Does a Homemade Drain Cleaner Work? A Plumber’s Advice

Clogged drains happen despite our best efforts. But a typical clogged drain doesn’t require a call to the plumber. Drain cleaners will take care of the problem for you in a few minutes.

However, the home cleaning market has taken a new turn towards eco-friendly and even DIY products. They promise to leave behind the chemicals that are toxic for you and also eat away at your pipes with regular use. Plus, promoters of these products say you can create these cleaners from what you already have in your kitchen.

Here’s the question: will a homemade drain cleaner work? Let’s take a look at the options to see what works, what doesn’t, and what should never go down your sink.

3 Homemade Drain Cleaner Recipes that Work

These homemade drain cleaner recipes will help remove clogs and keep your drain clean. In most cases, they do more of the latter.

However, the best way to remove a clog or blockage is to prevent it from starting in the first place with regular cleaning.

Most of these recipes require you to work with boiling water, so remember to wear rubber gloves to avoid getting burned.

1. Cream of Tartar

The first recipe comes from Bob Vila – the ultimate DIY guy.

He recommends combining 1/8 cup cream of tartar, 1/2 cup salt, and 1/2 cup baking soda in a jar. Cover the jar and give it a good shake and then pour half the jar down the drain.

Then, pour two cups of boiling water carefully down the drain. Let it sit for an hour. Then, run the tap for a few minutes to clear up any leftover debris.

2. Detergent and Hot Water

Dish soap and hot water is another winning combination. Both are safe for your drains, and dish soap tends also to be a degreaser, which is excellent for kitchen sinks.

If the clogged area is your toilet and it’s particularly stuck, you can also use the detergent method here in combination with a plunger.

Add a few cups of water to the toilet bowl and let it sit ad some dish detergent to the mix to help break up the clog. Then, plunge as you usually would.

3. Borax, Salt, and Vinegar

Our third combination uses laundry detergent (Borax) (1/4 cup) and salt (1/4 cup and vinegar (1/2 cup). Combine the solution and pour it down the drain. Then, top it up with some boiling water.

Leave it alone for an hour and then rinse with hot water from the tap – no need for boiling.

Skip the Vinegar and Baking Soda (Alone)

Vinegar and baking soda is the elementary homemade drain cleaner. There’s a good chance that if you ask your parents or grandparents, they’d recommend it.

It doesn’t work.

You might remember the vinegar and baking soda experiment from your middle school science lab. The combination created carbon dioxide, which generates pressure inside a closed container.

Some people falsely believe that the pressure will unclog your pipes. But the truth is that it won’t for one important reason: your drain isn’t a sealed container, so the combination can’t build enough pressure to move anything.

Vinegar and baking soda help freshen up your drain, but they won’t remove blockages or anything greasy.

If In Doubt, Use a Plunger

So your homemade drain cleaner didn’t work? It happens. But don’t go buying a chemical product yet.

Plumbers agree that the chemical drain cleaners often do more harm than good. At a minimum, they eat away at your pipes. They can also give off dangerous gases when they react to aluminum or create unsafe pressure when mixed with other household cleaners. If they solidify, you can’t remove them.

Your next step is to use a plunger to remove the clog safely.

If a plunger doesn’t work, then it may be time to call in the professionals. You can use a plumber’s snake yourself, or ask for help. However, if none of the above work and there’s a mess flowing out of your drain, then it’s time to call a plumber.

Additionally, if the blockage seems to be impacting all the drains in your house, then the clog is likely in the main drain. In these cases, you’ll need to call a professional.

Prevent Blockages by Keeping These Items Out of Your Drain

As we noted earlier, the best way to remove a clog is to prevent it in the first place.

That being said, there are things to keep out of your sink to prevent clogs.

Grease is the biggest culprit of regular sink clogs because it sticks to your pipes and builds up. While hot water and soap rinse much of the leftovers from plates or forks, it won’t make up for pouring runoff down your sink.

Hair is another culprit in bathrooms. Long hair, in particular, can form balls, and because wet hair sticks to surfaces, it can clog your pipes in a few weeks. Use a drain cover over your bathroom sinks to protect them.

Finally, keep food out of your sink. If something falls in while your sink is draining or when you’re washing, pick it up and remove it. Even small items can build up and cause clogs. Pasta and rice are particularly important to keep away because they don’t break down and they hold water.

Don’t Buy Chemical Cleaners

There’s a reason why chemical cleaners are on their way out. They’re toxic, and they damage your pipes. The homemade drain cleaner list above should keep your drains clean and remove minor, localized blockages without risking your pipes or your health.

However, you can’t rely on a DIY drain cleaner to do all the heavy lifting. You also need to keep food, grease, and other items out of your drains to prevent blockages from forming in the first place.

Are you struggling to remove a blockage or facing down a plumbing emergency? Click here to book an appointment for either a standard repair or a customer service.

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