When your drain stops flowing, what do you do? So many homeowners head to the store to purchase caustic drain cleaner, a product that is designed to chemically break down tough clogs. These drain cleaners often work, but they do so at the expense of your pipes ― and also your safety.
If caustic drain cleaners remain in the pipe for too long, or if you use them repeatedly, that pipe may develop corrosion, and then it won't be long before you have leaks. Drain cleaner bottles also carry warnings not to get the product on your skin or in your eyes. That's all well and good, but accidents do happen, and you would not be the first one to lose an eye after drain cleaner splashed back at you.
So if you shouldn't use drain cleaner, just what should you do when your drains stop working? Well, there are a few better alternatives to consider.
1. Vinegar and baking soda
You might remember mixing vinegar and baking soda together in science class as a kid. It creates a dense foam. This acidic foam is actually good at loosening clogs. It won't break the clogging material down completely like a caustic drain cleaner, but it will loosen it enough that it's able to rinse down the drain. It's especially good at freeing clogs that are due to soap scum, which are really common in homes with hard water. And if vinegar and baking soda are safe enough for kids to play with in science class, they're safe enough to use in homes with kids and pets.
Pour some baking soda down the drain first, and then follow it up with a good dose of vinegar. The cheap white stuff is fine. Let it sit for about a half an hour before turning on the water to rinse it down.
2. Boiling water
If vinegar and baking soda fail to free a clog, that could be because the clog has a greasy component. In this case, boiling water might do the trick because it will liquefy the fat and allow the clog to rinse down. Just bring water to a boil and pour it down the drain. Be generous; it may take a minute or two for the fat to melt. Follow up the boiling water with more hot water from the tap.
3. A plunger
Plungers are not made just for toilets. There is actually another type of plunger with a head shaped like a plain bowl that you can use to loosen clogs in sink and tub drains. The key is using it properly. You need to have the sink or tub filled with water so the plunger can create suction. You also need to position the plunger head so it fully surrounds the drain. Plunge straight up and down; any angle will break the seal around the drain.
4. Hydro jetting
If the DIY tactics above don't work, then your plumber can use a new and innovative technique called hydrojetting to clear the drains. Basically, this involves shooting water, at a high speed, through the pipes. The water breaks up anything in its path — even tree roots and tough hair clogs that you may not have been able to clear with a plunger or vinegar. Hydro jetting can be a little pricey, but it will leave your pipes remarkably clean, helping to prevent additional clogs from forming in the future.
Caustic drain cleaner is not a smart choice for pipes, but luckily, there are plenty of better ways to free a clog. Rely on your plumber if you run into additional drain trouble.
For more information on drain cleaning methods, contact a plumber.