Money Savers Non-Toxic Home

How to Unclog a Drain Without Toxic Chemicals

How to Unclog a Drain Without Toxic Chemicals

When drains get clogged up, traditionally you have only a few choices: a plunger or drain snake that physically removes the clog, or some kind of caustic, toxic chemical like Drano. Even a plumber will either use a plunger, snake or chemical to clear your drain.

And while there is nothing wrong with using a snake (I use a Zip-It to clear hair from my tub drain all the time), drain-clearing chemicals like Drain-O go right into our waste-water stream where they are NOT filtered out, and eventually end up in our rivers and streams.

The main ingredients in chemical drain cleaners are bleach and sodium hydroxide, or NaOH, a highly corrosive salt. Since NaOH is so corrosive, contact via inhalation, ingestion, skin, and the eyes can cause major irritation, vision problems, vomiting, shock if ingested, and even thermal and/ or chemical burns.

Chronic exposure can cause nose and throat irritation, chest pains, dermatitis, and ulceration of the nasal passages. These effects are very severe and unfortunately much too common, as individuals do not heed the warnings and directions printed on the product’s container.

Too often we reach for the dangerous stuff to get the job done, when there are usually safer and more natural ways to accomplish the same thing. So, to avoid using caustic, toxic chemicals, look no further than your kitchen pantry for everything you need to unclog a drain without causing damage to your health or the environment.

How to Unclog a Drain Naturally


  • A plunger or drain stopper to temporarily seal the drain.
  • A tea kettle


  • Small box of baking soda (Get it bulk through an Azure Standard Co-op.)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 quart of water


  1. Bail out any standing water in the sink until the sink and drain are relatively dry.
  2. Dump about 1/2 of a box of dry baking soda down the drain.
  3. Get your plunger or stopper ready and at your side, and be prepared to hold it down tightly.
  4. Following the baking soda, pour 1/2 cup of vinegar down the drain.
  5. Immediately after you pour it in, plug the drain with the plunger or stopper, filling the drainhole completely so nothing can escape. (If you have a double sink, cover both drains.)
  6. HOLD TIGHT! The interaction of the vinegar and baking soda will cause a “mini volcano” that will come up and out of the drain if you don’t keep it down there to bust out your clog.
  7. After the initial “volcano” subsides, leave the baking soda and vinegar mixture in the drain for about 30 minutes. While you are waiting, boil a tea kettle full of water.
  8. After 30 minutes, remove the stopper or plunger and slowly pour the boiling water down the drain.
  9. On the rare chance that your drain is not clear, just do it again. Occasionally I have had to do it twice in a row, but it doesn’t happen too often.

Between a drain snake or Zip-It for hair, and good old fashioned baking soda and vinegar, you can now unclog a drain cheaply without dangerous chemicals, any time you need to!

This article was excerpted from my book Sustainability Starts at Home – How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. For more money-saving, planet-friendly tips, pick up a copy today!

About the author

Dawn Gifford

Dawn is the creator of Small Footprint Family, and the author of the critically acclaimed Sustainability Starts at Home - How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. After a 20-year career in green building and environmental sustainability, chronic illness forced her to shift her expertise and passion from the public sphere to home and hearth. Get the whole story behind SFF here.


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