We’ve all been there, that feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach as you turn on the sink faucet to wash your hands and watch the water level rise…and rise…and rise some more without draining. While it’s important to let the professionals do their job when things are serious, it’s much easier on the budget and your schedule if you can get and keep your sink draining well without calling a plumber in every few months. Here are some tips on how to clean a sink drain, often with homemade cleaner you probably already have on hand. This is beneficial because natural drain cleaners won’t destroy plastic drain pipes, they’re safe with children and pets around, and they don’t leave harmful chemicals or toxins in the air. Of course, anyone is welcome to try commercial-grade drain cleaning agents, just be sure to read the labels and follow the instructions carefully.
First things first, however. Before you go any further in your attempts to unclog the drain, first take off the drain stopper or screen and remove any debris or muck that you can see with a dry paper towel. This will not only help your drain cleaner to work more effectively, but it will also alleviate future blockages.
Baking soda & vinegar drain cleaner – Carefully sprinkle 1/2 cup baking soda down your drain, then chase it down with 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar. Cover or plug the drain to force the drain cleaner to work its way downward through the pipes, with a powerful chemical reaction that is very effective in clearing nearby clogs. (Tip: For shower drains, you can cover with a large bowl weighed down with water.) Let sit for an hour, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. Repeat as often as needed until you’ve achieved a good drain flow; the good thing about this natural drain cleaner is that it won’t damage your pipes, so you can use it as many times as you need.
NOTE: You can also substitute straight lemon juice for the vinegar in this method. This substitution might be helpful in areas where citrus smells might be more appealing than lingering vinegar smells, such as in the kitchen, although lemon juice is more expensive than vinegar. Click here for other natural cleaning ideas.
Salt & borax & vinegar drain cleaner – Measure 1/4 cup table salt and pour it down the dry clogged drain. (Note: Salt helps to prevent the buildup of grease in a drain, and it also aids in odor elimination.) Measure 1/4 cup borax and pour it on top of the salt down the drain. Measure 1/2 cup white vinegar and pour it down the drain on top of the two powders. Pour a kettle of boiling water down the same drain, then let everything sit for an hour. Turn on the water faucet to rinse any residual powder down the drain. Repeat if necessary.
Salt & baking soda drain cleaner – Stir together in a large measuring cup 1/2 cup each of table salt and baking soda. Pour this powder down the dry clogged drain and allow to sit anywhere from 45 minutes to overnight, depending on the severity of the clog. Pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. Repeat if necessary to achieve a good drain flow. This is a particularly useful homemade drain cleaner when the clog in the drain was a result of grease deposits or water particle deposits that built up over time.
Cream of tartar & salt & baking soda drain cleaner – Stir together in a large measuring cup 1/2 cup each of table salt and baking soda, then add 2 tbsp cream of tartar. Stir well to evenly combine all ingredients. Scoop out a heaping 1/2 cup (or about half of the overall) mixture and pour it down the clogged drain. (Tip: Be sure the drain is dry before attempting this, or the powdery mixture will just form a paste that doesn’t penetrate down the drain at all.) Pour a kettle of boiling water down the clogged drain, then let sit for an hour. Turn on the water faucet to rinse any residual powder down the drain. Repeat if necessary.