Here’s how to clear clogged drains without commercial drain cleaners. It’s simple science, really.
CREATIVE SOLUTION | Try as I might, I can’t seem to keep hair out of the bathroom drain, where it diabolically wraps itself around greasy soap residue to form stubborn, icky clogs. Since I dislike using harsh (and expensive) drain cleaners, I tackle drains first with a simple kettle full of boiling water,* hoping to dissolve the hairy sludge. But when hot water doesn’t dislodge the muck, I revisit my seventh grade science project—The Erupting Volcano.
The school science fair classic was really a fun way of demonstrating an acid base reaction, specifically by mixing sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid to make an eruption of carbon dioxide bubbles. The volcano was particularly popular because these chemicals—a.k.a. baking soda and vinegar—are found in every kitchen cupboard.
This chemical magic works wonders on my drains: after priming the clog with a gallon of boiling water, I pour a quarter cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by half a cup of vinegar, and quickly slap the plug on while the volcano fizzes, pops and crackles in the drain. After about 20 minutes, I flush the drain with more hot water and the clog disappears in a loud whoosh. Monthly prophylactic doses of vinegar and baking soda keep the drain running for pennies a pop.—Terri Brandmueller
*Don’t try this if your pipes are frozen—extremely hot or boiling water may cause the pipe to burst.