Best Non-Toxic Drain Cleaner. EVER.


I have been through hell and back with the plumbing in my house over the years, so few things make me crankier than more plumbing problems. Even a clogged sink is now sufficient cause to cast a death pall over the house, because it’s never that easy. I do my best to prevent UFOs (unidentified foreign objects) from falling down the drains, keep one of those drain protectors over the drain in the tub to catch hair, and don’t even use the garbage disposal much because at this point I just don’t trust it to get the job done.

Be that as it may, while I was washing dishes last night, I got ambitious and started cleaning out the refrigerator. I found some items that were, let’s say, past their expiration date. (cue Dragnet theme) Leftovers. The ugly, fuzzy kind. Well, for some reason I forgot my usual caution and fed the foul beast to the jaws of death in the sink. Seems like it wasn’t the night for it. Luckily, at this point most of the dishes were already done because – you guessed it – CLOG. Nothing was moving. I could spin the jaws of death to my heart’s content, it was beyond that. Whatever it was had decided to take up residence in the pipes somewhere in the wall, it seems. I went for the first line of defense: Plunger. No dice. Just pushed the standing water back and forth from one sink to the other. Chemicals? All I could find was a partial bottle of some very caustic liquid lye, which came in its own protective resealable plastic bag, ya know, just in case. Fine. I was in no mood for screwing around with this. Down the sink the requisite amount went, and I dutifully waited. Half an hour later I poured hot water down the sink, as directed.

Nuttin’.

My mood was becoming fouler by the minute. The choices were (in no particular order):

  • 1. Call a plumber. Yeah, that’s fun at 8:00 on a Saturday night.
  • 2. Go to the store for more chemicals. Ugh.
  • 3. Take the pipes apart and try to run the snake down and dislodge the UFO. Oh yeah, do I know how to have a good time or what?
  • I took the only course of action I could at that point, I put it off until morning. You can imagine how excited I was to get out of bed today.

    Then, inspiration struck in the form of remembering a formula I had used many years ago. At this point I figured what the heck, it couldn’t hurt and putting more chemicals down the drain didn’t seem particularly appealing, nor did the other two aforementioned options. I went hunting in the cupboard for the container that I was sure still housed some of the leftover mix from the last time I had to use it and luckily I found it because it contained the recipe. So I tried it.

    SUCCESS!! (cue fanfare, angels singing, light shining from above)

    Dore Angels

    Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Once again we call on our old friend, baking soda. Put the kettle on because you’re going to need several cups of boiling water. Here’s the recipe:

    1 Cup Salt
    1 Cup Baking Soda
    1/4 Cup cream of tartar

    Mix together in some kind of container. Using 1/4 cup of the mixture at a time, pour it down the drain, followed by 2 cups of boiling water. Wait at least one minute before repeating.

    I ended up using 3/4 of a cup, 1/4 cup at a time, just to be on the safe side, but all seems well now. Leave it to our old friend, Arm & Hammer, to save the day. I love you, man! :::sniff::: Now I can carry on with what I had planned for the day, instead of tearing apart the plumbing!

    13 comments

    1. You know how much I love those homemade concoctions; they’re cheaper than dirt, plus they WORK! If you want to sort of unstank the walls of the drain, freeze some white vinegar in an ice cube tray, and run ‘em through the disposal as a chaser. I’ve also boiled the white vinegar in place of some or all of the water, but if you do that, STAND BACK – it foams like Mt. St. Helens.

    2. It’s incredible, and I swear even the bathroom sink (which must share pipes with the kitchen, the rooms are next to eachother) even drains faster now. It must have cleaned the pipes all the way down the line!

      And, it appears to have been a blessing in disguise. The cabinet under the sink was SOAKED, but I thought it was because I had tried using the plunger on the side where the garbage disposal is, that I had somehow broken the seal between the sink and disposal unit or something. Well, days later that particle board is still soaked, so I’m thinking the damn disposal unit must have been leaking for a long time. If this hadn’t happened I may not have noticed it until water was leaking into the basement and done real damage. Now I’m going to replace the disposer (which appears to be the source of all the water) and hopefully that will be an end to it!

      1. I got a new disposal about a year ago – it wasn’t all that expensive, even though Fang and I were too clueless to install it ourselves and had to pay our fix-it guy to do so. Anyway my point is that the newer models have really come a long way – this one is quiet, efficient, and never seems to get jammed. I bet you’ll be very pleased with the new model.

        1. You’d be surprised, they’re really not hard to put in. I did the last one myself about 10 years ago (so I guess it doesn’t owe me anything), although it would have been easier and faster with an extra set of hands. Other than that, there’s nothing really complicated. Just look at how the old one is set in and connected before you take it out so you know what goes where on the new one :) I think this one just rusted out, I can see rust inside when I look down the kitchen drain.

    3. a stock pot or two of boiling water down all drains once a month is, when I asked, what our friendly plumber confided is his “all his plumbing system has ever needed.”

      If things are too clogged he said use a snake or call him. “Whatever you do, don’t pour any chemical down your drain that you wouldn’t want to actually drink. It’s the same system.”

    4. I may have to try that, as a maintenance measure. The chemical drain cleaners are pretty useless, I gave up on them long ago. Salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar may not be the tastiest mixture, but certainly not toxic (although too much of any one of them isn’t exactly recommended).

    5. I’ve used boiling water, snakes, and a method involving putting baking soda in first, followed by vinegar which makes it fizz up. The last one works, but only for mild cases. Boiling water seems to work for everything involving fats or degradable stuff, but one other method that often works before the snake is necessary is the good old fashioned plunger. Except, the last time I used one, the suction broke the seal on the pea trap and I had a new plumbing problem. Have marked down your recipe, but hope I won’t need it any time soon.

    6. It sort of depends on the severity of the issue. If the pipes are old and haven’t been thoroughly cleaned out professionally (as mine hadn’t) it may take more than this to really clear them. There’s something about adding the salt and cream of tartar to it that really seems to give this a kick, though.

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