One day I decided to clean the garbage disposal (good idea). I had heard that citrus rinds were good for cleaning it (bad idea). Since I had just used limes in cooking I put them in the disposal and turned it on. Lovely lime aroma filled the kitchen and I patted myself on the back for a job well done. Then I tried to clean some dishes in that same sink. You see where I am going here…massive clog. Not only could I not do those dishes, but working in the kitchen became a challenge. And the dishwasher drains through the garbage disposal (I quickly learned the hard way, also). Until that drain was unclogged the kitchen came to a screeching halt! Thankfully, I’m smarter now and have learned good ways to clean my garbage disposal without ruining it!
But seriously, clogged drains are the worst! They bug me because they literally bring life to a standstill if you need to use that drain (or toilet). Sometimes I have lived in houses or apartments where there is another option–like another toilet or bathroom sink to use…but sometimes you don’t have another option and you just have to deal with the issue immediately!
Out of desperation, many people turn to toxic chemicals to pour down the drain to relieve the clog. Not only are these bad for the environment, but they are also toxic when inhaled! Fortunately, there are other ways (which are often times more effective!).
First, let’s talk about clogs. Because it’s such an interesting subject, isn’t it? I’m kidding…
What Causes Clogs?
Kitchen clogs are such a problem because, if you are like me, your kitchen is used all day, every day! And the kitchen sink is right in the center of it all…
1. Fat, Oil, Grease (FOG)
If you have ever made a meal involving fat, oil or grease and then left the pan for a few hours before cleaning it, you are very aware of just how sticky and congealed it can get. Now imagine that in your pipes. It drains down easily and then solidifies in your pipes. FOG clog.
Limes in the garbage disposal is just one example, but even if you don’t have a disposal, you can still clog your sink with food. It’s just so easy for those little food particles to slip their way down the drain! If they are big enough, they can get stuck. But if they meet FOG then they are destined to get lodged there.
I’m not sure how I continually lose so much hair and still have hair on my head! It’s amazing! It clogs sinks and showers alike. Especially if it is long. Then add in my hairy husband (don’t worry, he knows he is hairy so he’s not offended) showering and shaving and we have a perfect recipe for clogs.
2. Soap Scum
If you have ever had a glass shower door, you know what this is. And just how hard it is to remove!! It slips down your drain with every shower and hand washing and voila! Clog.
How to Remove Clogs
Fortunately, there are some really easy and effective ways to get rid of these clogs. Let me explain…
Take Out the Stopper
Works well on: Hair in bathroom sink
Did you know that you can take the stopper out of your bathroom sink? Nine times out of ten, a clog in the bathroom sink is right at the top of the drain. The stopper is really easy to remove and then you can either use a hook or your fingers to remove the clog! You may be tempted to use tweezers to pinch the clog and pull it up, but if you drop them you have a whole other issue. Trust me on this one 😉
Look under your bathroom sink and you will notice something similar to what you see above. Use your hand to unscrew the nut and slide it down the stem. Pull back on the stem with one hand while removing the stopper with the other. See the little holes in the stopper? The stem slides through those inside the pipe. Once you have removed the clog, slide the stopper back in while pulling back on the stem with the other hand. You know you have done it correctly when the stopper cannot be removed (it is being held in place by the stem). Screw the nut back on and you are done!
Use a Hook
Works well on: Hair in bathroom sink or shower
Take a piece of metal wire or a coat hanger and create a small hook on the end of it using pliers. Gently lower the hook down the drain, catch the clog and pull it back up.
Take Apart the Pipes
Works well on: Food, FOG and hair and soap scum clogs right below the drain, also lost objects
Frequently, a clog is found right below the sink in the p-trap. This is the U-shaped pipe under your sink. P-traps are under both your kitchen and bathroom sinks. This is handy to know in case you drop an object down the sink! Taking apart the pipes is actually really easy since they are designed to be removed! If you have plastic (PVC) pipes, you may be able to unscrew it by hand especially if you wear rubber gloves to give you more grip. If you have metal pipes, you will probably need a wrench to help you. Adjustable pliers also work well if you don’t have room to maneuver a big wrench under your sink. Put a pan or bucket under the sink to catch any water that spills out. Hold the p-trap tightly with one hand and unscrew both nuts with the other hand. You will have to unscrew two nuts: one that hold the p-trap to the tailpiece (the small length of pipe extending from the sink) and one that holds the p-trap to the drain line. Once you have unscrewed both nuts, slide them back and pull the p-trap down. Now remove the clog or lost item! Replace the p-trap by sliding the nuts back on and tightening them.
Works well on: All types of clogs, especially completely clogged drains that are not draining at all
Usually a plunger is associated with clearing a clogged toilet, but it also works great on clogged sinks and showers! In my house we have a designated sink and shower plunger. Because…well, this shouldn’t need explanation! (where to buy a sink plunger) This method works well on food trapped in a drain as well as hair and soap scum clogs. It is especially effective in a completely clogged sink. To plunge a clogged sink or shower, run hot water down the drain until it starts to back up. While it is still backed up, vigorously plunge the drain until it is running freely. If it is still slow draining, consider adding either of the next two “natural drainos”.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Works well on: Food and hair clogs
Both of these ingredients are frequently used as cleaners in my house. While the bubbling action that they create when you combine them is not actually very helpful for cleaning, it is very helpful in forcing a clog down the drain! Additionally, the baking soda acts as a scrubber and the vinegar loosens mold that often holds the clog together. Eew. This does not work well on grease and oil since neither baking soda nor vinegar break up oil and grease well. If you have this kind of clog, see the next tip.
To use this method, run hot water down the drain first to help loosen the clog. Add 1 cup baking soda to the drain. Make sure that this actually goes down the drain. Baking soda in your sink won’t help the clog! Now add 1 cup vinegar. Let the clog sit for about 15 minutes and the run hot water down the drain to flush. You can also increase the effectiveness of this method by plunging after you add the vinegar but before you run warm water. (where to buy baking soda) (where to buy white vinegar)
Dish Soap and Hot Water
Works well on: Food, fat, oil and grease (FOG) Clogs
If you have a slow draining clog from food, oil grease (FOG), try this method. (If it is completely clogged, try plunging first to get it to slowl) Heat 2 liters of water. You can bring it to a boil if you have metal pipes. If you have PVC, stick with very warm so that you don’t melt the pipes. After heating, add a few tablespoons of dish soap. (where to buy my favorite natural dish soap) Slowly pour the mixture down the drain to release the clog. This may take a few times for it to work since the dish soap has to remove the oil.
Tips for Keeping Drains Clear
- Don’t put fat, oil, and grease (FOG) down the drain. An easy way to dispose of it is to pour it into an old can, let it congeal and then throw it away.
- Don’t use hot water to dispose of FOG down the drain. FOG will eventually cool and congeal somewhere!
- Don’t put any food down the drain.
- If you have a garbage disposal, check the manual to see what is allowable (manuals are easy to search for on line if you don’t have the paper copy anymore.) My current garbage disposal is fine with egg shells, but not all are! Other things to watch our for are leafy greens, stringy foods like celery, potato peels, banana peels, onion and citrus rinds. If you can’t find the manual, it’s probably best to avoid putting these foods in the disposal.
- Install hair catchers in any drain that may accumulate hair such as shower, tub or sink.
How do you clear clogs? Share below!!