How to Unclog a Drain without Toxic Chemicals

Don't call a pricey plumber! Anyone with a few tools can unclog a drain -- without even resorting to those strong, toxic chemicals. Most of the time, anyway.

You will need

  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Rubber gloves
  • Cleaning rags or duct tape
  • A rubber plunger
  • A plumber's snake
  • Petroleum jelly
  • A bucket or pan
  • A length of hose

Step 1 Try baking soda If the clog isn’t too bad, try this easy cure. Remove the stopper and pour one-quarter cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by two ounces of vinegar. Let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse with two quarts boiling water.

Step 2 Prep the area If the baking soda and vinegar combo doesn’t work, prepare to plunge the drain by putting on rubber gloves and removing anything from the area, like a basket strainer in a kitchen sink. If the drain has an overflow hole–or two, if it’s a compartment sink–you’ll need to block it with cleaning rags or duct tape.

Step 3 Add water Place the plunger over the clogged drain, and then fill the sink with enough water to nearly cover the plunger cup.

Step 4 Plunge Push the handle down as far as you can, and then pull it back up forcefully. Repeat this pushing-pulling motion until the clog is cleared, or until you’ve tried for five minutes. If another drain reacts to this, the clog is in the main pipe and will need to be dealt with by a plumber.

Step 5 Clean the trap Still clogged? See if the drainpipe has a plug or sink trap that can be removed. If so, put bucket or pan underneath to catch whatever gunk falls out when you open it. Use your snake to clear debris, and close the trap when you’re done.

Step 6 Snake it If the clog persists or there’s no plug or trap, use a plumber’s snake, or auger. Insert the spring part of the snake into the drain as far as it will go. Crank the handle until you feel the spring hit a clog; then break it up by pushing and pulling while cranking. Be careful not to scratch the porcelain or metal as you work.

Step 7 Rinse with hot water Once the pipe is unclogged, run scalding hot water down the drain to help dissolve any remaining goop and carefully clean the surrounding area and any equipment you used. But if you’ve tried everything and the drain is still backing up, it might be time to wave the white flag and, yes, call a plumber.

Step 8 Prevent future clogs When your drain is finally free and clear, prevent future clogs by running the hot water for a few minutes — or flushing it with baking soda and vinegar — on a monthly basis.

Comments