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Unclog Drains Without Chemicals

By Larraine Roulston:

Unclogging drains probably ranks high among one’s least favorite household chores. Being vigilant about keeping the drainsieve in place, pouring boiling water down the sink once or twice a week, and not allowing grease to enter the kitchen sink are steps that go a long way toward keeping the pipes clear. For the shower and bathroom sinks, you also can obtain hair traps. With a little maintenance, drains can remain clean, open and odor-free without the use of corrosive cleaners. 

Residents who purchase chemical-based household cleaning agents either add to the toxic stew within our sewage system or contaminate underground water. Drain cleaners, in particular, are more caustic than other products, as they usually contain lye, which can be lethal if swallowed. 

The tools to have on hand for this task include tweezers, a plunger, a plumber’s snake and a thin but sturdy wire that can be bent to form a hook at one end. 

With vinegar or citric acid, salt and baking soda always at your fingertips, drains are easy to clean. There are various suggested proportions and approach methods. Some eco-friendly tip sheets suggest pouring 1 part vinegar, 2 parts baking soda and 2 parts salt down the drain, then let sit. Rinse with boiling water. Other available information recommends pouring 1/2 cup or a handful of baking soda and 1/2 cup of white vinegar down the drain; cover tightly and let sit for 15 minutes beforeflushing with warm water. As an alternative, simply pour 1 cup warm vinegar into drains and cover. Cow Brand baking soda pamphlet suggests that after 2 months of an open box of baking soda deodorizing your fridge, it will still have enough power to clean and deodorize drains. After dumping the entire box, flush with hot water. 

When shower or bathroom sinks get clogged, you know you’ll be faced with extracting mats of hair. This is an opportunity to use a thin but sturdy hooked wire. Another simple, effective Swiss invention is a threaded wooden “TwistOut” stick. You simply put the stick down the drain and twist it. All the organic guck retrieved from the clogged drains can be added to your compost heap. An old toothbrush can also be quite handy in scrubbing the first few inches of the drains. A completely blocked drain would require plumber’s snake or a plunger. 

When dealing with toxic waste, follow the 3 Hs:

  • Halt before purchasing a potentially hazardous product. Ask yourself if it is really essential. Limit the use of any hazardous products and then obtain only the required amount. Search for nonhazardous alternatives.
  • Heed the warning instructions about the use of any hazardous products.
  • Handle all potential products with care. Investigate the best method of recycling or disposal of any residue in your local Household Hazardous Waste location.

The convenience of having vinegar and baking soda in your cupboards (along with simple tools) allows cleaning without chemicals both easy and natural. A little elbow grease may be required; however, it is worth the effort in helping to keep our planet healthy for future generations.

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Larraine writes children’s illustrated adventure stories on composting and pollinating. To view, visit: www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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