3 - 2009

Clear a slow drain naturally

When a drain stops draining like it’s supposed to, the un-natural among us haul out the Drano.  But there IS a better, cheaper and more natural way to get the lead (or lead-like sludge) out of a drain.

Products like Drano are bad for the environment on several counts. For one, Drano’s ingredients pose serious health hazards if humans or other living things come in contact with them. Its ingredients work by heating up lye in a chemical reaction and swirling shards of aluminum in the drain to cut through hair and other clog agents. If the compound doesn’t wash all the way out of pipes, it can be harmful to plumbers working on pipes later, or to people who are splashed by water coming up out of a Drano-containing drain.

There is a better way

Fortunately, a quick and easy way exists to clean out drains — and it’s completely gentle and nontoxic to humans.

It does require a little elbow grease, a little grossness (but honestly … worse than Drano?), and it works best BEFORE the drain is completely clogged. Do this procedure once every week or two, or whenever you notice a drain getting slow, and you’ll be good to go.

1. Remove the drain cover, if you can. For most sinks, you can just pull it out.

2. Remove all the sludge, slime, hair, etc. that you can. This is the nasty part! Use a rag or even a paper towel (it’s OK, you can compost it).

3. Look into the drain. Do you see clogs of hair in there? You can purchase a flexible plastic drain-cleaning tool (like an extra-long plastic stick). Or use something homemade, like an actual stick (be careful! don’t let it break off in the drain!) or a coat hanger. If you use a hanger, put a tight crimp in the end to catch the nasty, nasty goo, and also so that the wire doesn’t punch through PVC or flexible pipe — or even worn-out metal pipes.

4. Sprinkle a good 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain.

5. Remember your fourth-grade science-project “volcano”? Time to relive your childhood! Follow up with about 1 cup of white vinegar. Pour it right in there. Let it sizzle, sizzle, sizzle away.

6. Meanwhile, start heating up 1/2 to 1 gallon of water to a boil. (I use my electric kettle to save some energy.)

7. Check on the “volcano.” If the drain is really gummed up, the liquid might be just sitting there. Pull out your trusty stick again and gently swizzle it around, up and down in the drain to get the liquid circulating.

8. Pour the boiling water down the drain. Use the stick, if necessary, to keep things moving. Odds are good that you’ll be left with some nasty bits scattered around the sink — old toothpaste and more, being devoured by gummy bacteria or other scientific creatures.

9. If the drain was really foul, or is still a bit slow, repeat the above steps.

10. Pour an extra half-gallon or so of boiling water down. By now the drain should be running smoothly!

Clean the sink (but of course!) and you are on your way — ready for your sink to swirl away your water for another few weeks or months, all naturally.

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