If your drain is backed up, here's how to get the water flowing.
the home-care market is permeated with cleaning solutions. But there was a time when we relied on good ol' fashioned elbow grease and know-how when it came to cleaning our homes. We may have newer, more advanced options, but there's something to be said about the methods that have stood the test of time. So we've decided to put old-school cleaning techniques to the ultimate test -- pitting them against high-tech, modern-day cleaning solutions. Our third installment is the ultimate gross-factor: Declogging drains.
The Problem: Clogged drains
At some point, it happens to everyone, more often to those of us with long, full locks. Bathtub drains get clogged with hair and soap scum; kitchen drains get clogged with food debris. So what can you do to get things flowing again?
Old Solution: Baking Soda Cocktail
I recently chatted with a friend's grandmother about this pesky drain problem (a common one in my household), and she handed over a "time-tested" recipe for your own at-home drain cleaner. "Dran-NO," she told me. "This is better for your lungs and easy to do."
Here's how to make her concoction: Mix together 1 cup of baking soda, 1 cup of salt and 1/4 cup of cream of tartar in a glass or plastic sealable container. Stir until mixed. Measure about a quarter cup of the mixed powder and pour into your clogged drain. Pour two cups of boiling water into the drain, and let stand for about an hour, then run fresh water from the tap.
This, of course, caused another problem for me: I don't keep cream of tartar on hand. But I did purchase some for the occasion, and the solution did its magic.
However, being a woman who likes to have options, I wanted to try another time-tested solution. Lucky for me, a friend was experiencing the same problem and volunteered to be my test case.
If you, too, don't have any cream of tartar in your cupboards, you can also try dumping 1/2 cup of baking soda down your drain, followed by a half cup of white vinegar. Cover the drain (if you don't have a drain cover, you can use a small bowl or plate), and let the mixture stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Finally, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. Apparently the baking soda and vinegar dissolve fatty acids, allowing the clog to wash down the drain.
This second option worked as well, though did not have the same lasting effects as option one did (my friend and I compared drainage ability a week later). Perhaps she has thicker hair or more stubborn soap than I? Either way, it's good to know there's a natural solution that works.
Store-bought drain cleaners. Drano
and Liquid Plumr
are the two most recognized labels when it comes to store-bought drain cleaners. I've used both, and in all honesty, couldn't tell you which one works more effectively (thus, purchase the best priced).
These solutions are very cut-and-dry; pour half of the bottle over slight clogs and a full bottle over stubborn ones, let sit for 15 to 30 minutes, then run hot water to clear the drain. If you prefer store-bought cleaners, the thicker versions are best for super tough clogs. Whether thick or thin, the downfall is that they have a strong, headache-inducing smell. And unless your bathroom is well ventilated, that odor can't be good for your health.
We vote for home-made drain cleaners. Although the store-bought cleaners work great and save you the hassle of mixing your own solutions, the fumes are harsh for your health, and the health of those around you. We'd vote for the natural option -- keep your drains and air a happy place.
Check out more in our Old vs New series:
Cleaning red wine stains
Testing scruff mark removers
By Allison Lind