Natural Ways to Clean Drains

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Keeping your household drains permanently clean can be a challenge. The simple necessities of shampooing and disposing of cooking grease are all it takes to build stubborn drain clogs.
Most commercial drain cleaners contain corrosives like lye or sulfuric acid, which are dangerous to your family and harmful to the environment. Effective natural drain cleaning, however, is as close as your kitchen or laundry cabinet.

Natural Alkaline Drain Cleaners

  • If you have either baking or washing soda in your home, you have an alkali to handle that greasy drain. Alkalies, according to the Mississippi State University Extension Service, can suspend grease particles so they don't redeposit on a surface. Lye used in commercial drain cleaners is an exceptionally strong alkali.

    Use mildly-alkaline baking soda and ordinary table salt to work in a slow drain. Boil 6 cups of water. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of salt into the drain, followed by the boiling water. Allow it to sit overnight while the baking soda and salt dissolve the clog. Flush well with hot water. Repeat as needed.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

  • If your drain is free of commercial drain cleaner, use baking soda and vinegar to remove tougher clogs. The acidic vinegar and alkaline baking soda will foam, so be sure to cover the drain after adding them.

    The EPA recommends a combination of 1 cup baking soda and 1 cup salt poured into the drain followed by 1 cup of white vinegar. Allow the mixture to work for 15 minutes before flushing with boiling water. The vinegar and baking soda separate the grease into glycerin and soap which the water can wash away.

Washing Soda

  • Washing soda, a stronger alkali than baking soda, is useful for drains with standing water. However, it shouldn't be used in drains containing commercial drain cleaner.

    Pour 1/2 cup of washing soda followed by 1/2 cup of boiling water into a clogged drain. Wait for the standing water to drain and flush.

    The Cape Cod Extension Service warns that while washing soda isn't as toxic as commercial drain cleaners, you should wear gloves while handling it. Keep it away from children and pets. Find washing soda near the bleach in the laundry section of your grocery store.

Preventive Measures

  • The University of Nebraska Extension recommends several preventive measures to keep your drains working. Get metal or plastic hair catchers for the sinks or showers where people shampoo their hair. Pour cooking grease into tin cans, refrigerate it until it's solid, seal it in a plastic bag, then put it in the trash.

    Pouring 1/4 cup of table salt down a drain followed by boiling water each week can prevent clogs.

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