Top DIY methods for unclogging your drain

May 21, 2019

Are you struggling with a frequently clogged drain?

While this can be a really frustrating problem, it’s a common one. Luckily for you, that means there are plenty of solutions for all of your drain clearing needs – ranging from the do-it-yourself (DIY) level to a variety of resources for when you just may need to call in a professional.

Some of the Top DIY Drain Unclogging Methods We Found Include:

  • Boiling Water (Careful!)
  • Baking soda and vinegar
  • Baking soda and lemon juice
  • Baking soda and salt
  • Good old Plunger

Boiling Water

Using boiling water is a bit of a controversial topic when it comes to drain clearing solutions. Below, we’ve boiled the issue down to one key point to watch out for, and that will help you decide whether using boiling water is the right option for you:

What are your pipes made of?
The hardest, most important rule on when to avoid pouring boiling water down the drain is to be aware of what material your pipes are made of.

Many houses which have been around for a while have cast iron plumbing systems, which will mean that their pipes are safe from warping or breaking when exposed to high heat. On the other hand, plumbing systems that have polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes in them are at higher risk of suffering damage if boiling water is poured through, because this is a much more bendy and sensitive material.

Once you have checked what your home’s pipes are made of, it will be an easy process figuring out whether you can safely go on to use boiling water – many plumbing materials will come with a specific temperature limit, and it will just be a matter of checking on them. Now, once you have taken this into account, it may be time to move onto a next step in clearing your clogged drain.

The Wonders of Baking Soda

More than any other, there is one ingredient that DIY plumbing experts will mention as a key part of many homemade drain clearing solutions – and that ingredient is baking soda.

With a combination to suit each level of drain blockage, there is a lengthy list of ingredients that can be combined with baking soda to help you clear your drain. And, one of the most convenient things about a baking soda solution is that the other ingredients in these are all likely to be something you already keep in the house! Below, we have listed some of the possible combinations:

Baking Soda and Vinegar

The classic ingredients for a fizzy reaction, seen in many a childhood science fair, baking soda and vinegar make a powerful combination when used to unblocking a drain. It’s recommended that the baking soda be poured or funneled into the drain first, in a moderate amount to start (and you can feel free to judge this first bit based on the size of the drain and how badly it’s clogged). Then, it’s time to add some vinegar, always paying some attention that it does not fizz up too quickly – if it does, it might splash up or overflow, giving you an extra mess to solve.

Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

If you were thinking of using the baking soda and vinegar option but are working with a sensitive drain area, adding the powder to lemon juice may be a better option for you. This combination will give you the characteristic fizzing reaction you’re looking for – enough to clear some blockage out – but will have a slightly less intense reaction. That will give you some more control over the process, hopefully preventing any unwanted spills and splashes.

Baking Soda and Salt

Lastly, an ingredient you may want to add into your drain-clearing mixture is salt. Possibly the most common household substance in this list, salt can be used either on its own (poured down the drain and then washed through) or as an extra boost for one of the other baking soda mixes – all with or without some vinegar, lemon juice, or even water.

Extra Tip: If what’s blocking up your drain is greasy or oily (which can often happen with kitchen sinks), it may be a good first option to add some of the strongest grease-fighting dish soap you have to your drain clearing solution. This will help wash out some of the slippery surfaces of the blockage and pipes, giving the other ingredients a better chance at doing their job.

Good Old Plunger

Sometimes, a clogged drain requires a bit of extra physical effort for the obstruction to come unstuck – and, in this case, it may be time to reach for a plunger. On one hand, the downside to this is you may have to go out and buy one. But, depending on your situation, this could still be a worthwhile investment if clogged drains happen often for you.

Here are a few tips for choosing and using a plunger for your DIY drain unclogging:

  • The absolute best situation would be to use the specific plunger that fits your clogged drain at that moment. But, when in doubt, a standard plunger – the one with a simple half-dome rubber attachment on a handle – can solve the biggest variety of clogs. These work best on flat-surfaced drain openings like those on sinks or bathtubs, but they will still be pretty useful on openings of other shapes. That makes a standard plunger the best option if you’re either unsure or think you might have to unclog multiple drains.
  • On the other hand, if you know that it’s a toilet you’ll be unclogging, it may be best to get yourself a toilet-specific plunger. This specially-shaped tool – known as a flanged plunger – looks a lot like the standard plunger in the shape of its outer rubber attachment, but it also comes with an additional rubber tube coming out of the center. That longer rubber tube is what gives you a better chance at unclogging a toilet drain: it lets you target your strength into the smaller drain opening, and can handle the toilet’s curved surface when attaching.
  • Be careful if you find that you have to put some hard work in with the plunger after you’ve already tried a chemical-based unclogging option. This can result in splashing or overflowing of what was in your drain just before and depending on what that was made of, it can be a health risk for you as you work on it.

Should I Call a Professional?

As with any DIY project – whether it’s home maintenance, plumbing repairs, or otherwise – one last important goal to keep in mind is to know when to stop doing it yourself. It will be at that point that contacting a pro may be your best, safest bet.

This isn’t to say that you should immediately turn to professional plumber when your drain starts to give you trouble. It can often be rewarding, both for your time and your wallet, to do the job yourself if you can. But, with a particularly tough blockage, it can end up being hard to beat the expertise and specialized equipment of a company dedicated to solving this kind of problem.

So, if you’ve decided you’re in over your head, and your are in the Dallas, Fort Worth area please do not hesitate to contact our professional plumbers for a free quote.

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One comment on “Top DIY methods for unclogging your drain”

  1. It's good that you mentioned how you should consider hiring a professional to handle tough blockages since they have the tools needed to get the job done properly. Ever since my daughter accidentally dropped one of her toys down our drain while we were washing dishes, we have been noticing that water will no longer drain from the sink. Maybe we should consider hiring an expert that can safely take care of our obstructed drain.


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