Eco-Friendly DIY Drain Cleaners

Why is it a slow or clogged drain always seems to occur at the worst possible moment? You’re busy preparing a dinner party, company is soon to arrive, and now you find the water in the guest bathroom sink doesn’t want to drain. What to do?

You want something that will clear your plumbing problems quickly so that life can get back to normal. However, you do not want to harm your pipes or the environment by dumping caustic chemicals down household drains.

No matter if you are connected to a city sewer system or a septic tank in your back yard, toxic chemicals found in commercial drain cleaners leech their poison into the environment.

Read on to discover a few DIY drain cleaners that are made out of eco-friendly items you likely have around the house or garden.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

One of the easiest, fastest, and most environmentally-friendly ways to open up a sluggish drain is a treatment made of vinegar, baking soda, and water. These are all eco-friendly items found in most household pantries. Vinegar is slightly acidic and helps dissolve grease and grime.


  1. Pour a full cup of white vinegar down the drain, followed by a cup of baking soda.
  2. Let it sizzle, fizz, and do its work for five minutes.
  3. Flush the drain with a couple kettles of boiling water.
  4. Repeat if necessary, until the water drains as normal.

Salt and Baking Soda

Another way to freshen and clear sluggish drains is to pour a table salt and baking soda combination down the drain.


  1. Pour one-half cup of table or rock salt and one cup of baking soda down the drain.
  2. Follow up with two cups of hot white or apple cider vinegar.
  3. The mixture will sizzle and hiss — allow it to sit in the drain for 20 minutes.
  4. Flush with boiling water.
  5. Repeat until the water drains as normal.

Boiling Water and Dishwasher Detergent

Sluggish drains clogged by grease buildup respond well to a treatment of boiling water and biodegradable dishwashing detergent.


  1. Pour a cup of dishwasher detergent down the drain and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Flush the drain with a teakettle of boiling water to wash dissolved grease and gunk and send it on down the line.

Ice, Lemon, and Salt for Garbage Disposals

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Stinky garbage disposal? Try these triple threat lemon and vinegar ice cubes. The ice dislodges gunk from the blades, the vinegar disinfects, and the lemon adds a fresh smell. All you need to do is cut up a fresh lemon and freeze it in an ice cube tray with white vinegar. Make sure to keep them in a plastic bag to keep the freezer from smelling like vinegar!

A post shared by SOPHisticated Organization (@sophisticatedorganization) on

To sharpen the blades of your garbage disposal and to clean all the grime and gunk off the blades and sidewalls, ice cubes do the trick.


  1. Pour a couple of scoops of ice cubes down the garbage disposal.
  2. Add a lemon, followed by more ice.
  3. Turn on the disposal and run cold water down the drain as the disposal grinds.
  4. Shut off the garbage disposal.
  5. Pour a cup of table or rock salt down the drain.
  6. Turn on the disposal, run dry for a couple of seconds followed by a teakettle of boiling water.

Unclogging Kitchen Sinks With a Plunger

Food debris tends to collect in the curve of the drain under the kitchen sink. You can clear the clog quickly with the use of a rubber plunger. Fill the kitchen sink half full of hot water and plunge.

A solid object such as a bottle cap or potato peel may be stuck, and the clog will not respond to the application of natural drain cleaners, a plunger, or a drain snake. In that case, you may need to take apart the plumbing.

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If the drains are running slow and smell a bit “funky,” freshen drains by dropping two or three Alka-Seltzer tablets down the drain followed by a flush of hot water.

How to Avoid Clogged Kitchen Drains

The easiest way to keep drains running free and clear is to avoid clogging the plumbing in the first place. Invest in a drain trap filter to catch food debris before it enters your plumbing system.

Never pour cooking grease down the drain. You are asking for problems by doing that, so keep a crock near the stove to store bacon grease and cooking fat. Cooking grease, hair, coffee grounds, and soap scum clog are the biggest offenders when it comes to sluggish or clogged drains.

Enzymatic Drain Cleaners

Did you know that for sluggish septic systems, enzymatic drain cleaners are a safe, environmentally friendly alternative to chemical drain cleaners that can leech into the surrounding soil? These types of drain cleaner employ enzymes or bacteria that naturally feed on and break down organic waste.

Avoid Synthetic Drain Cleaners

If you have tried homemade DIY drain cleaners and your pipes are still backed up, it may be tempting to resort to chemical drain cleaners. While it may be a cheaper solution upfront, using synthetic drain cleaners create costly problems over time.

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Please reconsider that option and call a plumber. Synthetic drain cleaners contain caustic sulfuric acid or sodium hydroxide, chemicals that eat away and erode your plumbing system over time.

If you decide to use a commercial drain cleaner before calling the plumber, select a product that uses monosodium sulfate, a nontoxic acid that quickly cuts through drain gunk.

Lye is another active ingredient found in many drain cleaning products. Lye will dissolve soap scum and hair, but like other synthetic chemical drain cleaners, lye is corrosive. A little bit of lye used to clean your drain is reasonably safe, but too much is a bad thing.

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If you do use lye, be sure to wear protective eyewear and rubber gloves. Pour just a small bit down the clogged drain. Wait 20 minutes to let it do its job dissolving the grease, soap scum, and hair that clogs your drain, and then flush pipes with boiling water.

Patience is Key With DIY Drain Cleaners

If you have tried one of these DIY drain cleaner remedies without great success, repeat the process. Natural drain cleaners take a few runs to have an effect, and patience is required.

If all else fails, try using a drain snake. It is likely the application of natural drain cleaner broke down and loosened the clog, and a little push from the drain snake is all that is needed to clear the obstruction. If you don’t have a drain snake, you can straighten out a metal coat hanger, leaving a curved hook on the end to snag drain debris.


Written by Marlene Affeld

“A passionate writer for more than 30 years, Marlene Affeld writes of her love of nature and all things natural. Specializing in Eco-Travel, Science, Environmental Health, Conservation, The Beauty of Nature, Sustainability, Green Issues, and Wildlife, Affeld’s passion for the environment inspires her to write informative articles to assist others in living a green lifestyle.”

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