Why pay for expensive drain cleaners when you can apply chemistry to make the products yourself? Here is how to make homemade drain cleaner to unclog your drain cheaply and effectively.
Homemade Drain Cleaner Method #1: Baking Soda and Vinegar
The same chemical reaction that makes bubbles for the classic science fair chemical volcano can be used to loosen gunk from a slow drain. When baking soda and vinegar are mixed, carbon dioxide is produced. This agitates material in the clog, making it easier to flush away.
- Remove as much excess water as possible.
- Pour a liberal amount of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) into the drain. You can use half a box, if you like.
- Pour vinegar (weak acetic acid) into the drain. The reaction between the chemicals will produce bubbles.
- If you have a plunger, try to loosen the clog.
- Rinse with hot water.
- Repeat if desired.
Mixing baking soda and vinegar is safe and non-toxic. The products are also easy to find and inexpensive, so if your drain is just slow rather than seriously clogged, it's a good option to try. If no water is draining at all, you may need to break out the big guns.
Drain Cleaner Method #2: Sodium Hydroxide
The active ingredient in serious drain cleaner is sodium hydroxide or lye. If you're a true do-it-yourself type, you can actually make sodium hydroxide from the electrolysis of sodium chloride (table salt) in water. Another way to make lye is from ashes. You can purchase sodium hydroxide (also called caustic soda) at any hardware supply store. Some commercial products also contain small metal flakes, which react with sodium hydroxide to produce hydrogen gas and a lot of heat. The heat helps melt greasy clogs.
- Fill a plastic bucket most of the way full with cold water. Sodium hydroxide can react with metal, so a glass bowl is fine too, but don't use a metal pot.
- Add 3 cups sodium hydroxide. You can stir it with a plastic or wooden spoon. The mixture will fizz and heat up.
- Pour this solution into the drain. Let it work its magic for 30 minutes,
- Rinse with boiling water.
The sodium hydroxide dissolves organic material, like hair and grease. This is a highly effective chemical, but as with commercial drain cleaner, you need to follow safety instructions. Sodium hydroxide can burn your skin and evolve caustic vapors.
So, wear gloves and avoid handling sodium hydroxide or putting unprotected hands in the water after adding this product. Make sure air circulation in the room is good and avoid using more product than you need. While you could simply pour sodium hydroxide in your drain, it's much safer for you and your plumbing to mix it with water first to dilute it. Not that you would, but don't drink it or leave it where children or pets might get into it. Avoid inhaling the fumes. Basically, follow the safety precautions listed on the container.
A common problem with bathroom sinks, showers, and bathtubs is hair caught in the drain. Remove the drain and pull away any hair or other matter that has become trapped.
If you haven't tried it already, clear the U-shaped trap below the drain, Put a bucket under the drain and use a wrench to unscrew the trap from the plumbing. Shake it out or use an old toothbrush to push debris through the joint. Rinse it with water before screwing it back into place.