Paul's Plumbing Tips

Easy DIY drain unclogging mixtures

If you have a clogged drain and are feeling up to do a little bit of basic chemistry, you can easily solve the problem with some homemade mixes that'll tide you over until you can call a plumber. All these mixes use household items commonly found in any home.

1. Plain boiling water & a bent wire hanger

Boil water and pour it slowly down the drain, a bit at a time, allowing it to work for several seconds before pouring again. Boiling water will clear out part of the gunk stuck in your pipe and loosen things up for you to get out with the wire hanger. After you're done pouring all the water, grab a metal wire and bend it at the end in a hook shape. Slowly insert it down your drain and start "fishing". If you encounter resistance, try to go a bit sideways, not down, otherwise you'll push things down further instead of taking them out. After you've fished out the most you could, pour another batch of boiling water down the drain.

If you don't have a wire though...

2. Boiling water & dish detergent...and strong biceps Pour 1/4 cup of dish detergent slowly down the drain to loosen up the grease and gunk inside, then pour boiling water slowly after it. Wait a couple of minutes, then take a plunger and start working to get everything unstuck.

3. Baking soda & vinegar You can take two approaches to this method: mix 1/3rd cup baking soda with 1/3rd cup of vinegar and pour it down the drain as soon as it starts fizzing OR if your drain has bigger holes you can first pour 1 cup of baking soda in it, followed immediately by as much vinegar as necessary until it all dissolves. The first method is less wasteful, but the second method is more effective against monster clogs.

Here the secret is the fizzing effect produced by mixing the vinegar and baking soda, which loosens up gunk, hair and grime and dissolves it partially. Follow this mix with some water to get everything moving down the pipes properly.

If you want to go nuclear on your problem drain, put the plug in the drain after you're done with the baking soda and vinegar mix, and let the sink/tub fill in completely. Then, remove the stopper, and let the pressure of gallons of water push everything down the drain for you. Why tire yourself with a plunger when gravity can do all the work for you?

In any case, all of these are temporary methods. If your drain clogs frequently, you should call a plumber. Until then...good luck unclogging!