Two EASY hacks to clear backed up drains

July 06, 2021

EASY and inexpensive ways to clean gunk out of a drain

There are two simple and very effective ways to clean to clear gunk and hair out of your drains without using harsh chemicals. And with one method you'll have everything you need in your kitchen. 

One of these drain clearing methods works better in the kitchen on built up foods and fats, and the other works well in bathroom sinks and showers where the clog culprit is most likely from hair down the drain.

We used to grab the Drano (and an even more caustic product once -- never again) every time the water started to slow in our sinks. No more! These methods work every time and it only takes a few minutes to use each drain cleaning hack. 

stainless faucet white bathroom sink

Why you should clean your sink drains

Well I think most of us understand why. At least we know when sinks start to drain slow they need to be cleared out. But I'm guilty (and I think a lot of us are) of not doing it enough

In a kitchen, there are fats, oils and other foods that gunk up pipes over time. (Did you know even pasta is bad for your pipes?) In the bath, it's the dreaded hair. And unless you're diligent and stay on top of it all the time, clogs happen eventually. If you're not treating your drains right, eventually you'll need to clear out the pipes. 

And your sink will probably be stinky. Ever had a foul smell in the kitchen you can't place? This is probably it.

Cleaning out the food goo and gunk

This one is typically used in kitchens where you have the thick build up of fats and gooey food. I used to use the old school method of hot water, then baking soda and finally vinegar to clear a kitchen drain. 

But years ago I heard of a more effective and even easier way to get it done...and I've never gone back! I try to do this every six months or so, but as we've already discussed...drains aren't usually something I think of cleaning regularly.

You'll only need a couple "ingredients" to flush the built up food and fats in your kitchen drain. 

First up, boil a saucepan full of water. If your drain is already backed up or running slow, you may need to do this numerous times or boil a lot more water to start:

boiled water and detergent for drain

My inexpensive black and brass cookware is still looking great! 

Stir a few tablespoons to 1/4 cup of dish detergent into your hot water (less for smaller pan, more for larger pot) and then let the water cool just a bit
It is not recommended to pour boiling hot water down sink drains that are backed up if you have PVC pipes -- if clogged, the boiling water can sit and start to melt the pipes. 
Also, a porcelain sink can crack from boiling water. 

Yet another reason to do this before your drain pipes clog up! 

Pour about a half of cup of salt (any salt will do) down the kitchen drain: 
black granite kitchen sink wood counters
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Then wash the salt down the drain with the very hot, soapy water. Rinse with hot water from the faucet:   
kitchen sink clog hack

It works like a dream! It had been ahem...a while since I had last done this and this time we could hear gurgling as the pipes cleared out. They continued to gurgle for about 30 seconds after I poured the combo down the drain. 

You can read all about why this works better than using baking soda and vinegar for clearing drains here

When food isn't the problem

In bathrooms the problem is rarely from food, but hair instead. Sometimes soap scum too, but hair is usually the culprit. And then soap and goo get stuck in the hair, and know.

This where it gets gross my friends. REAL nasty. I am sparing you the after pictures from the last time I did this in our bathroom. 

This plastic Zip it drain clearing tool makes removing the built up hair in your drain SUPER easy. It's so easy to use and they are crazy inexpensive. 

Zip it is the OG of these tools and there are tons of knock offs now. I think this one is the latter: 
easy tool for cleaning hair out of sinks

Overall I find the Zip it brand lasts longer than others. 

These little doodads are long plastic drain cleaners with little threads that grab all the hair on the way down and back up: 
plastic tool for cleaning drains

You simply thread it down your bathroom drain as far as you can. No need to remove the stopper. 

If it doesn't easily slide down one side of your stopper, try again in another spot:
plastic drain cleaner for hair build up

Pull it back up and then try not to hurl. If you're a decent human being who doesn't let any hair down the drain you won't notice much. But if you're like most of us, you'll need to be prepared for what will come back up the drain. 

If it's been awhile I usually have do this a few times to clear all the hair from the sink. But that's IT! You'll be shocked at how much faster your water drains. 

And there you go...a clean drain that lets water move freely: 
unclogged bathroom drain in white sink

This plastic tool will work on bathtub and shower drains as well. 

I would not recommend using this on a kitchen sink drain with a disposal.
Things to consider when using either drain cleaning method:
  • Remember, (especially if you already have a clogged drain), avoid using actively boiling water in your sinks. 
  • Be gentle! If your drain cleaning tool doesn't move easily in and out of the drain, you'll need to jiggle it a bit as you use it. It will get easier to move as you clear out the hair.
  • Some consider the drain tools to be one use products, but I use them over and over for years. (Unless you are gagging from what comes up and want to throw the whole thing away.) I grab some tissue and grab the offensive clog off of the plastic piece. The only time I ever replace them is when all of the "teeth" have come off the sides. It will still grab some hair, just not as much.
  • As I mentioned earlier, if your build up is more severe, you'll need to attempt these methods a few times to get the gunk completely cleared out.
There you go! The easiest ways to clear kitchen and bathroom drains in seconds and with very little expense! Most of the time there is no need to use harmful chemicals to clean out your sink drains and pipes. 

**The Zip it brand drain tool is my favorite, but this option comes with even more -- you can keep one at each sink! 

Have you tried either of these methods for your clogged sinks? 

My DIY jewelry cleaner "recipe" is another favorite cleaning hack!:
at home jewelry cleaner recipe

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  1. That's funny because I JUST used the hair tool yesterday on my bathroom sink. It is so easy but YES, so disgusting!!! And the smell. Ugh. But very effective. I'm going to try the salt trick on the kitchen sink.

  2. I know pulling hair out of the drain is disgusting but it's so satisfying to do it! My husband can't stand it so I have to do it. We bought tub shrooms for our tubs and they help a lot at keeping hair out of the drains, though the tub shrooms do need to be cleaned frequently.


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