Chemical drain cleaners are bad news. They’re loaded with caustic chemicals that will help dissolve clogs, but they won’t stop there. These solutions will continue to burn through the pipe material, leading to leaks.
Fortunately, there are a number of natural alternatives that are just as effective -- if not more so -- and they won’t damage your plumbing in the process.
Follow these tips to get your drains flowing again safely and naturally.
Biological Enzyme Cleaner
An enzyme-based cleaning solution is a safe, natural alternative to chemical drain cleaners. Enzyme drain cleaners contain bacteria culture that feeds on the organic build-up in your plumbing system. As the bacteria reproduce, they spread throughout your plumbing system to down food waste, mold, and mildew deeper down your drain. While enzyme cleaners can’t get rid of all clogs, they can chew through many obstructions, including hair clumps. These products are also smart to use as a preventative measure, helping maintain smooth flowing pipes. Unlike chemical cleaners, enzyme solutions will not erode your plumbing, and they’re safe in septic systems.
It’s called a plumber’s snake, but you don’t need to be a plumber to use one. This tool, also known as a drum auger, features a long cable that uncoils -- like a snake -- to reach deep down the drain. The cable is flexible enough to wind its way through bends in the pipe, such as the P-trap. The P-trap is a U-shaped section of the pipe that traps water, preventing sewer gas from leaking into the home. The blockage is likely in the trap, making the plumber’s snake the best tool to work it out.
Here’s how to use it:
- Remove the drain strainer or, if it’s a bathtub, the overflow cap
- Turn the handle on the drum to twist the cable down the drain
- When you feel it come up against an obstruction, gently work the head of the cable up and down so that it can catch
- Wind up the cable and brace yourself for something gross dangling from the end, likely a clump of hair
A Wire Coat Hanger
Call it the poor man’s plumber’s snake. A wire coat hanger can occasionally do the job if the clog isn’t too deep down the drain.
- Straighten the hanger, but leave the hook
- Guide it down the drain and fish around for any obstructions
- Keep a wastebasket nearby to discard your findings
- Flush the drain with hot water
A plunger seems obvious, right? But not just any plunger will do. Be sure to use the right one for the job.
Cup plunger: This features a flat, rubber cup (usually red). It’s designed for flat surfaces, such as a bathtub or sink.
Flange plunger: The cup includes a soft rubber sleeve that folds out from the inside to create a seal over the curved toilet drain.
Accordion plunger: This is the big gun for the most stubborn clogs. An accordion plunger is made of hard plastic, so it’s not as user-friendly. It takes some muscle to move up and down, but it generates tremendous force to bust up a blockage.
No matter which plunger you use, make sure it’s submerged in at least an inch of water to create a strong seal.
Hot Water Solutions
There are several solutions that combine hot water and at least one other ingredient that you can experiment with to dislodge a clog.
Dish soap and hot water: Bring about a gallon of water to a boil and add two to three tablespoons of liquid dish soap. Pour slowly down the drain and repeat as needed.
Hot water and salt: Salt is naturally abrasive and can work well to purge pipes of gunky. Also, salt absorbs odors to leave your drains smelling fresh. Boil about a gallon of water, about a cup of salt, and pour the mixture slowly into the drain.
Hot water, salt, vinegar, and Borax: This recipe calls for ¼ cup of salt, ¼ of Borax, and ½ cup of vinegar. Combine and pour into a drain. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and flush with boiling water.
Bottom line: We hope these tips help, but if you’re still dealing with slow, gurgling drains, turn to the pros at Gillece Services. Our methods effectively crush clogs and clean drains to get your plumbing flowing again. Call (412) 831-6199 to schedule your appointment.