Written by Grove Collaborative

Clean team: How to clean a clogged drain.

Last Updated: February 8, 2021

A clogged drain can be a pain to fix. We’re revealing some of our best tips for unclogging those pesky drains!

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Ready to tackle the dirtiest spots in your home? Grove Collaborative has you covered with Clean Team. Each week, we’ll do a deep dive into how to clean a different place or item in your home. No spot is too small — and we’ll tell you how to conquer them all, naturally.

Drain clogs — is there anything more fun to deal with in life? They’re equal parts icky and can be a pain to get rid of, especially if you have an aversion to touching gross things. Our assessment also states that rubber gloves are your friend. Keep reading for some of our best tips for unclogging those pesky drains.




Why do drains get clogged?

Clogged drains are a very common problem, whether it's your kitchen sink or your bathroom drains. Drains can get clogged for many reasons, all depending on the location of the drain, the plumbing design, and the quality of the water used.


You may think that the only solution is to call a plumber, but that’s not always true. Depending on the extent of the clogging, there may be a few things you can try before shouting for professional help.


Cause of clogs in bathroom drains

Sinks and drains in the bathroom become clogged mainly due to soap residue or soap scum, hair — especially long hair — plus dirt, skin flakes, dead skin, and other gunk. Soap scum may sometimes bind with the hair, turning it into a gnarly drain clog that makes it difficult for water to pass through.

Cause of clogs in kitchen drains

The most common cause of clogging in kitchen drains is grease and oil residue. It can harden and stick to the drain hole and pipes, especially if the greasy dishes are being washed with cold water. Another cause may be food morsels and waste.

General causes of drain clogs

Regardless of the location of your drain, there are some other things that contribute to clogging in your pipes via your toilet, including wipes, too much toilet paper, cotton swabs, and feminine products. Tampons are a big no-no, because they can quickly grow triple in size after absorbing liquid.


Offset pipes are also a leading cause behind blockages, and hard water that is mineral rich could also create a build-up of minerals inside your drain pipes and cause — you guessed it — clogging.

What’s the best homemade drain cleaner formula?

Before using a harsh chemical cleaner, we suggest you try using this excellent homemade liquid drain cleaner. It is ideal for a mildly clogged drain and can help to maintain clean drains if used regularly.


You will need:


How to do it:

Step 1: Mix baking soda and table salt 2:1 and sprinkle it inside the drain.

Step 2: Measure out and warm up a cup of distilled white vinegar and slowly pour it down the drain. You may hear a fizzing sound, which is completely normal. Let the foaming bubbles sit for 15-20 minutes.

Step 3: Flush the drain with hot water for half a minute to clear out the baking soda and vinegar along with any clogs.

Which products can I safely pour down my drain?

Other methods for cleaning household drains

There are many options you can use when it comes to cleaning your clogged shower drain or kitchen sink. Below are the ones we feel will be most effective.

Method 1: Boiled water

In our opinion this is the easiest tactic by far. Boiled water is ideal for clearing out grease and oil deposits in kitchen drains. After boiling water slowly pour it down the drain and leave it be for an hour or two. It will soften the grease clog and slide it down, effectively removing the blockage causing the slow drain.

Method 2: Baking soda and vinegar

This method is explained in detail above, in our homemade drain cleaner section. This concoction is inexpensive and safe to use, and poses only a minor risk to pipes, sinks, and surrounding areas.

Method 3: Chemical cleaners

For complete blockages, you may have to resort to a chemical cleaner. Follow the directions on the package, use the products carefully, and wear goggles and gloves to avoid burning yourself by accident. Chemical cleaners can cause damage to drainage pipes too, which is why we recommend using them only when absolutely necessary.

Method 4: Tools like plungers and hooks

Last but not the least, many, if not most clogs may require a bit of manual labour. If the clogging is mainly due to hair, you might be able take it out with your hands if you can reach it, or opt for a hook tool. Plungers work great at clearing out less severe blockages you might not be able to reach. Assess the type of clogging before choosing the appropriate tool.

Which kind of products do plumbers use to unclog drains?

Plumbers are trained to use a variety of products to clear out blockages and clogging. The use of these products depends on the situation, like the type and severity of the clogging, the pipes themselves, and the item that needs to be unclogged, e.g. a sink, a toilet, or a shower drain. Most of the time, pros opt for tools first and only use chemicals if needed. Common tools used by plumbers include:

Plungers

Plungers are the most commonly used tool of any professional plumber. It's affordable, easy to wield, and poses a minimal risk of damaging ceramic or porcelain surfaces. They are effective in clearing out clogs in sinks, toilets, and tubs.

Augers

Often called a drain snake, augers are made of tightly coiled cables that clear out blockages. They come with convenient handles that make it easy to move it around and are available in both manual and automated versions.

Sewer tape

Sewer tapes are a simple and convenient tool, designed with a hook on one end. It is used to remove clogs from inside the drain with the help of the hook.


If these tools don’t fix the problem, the next step is to use chemical cleaners. Common ones include:

Alkaline drain cleaners

These cleaners contain potassium hydroxide and sodium hydroxide as their main ingredients. Potassium hydroxide transforms grease and soap scum into soft soap for easy drain cleaning. Sodium hydroxide, also called lye, is the most corrosive base and can dissolve most proteins, including hair.

Acidic drain cleaners

Acidic cleaners are most commonly formulated with sulfuric acid which is a very destructive acid. They may also contain thioglycolic acid to dissolve hair. These cleaners need to be used with extreme caution as they may cause burns to the skin and eyes and should only be used as a last resort.

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Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to take on germs, shop Grove Collaborative's cleaning essentials for the cleaning tools to tackle the job.

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