How to Make Homemade Drain Cleaner

homemade drain cleaner
Dejan Ristovski/Stocksy

Kitchen and bathroom drains can be an endless source of frustration, but many commercial drain cleaners can be downright terrifying: ominous ingredients that can scarcely be pronounced; multi-paragraph warnings about the dangers of ingesting, touching, or even thinking about the toxic liquid inside; and even a skull-and-crossbones stamp serves as a reminder of how questionable it is to use these items in the first place.

Now, the good news: Natural alternatives are available. In fact, anyone can whip up a simple, all-natural drain cleaner that gets the job done as effectively as those toxic commercial solutions. Simple ingredients like table salt and baking soda can eliminate the need for caustic substances like sodium hypochlorite. Mix up the following solution at home, and clear out those drains without sacrificing peace of mind.

Gather Up the Ingredients

This job will require 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup salt, and 2 tablespoons cream of tartar. Make sure these ingredients are available before getting to work. A durable pair of rubber gloves is also recommended, as the job will involve boiling water.

Mix the Drain Cleaner

Mix the baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar in a bowl or jar. This mixture comes courtesy of home-improvement expert Bob Vila, and it’s effective for combining the clog-fighting power of salt and baking soda with the metal-cleaning properties of potassium bitartrate, lent by the cream of tartar. Mix the solution as thoroughly as possible.

Unclog That Stubborn Drain

Boil two cups of water. As soon as the water boils, pour half of the mixture directly into the drain, and follow it immediately with the boiling water. It’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves while pouring the water.

Test the Results

Wait an hour, and then run the faucet to flush away any remaining drain cleaner and to determine if the effort was a success. If the drain is clear, save the remaining drain cleaner for a future unclogging effort. If the drain is still fully or partially clogged, repeat this process using the remaining mixture.

Break Out the Heavy Artillery

If the above method doesn’t suffice, there are some other drain-cleaning techniques that may work. For instance, if a wet/dry vacuum is available, set it to “liquids” and close the vent on the vacuum. Then attach an appropriate vacuum attachment, and use it to establish a tight seal with the drain. Turn the vacuum to its highest setting, and see if it’s possible to release whatever is clogging the pipe.

If a wet/dry vac is unavailable, a simple wire hanger may be able to do the trick. Take an old hanger, and straighten it out, leaving just a small hook at the end. Guide the hanger into the drain as far as it will go, and fish out any debris that will come loose. This may help to weaken some of the more difficult clogs.

Keep the Drain Clear

Once the drain is unclogged, the next step is ongoing maintenance. In order to prevent repeat occurrences, take some time to periodically flush each drain using water and white vinegar. For details, learn our tips on cleaning with vinegar.

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