Top-down view of a clean stainless steel sink with a bowl of produce on the countertop on the left and a house plant on the right.

Clogged Drain Hacks: 11+ Easy DIY Fixes for Clearing Drains

Dealing with a clogged drain throws a wrench into the gears of any bustling household, disrupting the daily flow of activities. We’ve all been there, and I understand the urgency to get things back on track. Thankfully, there are several DIY methods to tackle this issue head-on, sparing you the expense and time of enlisting professional help.

Every time I manage to fix a problem like this on my own, it feels like a small victory for my schedule and my wallet.

  • Below, we’ll cover 11+ easy drain-cleaning hacks you can use to tackle stubborn blockages.
  • Understanding these techniques will equip you to solve the problem quickly and prevent future clogs from occurring.
  • Most importantly, the methods discussed here will help you clear the obstruction without the need for harsh chemicals.

With a little patience and the right approach, you’ll have your drains cleared in no time.

All About Clogs

Understanding why clogs happen and the impact they have on your plumbing system is key to maintaining a functional and efficient home. Let’s explore the common causes, types, and effects of clogged drains.

Causes of Clogs

Clogs in drains can originate from various materials such as hair, soap scum, and food particles.

  • In bathroom sinks and shower drains, the mix of hair and soap is the usual culprit.
  • Your kitchen sink drain and garbage disposal often get clogged with food particles and organic matter.

If not handled properly, organic material will likely lead to a blocked drain down the road.

Types of Clogged Drains

There are several types of clogged drains, each with its unique set of challenges:

  • Bathroom Sinks: Typically caused by a buildup of soap scum and hair.
  • Shower Drains: Hair and products used in the bath are the main contributing factors.
  • Kitchen Sink Drain: Grease, food particles, and sometimes small utensils can lead to a blockage. Never pour oil down the sink!
  • Garbage Disposal: Improper usage can result in jams and clogs from various foodstuffs.

How Clogs Affect Your Plumbing

When your plumbing system experiences a clog, it can lead to slow drainage, backups, and, in severe cases, a complete halt in functionality. The accumulated matter within your drain pipes can also cause unpleasant odors.

Over time, the chemical reactions from decomposing organic material can corrode pipes, leading to costly repairs or replacements for your plumbing system.

It is essential to address clogs promptly to prevent long-term damage to your bathroom drains and kitchen fixtures.

11 DIY Cleaning Hacks for Clogged Drains

1.) Hot water and Dish Soap

This is a great solution for minor to moderate kitchen clogs that cause slow draining.

  • First, run hot water down the sink to warm up the clog. I find this step is especially helpful for kitchen clogs, where grease is usually the culprit. The hot water beforehand will allow the concentrated water and soap mixture to permeate it more efficiently.
  • Pouring a hot 1:8 mixture of liquid dish detergent and water down the sink. Dawn or DIY dish soap would work fine for this hack. The most important thing is to use something that cuts grease.
  • Allow the mixture to soak for at least 15-30 minutes, depending on the severity of the clog.
  • Lastly, put the stop in your sink and fill it halfway, then allow it to drain completely.

Extra Tip: Never pour boiling water down your drains. Doing this may damage seals in the sink, crack sink materials like porcelain, and may even melt or crack PVC piping.

In my own experience, I’ll sometimes do this periodically as a preventative measure every few weeks and it keeps my drains running very well.

2.) Baking Soda and Vinegar Mix

We’ve probably all at least heard about this hack at some time or another and may have even tried it. However, in most cases, these two common household items aren’t used correctly for clearing drains.

Vinegar is an acid, and baking soda is a base. Adding both of them at the same time will cause them to neutralize each other and reduce their ability to clear the drain. Granted, the foaming chemical reaction can dislodge clogged material, but there’s a much more effective way to use these items for powerful drain cleaning.

  • First, pour one cup of vinegar down your drain (white vinegar works fine). If it’s a tough clog, just allow the overflow to sit in the sink and let it drain slowly.
  • Wait a minimum of 15 minutes, or upwards of 30 minutes, for a tough clog. If you can wait 30 minutes, we recommend giving the vinegar (acid) that long to eat away at the clogged material.
  • Once all vinegar has drained, pour 1/4 cup of baking soda down the drain, immediately followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar. The liquid measurements don’t need to be exact.
  • Immediately plug the drain with a rag or with a sink stop. Allow this mixture to sit for 10-15 minutes.
  • Fill the sink halfway with hot water, then allow it to drain.

This solution has always worked really well for us, even for stubborn clogs. But again, oftentimes, individuals skip the most important step of allowing the acidic vinegar to dissolve the clog before using the reaction with baking soda to expand and clear the clog.

If this hack didn’t work for you on clogs in the past, definitely try it again with the minor tweaks we mentioned above. You also refer to the above instructions for hacks #6, #9, and #11 below.

