How to unclog a drain without harsh chemicals

Many commercial drain cleaners contain harmful chemicals. Clear your drain and protect the environment, your health and your plumbing with an eco-friendly DIY drain cleaner. (Photo: Skitterphoto via Pexels)

Dealing with a clogged drain can be frustrating. Before reaching for a harsh chemical drain cleaner, try an Earth-friendly DIY recipe! You’ll save money, preserve your plumbing and prevent toxic chemicals from entering the environment.

Clean drains reduce environmental strains

A clogged drain is a nuisance that can become an environmental hazard. When water can’t flow freely through a drainage system, stagnant water can build up. This can be a breeding ground for harmful microorganisms, viruses and bacteria or become contaminated with chemicals and pollutants. A leak or overflow of contaminated water pollutes waterways, harms aquatic life and disrupts ecosystems.

Chemical drain cleaners harm the environment and your health

Many commercial drain cleaning products contain a cocktail of corrosive and toxic chemicals like sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide (lye). When these go down the drain, they can end up in wastewater systems and make their way into rivers, lakes and the ocean, polluting waterways and harming aquatic ecosystems.

These harsh chemicals are also hazardous to human health. Sodium hydroxide is highly corrosive and can burn eyes, skin and lungs. Long-term exposure may lead to ulceration of the nasal passages and chronic skin irritation. Pets are vulnerable too!

Beware of sodium hydroxide in disinfectants and oven, bathroom and toilet bowl cleaners.

Ditching chemical drain cleaners protects plumbing

The harsh chemicals found in commercial drain cleaners corrode metal piping over time (especially older ones) and degrade joint seals, caulking material and plastic piping.

Chemical drain cleaners can pose heightened risks for septic systems. Septic tanks rely on natural bacterial enzymes to break down organic matter. Introducing toxics can disrupt the bacterial balance and lead to future problems.

Prevention is key to keeping drains clear

  1. Use a drain basket or screen. Drain guards in sinks, showers and tubs help keep hair, soap scum and food scraps out.
  2. Never pour grease down the drain. It solidifies and clogs pipes and sewer lines.
  3. Practice water conservation. Using less water reduces strain on the drainage system and environment.
  4. Educate household members. Lead by example. Encourage everyone to adopt proper drain maintenance practices.

DIY drain cleaner recipe

This recipe works best when used regularly and after you’ve manually removed large pieces of debris from your drain using a plunger or plumber’s snake.

  • 120 ml (½ cup) baking soda
  • 250 ml (1 cup) white vinegar
  • 950 ml (4 cups) boiling water

Sprinkle baking soda down the drain. Pour in the vinegar and let it fizz for five to 10 minutes. Pour in boiling water (careful — don’t burn yourself with the steam).

Empty jars and wooden spoon

Environmentally friendly ingredients for DIY cleaning recipes

Want to start making your own green cleaning products? Many are easy to whip up from ingredients right in your cupboard! From olive oil to vinegar, we’ve got you covered on how and why to use eco-friendly ingredients to clean.


Choosing a green commercial drain cleaner

If you want to buy a drain cleaner, one that’s enzyme-based is the greenest choice.

Enzyme-based drain cleaners use natural bacteria and enzymes to break down organic matter like food particles, hair, mould and mildew. They’re biodegradable and won’t harm plumbing or the environment. If you have a septic system, they can help your sewer system’s biome by replenishing and fortifying bacterial colonies.