How To Safely Unclog Your Drain At Home

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How To Safely Unclog Your Drain At Home

Fast and Natural Remedies to Break Through Blockages

A clogged drain is one of life’s little imperatives. 

You know it’s going to happen at some point, you just cross your fingers it’s not during a really critical time, like your Game of Thrones viewing party or when your Mother-in-law is over for Sunday brunch.

The instinct to fix it quickly means many people resort to one of several “fast acting” chemical drain cleaners on the market today. However, these conventional drain cleaners contain toxic ingredients such as sodium hydroxide, the active ingredient in chlorine bleach. Inhaling these fumes can cause breathing difficulty and nausea, and skin contact with the product can lead to burns.  

Additionally, if these drain cleaners come in contact with ammonia, the mixture can produce a form of chlorine gas, which was used as a chemical weapon in the first world war. Not to mention the damage these potent chemicals can do to your pipes.


Here are some effective and natural remedies to unclog your pipes while protecting them from damage and even giving them a nice, fresh scent!


    1. First, boil 3 to 4 cups of water. Pour one cup each of baking soda and white vinegar into the drain, followed by the water. Wait for it to bubble its way down. 
    2. Try it a second time for really tough clogs.
      • Don’t panic!  The white foaming bubbles percolating up from the drain is a good sign, it means the BSV reaction is working. Plus, it makes a pretty cool home science experiment, so call the kids in to see it!
    3. If two rounds of BSV and hot water rinse don’t do the trick, you can try unfolding a wire hanger and carefully inserting it down the drain to bust through any really stubborn blockage.
    4. Still no? Escalate the assault with a closet auger or a plumber’s snake, which are sold at most hardware stores.
    5. Between each round of clog probing, run hot water down the drain and use firm up-and-down strokes with a plunger to further loosen the blockage until water drains through easily.

If the baking soda and vinegar fix doesn’t clear the pipe, there are store bought drain cleaners that can help without all the dangerous chemical side effects. Google “enzyme cleaners” and you’ll find a variety of brands to choose from.  The live cultures of enzymes and bacteria chew through the organic muck that make up the bulk of most household drain clogs.



A third approach is the use of lye. Lye is also called caustic soda sodium hydroxide and is a substance frequently used to make soap. It’s available in liquid, pellet, flake or powder from most home improvement or hardware stores. It is an effective substance for use in unclogging drains and is often one of the active ingredients in commercially available drain cleaners. Lye has caustic properties that help it dissolve hair and grease, the root cause of most challenging drain clogs. For this reason, you’ll need to take a few extra safety precautions when using it.

    1. Put on gloves, eye protection and a mask before opening the lye. Lye can burn your skin on contact.
    2. Place 2 to 3 tsp, of lye directly into the clogged drain.
    3. Turn on the faucet for one to two seconds to dispense enough water to wet the lye. Only 1 or 2 tbsp. of water is required, so do not allow the faucet to run for more than a few seconds.
    4. Open any nearby windows or turn on the ventilation fan. Leave the room, and close the door to the room to contain the fumes.
    5. Allow the lye solution to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Run clean, hot water through the pipes for one to two minutes to rinse all traces of the lye out of the pipes.


If you get to this point and you’re still wrestling with the clog, it’s time to call in the professionals at Ben Franklin Plumbing to help clean your drain. We’ll come tackle that pesky pipe problem and be gone before you know it, cleaning up to a shine before we go!



  1. Citrus peels: It’s true that the peels of citrus fruits are an effective and organic way to keep your drain smelling fresh and clean. However, one good round of onion or garlic debris left sitting too long and you’ll have a pretty smelly aftermath that will require more muscle than citrus skins. (For more on foods you should and should NOT put down your garbage disposal, including eggshells, check out our blog on garbage disposals!)
  2. Back to baking soda and vinegar: The frothy chemical reaction that can help unclog your drain also acts like a brew of scrubbing bubbles to eat away the odors and residue inside your disposal. Here’s how to slightly adjust the BSV approach for cleaning and refreshing versus clog busting:
    1. Run hot water through your garbage disposal for one minute.
    2. Pour ¼ cup baking soda into the drain.
    3. Turn on your disposal for two seconds, just enough to whirl the baking soda around inside.
    4. Leave the disposal off and alone for 10-15 minutes.
    5. Pour in 1 cup of vinegar. Here comes the homemade volcano of foam!
    6. After about one minute, rinse with very hot water and run your disposal for 5-10 seconds.
    7. The baking soda will have deodorized your disposal while the foaming reaction with the vinegar removes residue and tiny food particles from the crevices of the moving parts inside.


One question we often get: Can a mixture of baking soda and vinegar be made and stored for faster use when needed?

Unfortunately NO, the reaction is temporary and will dissipate soon after, leaving your “fast access” mixture useless. It’s better to keep the two ingredients separate, but available, so you can achieve maximum clog and cleaning power when the time comes.


When it comes to tackling really troublesome clogs, we recommend you let the trained, licensed and experienced professionals of Ben Franklin Plumbing do the job. Especially if these simple, natural methods aren’t proving effective for your drain pain. We have the advanced tools and know-how to get to the epicenter of the clog and remove it. You don’t want to risk damaging your pipes or disposal and pay more for repairs for what could be a relatively easy fix for us.

Contact us or call our 24/7 customer service line today 800.471.0809, our monthly service and product specials can also save you money!