3.) Wire Hanger Hook

Straighten a wire hanger and bend the end to allow for a small hook, much smaller than the size of your drain pipe.

Use the hook to fish out any hair or debris that might be causing the clog. Be gentle and use a twisting motion to dislodge clogged material.

Instead of a hanger, you could, of course, use a drain snake to clear the clog. The hanger method is a quick hack if you don’t have one available.

This hack is very useful for shower drains where hair and soap are the main culprits.

4.) Wet & Dry Vacuum

If you have a wet and dry vacuum, you can use it to unclog drains fairly easily. Simply perform the following steps.

  • Set the vacuum to the wet setting. Depending on your vacuum brand, this may also involve using a wet filter instead of a dry filter.
  • Using the exhaust setting or vacuum hose connection, tightly place the hose over your drain, then turn on the vacuum.
  • Listen to the sound of the vacuum. At first, it may be high-pitched, then quieter. If that happens, the clogged material has been pushed out of the piping.
  • Run hot water down the drain for a few minutes, ensuring that any additional clogged residue is washed completely through your plumbing system. For this step, we usually like to fill the sink or tub, when possible, add some dish soap, and allow it to drain completely.

Using the suction setting for this hack is also possible, but we advise against it. We rather push the gunk down the drain rather than vacuum it and have to clean it out of the vacuum.

5.) Salt and Baking Soda

Mix a half cup of table salt with half a cup of baking soda and pour down the blocked drain. Leave it for 10-20 minutes, then follow up with hot water.

We find this hac usually works on minor clogs. That said, we prefer the baking soda and vinegar method overall.

6.) Coca-Cola and Baking Soda

We would use this hack more often if we ever bought soda in our household! Essentially, the pH of Coca-Cola is about 2.3, meaning it’s very acidic, even more acidic than vinegar.

With that in mind, follow the same exact steps we gave you in the #2 hack above, but just swap in the Coca Cola instead of the vinegar. The aciden nature of the Coke will eat through clogged material. Then, the reaction with baking soda in the later steps will efficiently clear the remaining material.

7.) Clean the P-Trap

Place a bucket beneath your sink’s P-Trap before unscrewing and emptying the contents. Most of the time, the P-Trap is exactly where clogs occur.

If you don’t mind getting into handy mode, this method is pretty much guaranteed to clear any clog, but it is a bit messy compared to the other options.

8.) Washing Soda

If you have washing soda, pour one cup of it down the drain and allow it to sit in the drain for approximately 5 minutes. Then, fill your sink with hot water and allow the water to completely drain.

Continue running hot water for 2-3 minutes to ensure all clogged remnants are washed through the plumbing system.

9.) Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

For a fresher scent, use baking soda and lemon juice. The lemon juice works similarly to vinegar but leaves a citrus smell.

Again, you’ll want to follow the same instructions in the #2 hack above. We much prefer using vinegar instead of this method to avoid wasting our lemons. That said, you can add 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the vinegar you’re using for a more pleasant scent.

So, if you don’t have vinegar but have a lot of lemons, this is a great alternative.

10.) Plunger Attack

For this method, fill the drain with hot water and add just a small squirt of dish soap. Then, use a plunger with a good seal around the drain opening and plunge away.

Plungers are simple yet extremely effective when used properly. With the addition of some dish soap to lubricate the clog, you’re sure to clear your drain in no time.

11.) Borax and Vinegar

With a pH slightly higher than baking soda, borax can also effectively be used for drain cleaning.

To clear a drain with borax and vinegar, you’ll follow the same steps as in the #2 hack above. The only change will be to swap in borax instead of baking soda. The rest of the process will be exactly the same.

We don’t usually have a lot of borax on hand in our house, so we again usually default to the vinegar and baking soda method.

Preventative Measures and Maintenance

Effective drain maintenance can prevent clogs before they happen. It’s about adopting simple habits that keep your plumbing in top condition.

Regular Cleaning and Care

To keep your drains clean, it’s essential to regularly pour hot tap water down your sinks. This can help dissolve any substances that might start to build up in your pipes and prevent clogs.

Additionally, make a habit of cleaning out visible debris and every once in a while, pour a weak solution of dish soap and hot water down the drain. Or, pour about a 1/2 cup of vinegar down the drain periodically to keep things flowing freely.

Utilization of Drain Covers

Installing drain covers can significantly reduce the amount of debris that enters your plumbing.

Opt for mesh screens, as these are especially effective at catching hair and food particles before they enter your drains. These can be easily found at your local hardware store.

We always use drain covers in our kitchen sinks and recommend you do the same.

Proper Disposal Practices

Your drains aren’t designed to handle all waste. Be mindful and dispose of grease and coffee grounds in the trash or create a compost pile.

These substances can solidify or accumulate within your plumbing, leading to serious blockages. Use a wastebasket for non-dissolvable items such as cotton swabs and personal care products to keep them out of your pipes.

