Natural Remedies for Cleaning Drains

Natural Remedies for Cleaning Drains. No matter how often you clean your sinks, the bathtub or shower, clogged drains are bound to happen once in a while. Hair, food particles, toothpaste, bits of soap, you name it -- all these things over time contribute to buildup in a drain, and if not maintained, eventually a clog. Many commercial drain cleaners contain harsh chemicals that are toxic and also potentially damaging to some pipe types such as plastic. Natural household items can be used instead of harsh chemicals to clean and clear drains.

Household items can be used to clear drains instead of harsh chemicals

Salt, Baking Soda and Boiling Water

If your drain is merely slow and not completely clogged, pour boiling water from a full kettle down the drain. Wait a few minutes and run tap water to see if the clog has cleared. If not, pour a mixture of half cup salt and half cup baking soda down the drain, followed by another kettle of boiling water. The salt/baking soda mixture produces a chemical reaction which loosens some types of clogs, and the boiling water helps soften materials which can be liquefied, allowing them to flow down the drain.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Pouring one cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by one cup of vinegar, will create a foamy eruption that calls to mind elementary school volcano projects. This foamy volcanic action also cleans away some of the goo clinging to the insides of the pipes. Once it's finished foaming, run hot water down the drain. The vinegar will also help keep the drain smelling fresh as an added bonus.

Plastic Zip Tie Unclogger

Long plastic zip ties can be turned into drain cleaners that work like some of the commercially available plastic drain tools. Cut slits down the sides of a large plastic zip tie, alternating the cuts on either side. The slits will work like hooks as you shove the tie down the drain and pull it back up, catching and bringing up things stuck within the drain. This method works well on hair-based clogs. Try one of the other methods immediately after doing this for even better results.

Keeping Drains Clean

A bit of preventive maintenance will prevent clogs from happening, or at least keep them from happening often. Use a strainer-style drain cover over all drains when using sinks, tubs and showers. Replacement covers are available from hardware stores. Once a month, pour half pound of washing soda down the drain followed by two cups of boiling water. Flush with tap water after a few minutes. This will help flush away any build-up that's starting to occur within the drain and pipes.


  • The Tolman Guide: KPW Tips; Deborah Tolman et al; 2008
  • Wise Bread: 10 Really Easy Ways to Unclog Drains; Paul Michael; March 2011