Verda Vivo

Verda Vivo means “Green Life” in the universal language of Esperanto.

What’s in Your Drain Cleaner? June 10, 2009

bathroom sink
Image by santellij via Flickr

I have long hair so that means I frequently have to clean out the shower and bathroom sink drains. Otherwise I end up standing in a pool of water or brushing my teeth over a bowl full of standing water. As luck would have it, I ended up having to clean both drains within the last week.

I could use a  caustic liquid or solid drain cleaner such as Drano Crystals or Liquid Plumr and pour these chemicals down my drain:

  • Sodium hypochlorite – A chemical compound with the formula NaClO. Sodium hypochlorite solution, commonly known as bleach, is frequently used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent.
  • Sodium hydroxide – A strongly alkaline compound, NaOH, used in the manufacture of chemicals and soaps and in petroleum refining. Also called caustic soda or lye.
  • Sodium silicate – A white solid that is readily soluble in water, producing an alkaline solution. Can be dissolved in water to form a syrupy liquid.

According to the Material Safety Data Sheets on The Clorox Company’s website for both Drano Crystals and Professional Stength Liquid Plumr Clog Remover, the ingredients are corrosive to the eyes. Injures eyes, skin and mucous membranes on contact. Harmful if swallowed; nausea, vomiting, and burning sensation of the mouth and throat may occur. No adverse health effects are expected with recommended use. Especially if I don’t use them.

Or I could opt for an acid drain cleaner containing sulfuric acid and risk a chemical burn or damage to our plumbing. Acid chemical cleaners should be used as a last result and by a professional. Although available to the general public, there is decades-long debate about whether or not they should be. The recent death of a 22 month old toddler from drinking sulfuric acid drain cleaner should be enough to convince you that this chemical should not be in your house. It’s certainly not in mine.

Enzymatic biological drain cleaners, such as Earth Friendly Products’ Enzyme Drain Cleaner or Bi-O-Kleen’s BacOut are primarily for routine maintenance rather than clearing a completely clogged drain. Enzymatic drain cleaners react with organic material. They are non corrosive and contain bacterial cultures which break down fats and greasy deposits in the drainage system. These types of drain cleaners were originally used in septic tanks before their wider use as an effective and less environmentally damaging way of drain clearance or prevention from blockages. This might work (but maybe not for hair) and then again I don’t want to spend money unnecessarily.

My drain cleaner of choice is either a plunger for totally clogged drains (please consider having one specifically for toilets, the other only for sinks) or baking soda and vinegar for drains that are slow.

Since baking soda and vinegar isn’t going to dissolve a clump of hair, the first step is to clean the drain. For the bathroom sink, I first remove the drain stopper by disconnecting the pivot rod that sits behind the drain tail pipe under the sink. It usually comes out with a hank of hair and disgusting gunk clinging to it. Once I clean that off (with rubber gloves, of course!), I also remove the J-Trap, letting it drain into a bucket and then clean that out as well. I don’t remove the bucket until I put the J-Trap and pivot rod back together and test the connection by running water through the drain.

The shower stall drain is easier yet. Remove the drain cover by loosening the screw in the center or placing the flat end of a screwdriver under the edge of the drain cover and popping it off. There is my lovely long hair dangling from the drain cover loaded with soap and gunk. Once the drain cover is clean off, I scrape out any hair and gunk from the pipe itself.

Once the hair is removed, I pour 1/4 cup baking soda down the drain, followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar. After the foaming reaction subsides, I follow it up by pouring boiling water slowly down the drain.

For more suggestions and an excellent video, click on Tips For Clogged Drains & Homemade Drain Cleaner Recipe.

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12 Responses to “What’s in Your Drain Cleaner?”

  1. Yeaaaah, you’re back on da web !

    Agreed on the plunger. It solves most problems for me…

    Great article as always, you haven’t lost your way of writing. Keep them coming !

  2. cheaplikeme Says:

    I just wrote about this, too — it must be the season of clogged drains (that’s like “the season of the witch,” but more related to the witch’s plumbing, I guess!).

  3. Verda Vivo Says:

    Via email: Good advice about mechanics to try and remove hair first. I love the vinegar and baking soda, makes me feel like a mad scientist. I plug the drain with a rag or sponge and hold it so the gas created pushes the stuff down.

    I have long hair too so I always brush it to get the loose hairs out before the shower. We have a newfangled drain in the tub that requires us to get a screwdriver and take it apart to
    find the place where the hairs are catching. Don’t these plumbing designers have houses???

    Thanks for the news,

  4. Monique Says:

    Thanks!! I was wondering what I could do naturally! Big help!

  5. Hi, Great site loved this information.Just wanted to say thanks for The Read.I have booked marked this page so I can come back again. Thanks

  6. AquaRescue Says:

    agree !!! awsome site !! A+

  7. Draino and liquid plumber are really nasty stuff, unfortunately they also seem to be the only ones people think of when shopping for fast/cheap solutions.

  8. surender kumar verma Says:


    pls give me name of drain cleaners.


  9. Liquid plumber is a good solution though but it’s worth having them cleaned professionally by a plumbing service every now and again.

  10. The Laundry Miracle Says:

    Amazing stuff, thank you! What do you like best about it?

  11. I couldn’t гefrain from commenting. Veryy well written!

  12. Meeral Says:

    bookmarked this for my science project thanks

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