessary, first remove standing water from the sink to prevent splashing. Then place the plunger over the drain and slowly push it up and down. Test the drain after a few pumps and repeat as needed. Consider purchasing a dedicated sink plunger for a better fit and to avoid spreading toilet germs.

Clear Grease Clogs With Dish Detergent

Dish detergent is great at cleaning the grease off your casserole dish, but did you know that it can also clean grease out of your sink drain? If the leftovers from your morning bacon are backing up your kitchen sink, boil a large pot of water and add several tablespoons of your favorite dish detergent. Stir it together until well blended, and carefully pour it down the drain. Then run the tap on hot until the drain clears.

Remove Soap Buildup With Salt

If soap residue is the culprit behind your clogged drain, the abrasive texture of plain table salt combined with boiling water can scrub it out. Start by heating a pan of water to boiling on the stove. While you’re waiting on the water to boil, pour half a cup of salt down the drain. Then flush the salt with the boiling water. You may need to repeat this process a few times to clear the drain.

Bust Clogs With Baking Soda

Remember the baking soda and vinegar volcanoes you made back in elementary school? You can take advantage of the same chemical reaction that recreated Mount Vesuvius to clean debris from your drain. Consider wearing safety goggles while using this method to protect your eyes from being splashed with the caustic baking soda and vinegar mixture.

First, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain. Then slowly pour a cup of white vinegar down after it. Let it fizz for at least five minutes before flushing with a pan of boiling water. Finally, flush the drain with running tap water until it clears. If the drain is still blocked, repeat the process.

Clean Your Stopper

Often the culprit behind a clogged drain is actually the stopper and not the drain itself. Soap, hair, toothpaste and other debris can collect around the stopper and prevent your sink or tub from draining. To clean a stopper, remove it from the drain and clear away any visible debris. Then soak it in vinegar or soapy water for several hours, rinse and replace it in the sink.

Get Down and Dirty

Taking your drain pipe apart and manually removing a clog is an effective, if somewhat gross, way of removing tough clogs. Make the process easier by wearing sturdy rubber gloves and a mask to block out unpleasant smells. Put a bucket under the pipes and take them apart. Then look inside the pipes for the cause of the clog and remove it. Give the pipes a good cleaning with water and vinegar before replacing them.

Use a Natural Product

Although drain cleaners are generally rough on your plumbing, sometimes you don’t have the time to tackle a tough clog with a better method. There are many alternative drain cleaners on the market that are made from natural enzymes, which are less abrasive and damaging than traditional drain cleaning chemicals. You shouldn’t use a drain cleaner every time you have a clog or a slow drain, but when you have a difficult clog and not a lot of time, a natural product is a great compromise.

Call in the Professionals

Not every clog can be handled with do-it-yourself methods. When you’ve tried all the tricks and your drain is still stuck, it’s time to call a plumber. A quality plumbing company, such as Canberra Plumbers Definitive, can quickly assess your clog and get your sink or tub draining smoothly again.

Stubborn clogs are sometimes not caused by blockages but by more serious plumbing issues that need to be addressed by a professional. Repeatedly attempting to clear a drain that is blocked due to damaged pipes or other serious issues can cause more harm than good and leave you with a bigger repair bill.


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