Lastly, if you have small children like us, sit them down every once in a while and teach them proper sink and toilet habits. That’s right, the toilet is not the best way to get rid of Spiderman or Batman!

When to Call a Professional

Despite your best efforts to clear a stubborn drain, sometimes the issue persists, or you might notice worrying signs that point to a more significant plumbing problem. Recognizing when to step back and call a professional plumber can save you from further damage and costly repairs down the line.

Recognizing the Need for a Plumber

  • Persistent Clogs: If the problem returns after multiple attempts, it could indicate a deeper blockage that home tools cannot reach.
  • Water Backflow: Pooling water or water backing up in odd places is a clear sign you might need professional drain cleaning services.
  • Odd Noises: Gurgling sounds can point to air trapped in your plumbing due to a clog.
  • Unpleasant Smells: A recurring foul odor might mean there’s a buildup that needs professional attention.
  • Clear P-Trap: If your P-Trap is clear, there’s either clogged material deeper in your plumbing or another issue that a plumber should take a look at.

Rely on your observation; if the usual methods fail and the clog wins, do not hesitate to escalate the issue.

A professional plumber possesses the necessary tools and expertise to tackle complicated plumbing issues following the manufacturer’s instructions, ensuring safety and efficiency.

Selecting Professional Services

  • Credentials: Choose a licensed professional with good reviews. These can easily be checked on Google. We usually like to look for someone that has at least 10 reviews and 4.5 stars or higher.
  • Transparent Pricing: Opt for services with clear, upfront pricing to avoid unexpected costs.
  • Warranty: Depending on the services they provide, they may offer some kind of guarantee or warranty. Know that information ahead of time, especially for expensive fixes or repairs.

Confirm that the services you select specialize in stubborn drain problems, using the right tools and methods to provide a lasting solution.

For bigger plumbing jobs, it’s critical to have professionals work on your home plumbing systems who can diagnose and address issues without trial and error, utilizing their expertise to safeguard your home from further plumbing issues.

Clearing Clogs: FAQs

How can I unclog a severely clogged drain using household items?

We always like first trying the vinegar and baking soda hack mentioned in hack #2. Be sure to read the steps carefully since most people perform this hack incorrectly. For example, we do not recommend using both of these items at the same time initially. Instead, we recommend using vinegar first, allowing it to soak into the clog.

If that method doesn’t work, pour dish soap into the drain and fill it with water.

Then, use a hanger or plumbing snake to dislodge the clogged material. Finally, finish by using a plunger to push the clog through the drain pipes and run hot water down the drain to confirm it’s no longer clogged.

What are effective DIY methods for unclogging a shower drain?

A coat hanger or plumbing snake would both work well on shower drains. Hair and bath products are usually the culprit. Also, please see any of the additional methods above.

Can I unclog my drain with boiling water?

We do not recommend this and are surprised to see that even some major plumbing companies recommend this. Do not pour boiling water down the drain for the following reasons:

  1. It can crack some sink materials, like porcelain.
  2. It can melt the sealant on the watertight gasket seal in kitchen sinks right above where the drain pipe is connected. That can lead to leaks under your sink, leading to even more issues.
  3. It could potentially crack your drain pipes or even melt them.

Again, do not pour boiling water down your drain. However, we recommend using hot water for many of the hacks mentioned earlier in this post.

Can standing water in a sink be cleared with a homemade remedy?

Yes! Pour a liberal amount of dish soap into the water to lubricate the clog, then use a plunger until the clog is cleared.

What is the most efficient technique to use a drain snake for a deep pipe blockage?

When using a drain snake, feed the cable into the drain until you hit resistance, then rotate and push until the clog is free. Twisting motion is the most important technique when using a plumbing snake. That, and only using enough force to clear the clog without being too rough.

When finished, simply remove the snake. Then, we usually like to fill up the sink with hot water and dish soap and let that drain completely. The soap will help to break up any additional residue from the clog.

How does the combination of salt and hot water work to clear drain clogs?

Salt acts as a scouring agent when combined with hot water, helping to dissolve clogs by breaking down grease and soap residue within the pipe.

Does baking soda and vinegar really work for clogs?

It definitely does when it’s done correctly. That said, most people don’t use vinegar and baking soda correctly to clear clogged drains.

  • Most importantly, pour only vinegar down your drain for step one and allow it to sit for 15-30 minutes, depending on the severity of the clog.
  • Then, pour 1/4-1/2 of baking soda down the drain, immediately followed by pouring approximately 1/2 of vinegar or coca-cola.
  • Immediately put the sink stop in the drain or apply a wet rag to keep the foaming reaction in the drain, which helps to push the clog away.

For more information, read the complete steps in the #2 hack in our list of hacks for clogged drains earlier in this post.

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