19 June 2013

Clean drains the non-toxic way

You don't need dangerous commercial chemicals to keep your drains cleans and clear: just vinegar, bicarb and a little old-fashioned elbow grease.

Drain cleaner is a notoriously toxic item to keep in the home, and the chemicals it typically contains (like caustic lye, hydrochloric acid and sulphuric acid) aren’t what we want entering the environment either.

When you have a blocked drain, always first try unblocking it with a cheap, old-school, highly effective manual sink plunger. If you don’t have one, pick one up next time you’re at the supermarket – it’s one of those items you’ll need sooner or later, and it’s really inexpensive. And unlike a chemical or “air-burst” unblocker (which sends a blast of chemically-treated air down the drain), it can be used multiple times.

How to use a plunger
It seems obvious, but these tips will make it work much more effectively:
  • Block any overflow outlets with a damp cloth. If you’re unplugging a drain where there are two sinks alongside each other, then plug the sink you aren’t using the plunger on.
  • Fill the basin where you’ll be “plunging” with enough water to cover the head/cup of the plunger.
  • You can coat the edge of the plunger surface with Vaseline or similar to create a better seal, although this isn’t essential.
  • Place the cup of the plunger over the blocked drain opening, and pump the handle up and down, then jerk the plunger up.
  • Repeat if necessary.
Non-toxic drain cleaner recipe
You can also try this non-toxic recipe (preferably at regular intervals to keep your drain clear, rather than once it’s already blocked): pour a cub of bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda, sodium bicarbonate, or just “bicarb”) down the drain, followed by a cup of plain vinegar. These will react together, causing some impressive foaming and fizzing, which helps dislodge blockages. Close the drain firmly with the plug until the fizzing subsides, then flush the drain with several cups of boiling water.

Does this work as well as commercial drain cleaner? No, not on a heavily blocked drain, because, although effective, it’s not nearly as strong…but then that’s why it’s not nearly as toxic either. It’s also not nearly as expensive as one of those toxin bombs-in-a-can.

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