How to Unclog a Drain Without Using Regular Drain Cleaner

rubber duck floating in a bathtub
Rubber duckies are cute, but there's a downside to all that water. ziviani/Shutterstock

It happens to all of us at some point. You're taking a shower or washing the dog and the drain starts to clog and the water backs up and you have a bit of a dilemma.

You can use traditional drain cleaner, but it's filled with toxic chemicals and is one of the most dangerous cleaners you can have in your home. That’s because the key ingredient in many drain cleaners is sodium hydroxide, a harmful chemical that corrodes all in its path (whether it be that clog in your drain, or the skin on your hand). The chemical is so harmful that it could even lead to death if ingested. So I say better to stay away and find another way to unclog that drain.

A tried and true natural drain clog-busting technique is to use baking soda, with a little vinegar and hot water chaser. Vinegar and baking soda in general make great, inexpensive cleaning products that can be used almost anywhere around your home. For your drain, simply pour about 1/4 cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1 cup of vinegar. Let it sit for 30 minutes or so and then pour hot tap water down the drain to help flush away debris. You might need to try this a couple times if your drain is stubbornly clogged.

Another nifty invention for the shower drain is The Hair Stopper (or other products like it) which prevent hair and other “unsightlys” from clogging your drain in the first place. Referred to me by a friend as the single best answer to her clogging woes, the Zip-It does a great job of clearing drains fast and has the added benefit of not costing any more than a Starbucks frappucino.

Of course, you could always try using a plunger. Not only for toilets, plungers do a great job of releasing clogged drains. Contrary to popular belief, they work their magic by pulling the offending item(s) out of your drain, not by pushing them farther in. Just make sure you have a tight seal around the drain opening with the plunger so you can get the suction you need.

All of these tips are great for any homeowner or renter to know. After all, you don’t need to be a plumber to tackle your drain and at some point in life, you will be called upon to keep that water flowing in the right direction. Unless you have a really friendly neighbor who doesn’t mind you using their loo twice a day (or the garden hose in your backyard won’t quite cut it), odds are you might have to use your sink or shower again. And now you know what to do.