I have been writing in general about using homemade cleaning products for more than two years. I haven’t yet mentioned anything specific. Now seems as good a time as any to correct that omission and write about drain cleaning.
Nowadays store shelves are full of cleaning products dedicated to a single purpose: washing windows, mopping floors, scrubbing toilets, cleaning drains, etc. They work quite well, but they have four major problems:
- They are expensive.
- They take up a lot of room.
- Many are made largely of petrochemicals, which feed our dependence on foreign oil.
- With or without petrochemicals, many depend on caustic and toxic ingredients. They are not healthy either for members of the household or the public water supply.
My first recipe for drain cleaning
After I swore off caustic drain cleaners, my bathroom sink started running slowly. I went online and found this recipe for making it drain quickly again:
- Pour a pot of boiling water down the drain.
- Add 1/2 cup of soda.
- Follow that with a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of very hot water.
- Close the drain and wait 5-10 minutes.
- Flush the drain with boiling water
It worked okay, but I wasn’t happy with it. To begin with, I don’t much like carrying boiling water from the kitchen to the bathroom.
The drains in my bathroom sinks are designed so the plug can’t be removed. How is anyone supposed to get 1/2 a cup of soda through the tiny opening between the plug and the drain? By that time I finish the entire amount, quite a bit remains in the sink. If the boiling water is supposed to keep the pipe hot, it takes too long.
Vinegar makes the soda sizzle. That chemical reaction is what cleans the drain. Unless, of course, it’s happening between the vinegar and the soda that’s still in the sink.
That recipe didn’t specify washing soda, either. Baking soda works just fine, but it’s needlessly expensive. Stores keep washing soda in the laundry aisle. That’s a good, logical place, but there isn’t a whole lot of demand for it.
That means there is not a lot of brand competition. I failed to notice it entirely until I came across a reference to it online.
As long as I’m drawing fine distinctions, I might as well mention that wine vinegar and cider vinegar are foods. Distilled white vinegar tastes terrible in everything. It’s also available in really large jugs. Use that. It’s not good for much of anything else, and cheaper than better-tasting vinegars.
My second recipe for drain cleaning
The box of washing soda has a very simple recipe for traps and drains: dissolve a half cup of it in half a gallon of warm water. Pour it down the drain. Flush with hot water. Then it says, in capital letters, not to use it for blocked drains.
Remember the vinegar and soda sizzle? Here’s how to boost the instructions on the box: chase the soda solution with half a cup of vinegar. Wait for the sizzling sound to die down before flushing with hot water.
I haven’t had a blocked drain in a long time. I don’t know if the vinegar trick would unblock a drain, but I can’t think of any reason why not. The first recipe is supposed to unblock a drain.
Remember the slogan, “Once in every week, Draino™ in every drain”? It kept drains from becoming blocked, I’m sure. It also sold more Draino, added more of whatever nasty chemical made it work to the home’s indoor air, and then poured more of it into the water supply.
The suggestion on the box of washing soda is probably very good for a once a week habit for anyone that dedicated to housecleaning. Me? I’ll just wait until a drain slows down and use some vinegar.
Meanwhile, I can use vinegar and soda for a lot more than drain cleaning. They’ll replace plenty of other single-use cleaners. That saves considerable storage space, not to mention money.
And homemade cleaning products work just as well as the specialized ones with less environmental harm. What’s not to love?
Do you have a homemade drain cleaner recipe you like better than these? Share it!