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Non-Toxic Drain Cleaning

August 8th, 2012

Back when I first started the non-toxic cleaning series, someone requested a drain cleaning post. A great topic since drain cleaners are among the most toxic of household chemicals, you definitely DO NOT want to keep them around. Not only are they very dangerous and caustic, they’re not good for your plumbing. The people we purchased this house from used drain cleaner instead of cleaning out the drains and it actually ate through the metal in the shower drain and caused leaks in the pipes.

Most of the time drain clogs are caused by hair and soap scum buildup. It’s easy enough to clean them out by removing the stopper and using a wire hook to pull out hair. Not a pleasant job to be sure, but not as yucky as all those caustic chemicals. We use a piece of a wire coat hanger that we cut and bent into a hook. It resides in our bathroom cabinet for drain cleaning.

If drains are still running slowly follow this process:

  1. clean hair and other debris from drain
  2. pour a stock pot full of very hot water down drain
  3. let sit a few minutes
  4. put a half cup of baking soda down drain
  5. pour a cup of apple cider vinegar down drain
  6. after a half hour, put another stock pot of hot water down drain
  7. check drain to see if there is any visible debris
  8. if you see debris, remove it
  9. check drain flow, if still slow, repeat steps 1-8

Following these steps will clear most drain clogs. I’ve had great luck using this system, it works great. Mr Chiots has been very impressed with how great it works!

If you have a problem with clogged drains, consider adding a product that contains beneficial bacteria regularly. Just like regular consumption of yogurt and probiotics helps our digestive system, the same can help with your drains. Here at Chiot’s Run I use FLOW from Gardens Alive once a month in our drains. It keeps the them flowing freely and thus we no longer have issues with clogged drains. Once our kitchen sink was horribly backed up with a clog was somewhere in the long run of pipe between the sink and the big sewer line in the house. We tried everything, including a pipe snake to no avail. At our wits end, we tried this stuff and it worked.  Ever since then we’ve been using it as drain maintenance.

To keep your drains clean and running smoothly, clean hair, soap and other things out of the drains regularly to keep them flowing well. Pouring hot water down the drain every so often to keep things running smoothly and will help you avoid future clogs.  You can also use the process above every few months to keep drains clean.  If you do experience a backed up drain, don’t reach for the drain cleaner.  Try the baking soda/vinegar method above.

Do you ever get clogged drains? Any tips/tricks for non-toxic ways to clear them out?

Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaning
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
Homemade Whitening Scrub
more to come…

12 Comments to “Non-Toxic Drain Cleaning”
  1. Annie on August 8, 2012 at 9:42 am

    I use the same baking soda/ vinegar method and it does work great! Most people are kinda skeptical at first but it has always worked for me.

    Reply to Annie's comment

  2. whit on August 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Thanks for the tip on Flow! product. I’ve been wondering about something like this for houses on septic. The old owners didn’t clean out their drains before me moved in (eeew to the infinitive power!) and we are dealing with unpleasent bathroom sink gunk. One thing i’ll make certain we do before putting our old house on the market. Going to order some of this and give it a try.

    Your peroxide grout cleaner is coming in handy here too. Thanks so much for this series!

    Reply to whit's comment

  3. KimH on August 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

    I use baking soda & vinegar in my kitchen sink as well, but occasionally it doesnt really do a super great job and Im tempted to buy some Drano.. M’honey would kill me!! ;)
    I think I’ll have to try the Flow you recommended, thanks for the recommendation.

    Reply to KimH's comment

    • Susy on August 8, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      A big pan of hot water once a week will help a lot too!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  4. Justin on August 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    I recently heard about and tried the hot water trick (though not the baking sode and vinegar trick) on both my kitchen sink and bathroom tub…the two that clog-up the most frequently. It worked pretty well. We have a septic system and that, as you know, is more or less a wet compost system. If you dump chemicals down there often enough, it’ll most likely stop composting.

    Here are a few other ideas, some more expensive than others:

    – Switch to more natural body care products or use as little product as you can. I can’t believe what a difference it made in our tub drainage when I stopped using hair and soap products with so much moisturizer in them. I think the moisturizers create a lot more “scum” and plump-up the hair in the system much quicker so that it clogs easier.
    – Update your system or pieces of it. Older homes (ours was built in the 1950’s) used a lot of cast iron pipe that gets rough and rusty inside over time. The rough interiors catch things like hair easier. If you have a section of pipe or a fitting that clogs often, replace that section and it’ll probably improve a lot. Also, most older systems aren’t vented properly, which affects how effectively the water flows.
    – Add cleanouts – Many systems don’t have enough (or any) cleanout plugs in an unfinished basement where you can get into the pipes to remove clogs and it’s way more difficult to go in through the fixture due to the J-trap. It’s fairly inexpenisve and an easy DIY project to insert Y-shaped cleanout connectors to make cleaning easier. If all your pipes are in the walls, they do make inexpensive plastic panels that can be used as access doors.
    – Own a “hand-crank” rooter. This is essentially a metal snake with a hand-crank plastic mechanism on the end. Works more or less like the big electric rooter the plumber brings in but it doesn’t cost you $100 per visit. I have one and it’s gotten out more clogs than I can think of.

    Reply to Justin's comment

    • Susy on August 9, 2012 at 7:38 am

      Those hand crank rooters are great. We have one.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  5. Erika on August 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I too have used the baking soda, vinegar, hot water treatment with good success. A tip I tried the last time I cleaned the shower drain was to close up the drain after pouring in the vinegar. This “forces” the fun bubbling action down the drain. My other indispensable drain cleaning tool is a plunger. Sometimes that disgusting plug of hair is just out of reach. The plunger either breaks it up allowing the plug to go down the drain, or pulls the clump of hair up to where I can snag it.
    Thanks for posting about cleaning your tub with vinegar/baking soda. We are also moving to a larger acreage and are getting the old house ready for sale. We had a horrible scum/scale/rust/you name it thick stain that I just could not remove. Three rounds of baking soda/vinegar and it is gone! The tub has never looked better, thanks!

    Reply to Erika's comment

    • Susy on August 9, 2012 at 7:38 am

      Great, so glad the baking soda/vinegar worked for your shower. It’s amazing how that is sometimes!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Greg on August 13, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    IT WORKED! :) (It did take a little “coaxing” with the plunger, too, but everything came loose much easier than it has in the past.)

    Thanks for the suggestion! (And I’m rather enjoying my victory over my plumbing problems right now!)

    Reply to Greg's comment

    • Greg on August 14, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      I was going to comment here that I told the tale of my drain battles on my blog, but you already saw it. :) Thanks for the good ideas. Gonna check out that FLOW product, too. Our drains definitely need help!!

      Reply to Greg's comment

  7. HenryMills on August 28, 2012 at 5:52 am

    A simple and easy way of drain cleaning….Thanks for the information…i will try it in future….

    Reply to HenryMills's comment

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    Reply to carlos vela's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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