Did you grow up with a bottle of chemical drain cleaner kept under every sink? Your mother or father would pour that drain cleaner down the drain each time it clogged, solving the problem. Chemical drain cleaners do work, but in recent years, there has been a push from plumbers (and health officials) to move away from them. This is because, over time, they can cause damage to the pipes. They can also cause serious burns and eye injuries if they happen to splash back at you.
Because chemical drain cleaners present so many hazards, it's best to avoid them as much as possible. But that does not mean you have to live your life with clogged, slow drains. Here are five tips to keep your drains clean and loosen any grime without relying on chemicals.
Use drain traps.
The easiest way to prevent clogs is to keep items that cause clogs from going down the drain. Hair and lint are big culprits. Put a trap in each drain to catch these items and empty the trap regularly. Do not forget the drain on your laundry sink because a lot of lint goes down there.
Stick with liquid soaps.
There is something charming about bar soap. It's traditional, and it's inexpensive. However, it also causes a lot of soap scum to form, especially if you have hard water (and many people do). Liquid soaps, such as liquid hand soap and body wash, are made through a different process and do not cause so much soap scum. Your drains will have less sticky residue inside of them and be less prone to clogs.
Pour boiling water down the drain.
Every week or so, pour a pot of boiling water down each of your drains. If there is any fat lining the drain and beginning to form a clog, the boiling water will help melt it and flush it away before it becomes a major issue. It will do the same thing for soap scum. You can add a little baking soda to the water before boiling it for an extra boost. (In fact, this is a really good idea if your drains are smelly since the baking soda will help neutralize the odors.)
Learn how to plunge.
Many people who claim they could not loosen a clog with a plunger were simply not plunging the right way. First, you need to make sure you have the right kind of plunger for the job. The type shaped like a plain bowl is for sinks and tubs. The type with an extra flare is for toilets, only. Make sure the sink or vessel contains enough water to immerse the plunger head and make sure the head forms a tight seal around the drain before you start plunging. Follow these tips and you'll be able to remove most clogs with a plunger.
If you have a tough clog that won't respond to plunging or boiling water, try white vinegar. Pour a bottle, undiluted, into the drain. It's acidic enough to break down most soap scum, but not so strong that it will damage the pipes. Let it sit for a couple of hours before rinsing it away. (This is key. Many people rinse it away far too soon and then claim it does not work.)
Just because chemical drain cleaners are regularly sold on store shelves does not mean it's smart to use them. Follow the tips above to get clean drains safely. If you cannot free a stubborn clog yourself, make a call to your local plumber for service.
For more information on drain cleaning, contact a plumber.