Foul odors coming from drains can be a sign that you have clogged or dirty plumbing lines. There are natural ways to clean drains that will keep them flowing properly, without the need for toxic commercial drain cleaners.
The kitchen staple baking soda can be used to unclog drains. When combined with vinegar, it creates a reaction that is more effective than caustic chemical drain cleaners.
A clogged drain can be an absolute nightmare. Not only does it make a bathroom unusable, but it can cause sewage back-up that can spread throughout the home and yard. A professional drain cleaning service is usually needed to clear a clogged pipe and restore the flow of water. However, preventative measures like installing strainers on bathtub and sink drains and dumping hot water down the drain on a regular basis can go a long way towards keeping your pipes in good shape.
Several do-it-yourself drain cleaners are available that you can try before calling in the pros. These holistic solutions can be found on Reddit and other online forums, but be warned that some can actually make your clogged pipe worse. The most effective DIY method is to pour baking soda followed by vinegar into the clogged pipe. This chemical reaction will often dislodge and dissolve the clog and allow the rest of the waste to wash away down the pipe. After the fizzing stops, wait five minutes and then pour in a few cups of boiling water. Repeat as necessary to clear the clog.
Super stubborn clogs may require a stronger drain cleaner. These harsher chemicals can be harmful to the pipes and your health, so they should only be used as a last resort. For example, acidic drain cleaners that contain sulphuric or hydrochloric acids work by destroying organic material that has accumulated in the pipes. These types of cleaners should only be used on very tough clogs and are typically sold to plumbers.
Another easy-to-use DIY drain cleaner is liquid plumbr, which consists of enzymes that break down organic matter such as hair and soap scum. It also eliminates odors and keeps pipes clean. The product is safe for most pipes, but be careful when using it with garbage disposals. Follow the instructions on the label for proper use, and don’t exceed the recommended dosage. While this product isn’t as fast-acting as chemical drain cleaners, it can sometimes clear a partial blockage and multiple uses might be necessary to fully remove a stubborn clog.
When one of your toilets becomes completely clogged, it can be an absolute nightmare. Most of the time, a little tinkering will get the job done, but there are a few cases in which you may need to call in some help from the pros.
Most toilet clogs are caused by non-flushable items. Allegedly “flushable” wipes are a leading culprit, along with cotton balls, swabs, paper towels and feminine products. These should never be thrown down the drain, even if they say they’re safe on the label.
If your toilet clogs and you don’t have a plunger handy, grab an empty plastic bottle (like an old soda or water bottle). Fill it with a few inches of hot water, then plug the drain with the bottle. Push down on the top of the bottle to force air into the pipes, which will hopefully disrupt and dislodge the clog.
Another option is to squirt in a hefty amount of liquid dish soap. The slippery stuff can break down solids and usher them on their way down the drain. HouseLogic notes that soaking the buildup with soap is similar to soaking dishes before washing them — it makes them easier to clean off afterwards.
A last resort if the above options don’t work is to use a snake, which you can buy at most hardware stores and “big box” retailers. Uncoil a length of wire coat hanger, then bend one end back on itself a few inches. Wrap the end with a piece of cloth and duct tape it securely, making sure it won’t scratch the porcelain. Feed the end of the hanger into the toilet, twisting it to scour the pipe and dislodge any clogs.
You might also try using a commercial drain opener, which works similarly to chemical cleaners, but without the harsh chemicals. Most brands are available in both liquid and powder form. Follow the instructions on the packaging to determine how much to pour down the drain and how long to leave it. If none of these techniques work, it may be a sign that the problem is farther down your sewer line and requires professional attention.
If your shower drain seems to clog every time you take a bath, don’t despair. These troublesome clogs can usually be resolved with a little effort and a few household supplies. Keep a bucket, screwdrivers, a flashlight, a wire coat hanger ($7, The Home Depot), latex gloves, white vinegar, baking soda, and a plastic garbage bag for catching debris handy. You can also try a toilet plunger or a handheld plumber’s snake ($54, The Home Depot) to clear stubborn clogs.
Hair and soap scum buildup can be the cause of a clogged shower. You shed a few strands of hair each time you shower, and these strands wrap around other grime such as dirt and soap to form a clog. Hard water can contain minerals that build up over time and stick to the interior walls of pipes, restricting water flow.
The best way to prevent a shower clog is to clean the drain regularly with safe, household cleaning products to remove soap scum and grime. It’s also important to comb or shave before you get in the shower and transfer any loose hair to the wastebasket. In addition, try a drain cover or install a strainer to catch and contain hair before it enters the drain.
When these preventative measures don’t work, remove the drain cover and look inside the pipe for the clog. If it’s a small blockage, you may be able to pull it out with your fingers or a wire coat hanger. If the clog is larger, try running boiling water down the drain to break up and wash away the accumulated grime.
If hot water doesn’t work, try pouring a mixture of baking soda and vinegar down the drain. This natural solution will break up hair clogs and dissolve soap scum without the use of harsh chemicals. If the clog persists, you can always try using a wet/dry shop vacuum to suck up dry debris and hair. If all else fails, you can call a professional plumber for help. A clogged shower isn’t just inconvenient; it can be dangerous when standing water puts pressure on the pipe and could burst.
If your sink is draining slowly or not at all, there could be a bigger problem somewhere in your plumbing. Thankfully, there are a few quick fixes you can try before calling in a plumber.
If you have hard water, a buildup of mineral deposits can cause your pipes to restrict or stop working altogether. A good way to prevent this from happening is by using a water softener or getting your pipes professionally descaled.
Fats and oils can also create serious clogs in your kitchen sink. They may be liquid when you dump them down the drain, but as they cool they can start to clump together and block your pipes. To avoid this, always pour any cooking oil or fat into a plastic trash can to melt and solidify before throwing it away.
Soap residue is another common cause of clogged sinks. This can combine with hair and mineral buildup to create severe clogs in your drains. You can help reduce this by using soap-free detergents and rinsing your drain with hot water after each use.
You can remove a lot of the gunk causing your clogged sink by using a wire hair-removal tool that is specifically designed to hook and fish out hair. These tools are inexpensive and can be found at most hardware stores or online. They have a metal hook on the end which is shaped to fit inside the nozzle of your drain. You can also try fishing out a clog with an untwisted coat hanger that has a small hook at the end. Be careful though, as the hook might get stuck in your pipe and you will need to carefully pull it out.
A plunger is another simple and effective way to clear a clogged drain. To plunge your sink, fill the drain with water until the rubber bell of the plunger is covered. Then, firmly pump up and down several times. When you remove the plunger, check to see if your sink is draining. If not, repeat the plunging process.
If a plunger doesn’t work, you can always call a professional plumber to handle more serious clogs in your pipes or sewer lines. If you have a persistently clogged drain that isn’t fixed by snaking or plunging, this is probably a sign that it’s time to replace your pipe line.