3 Things These Plumbers Think You Should Have on Hand at All Times

published Nov 20, 2021
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Using a sink plunger in the kitchen

During the holidays, it’s common that all sorts of not-ideal stuff goes down the drain. Clogs ensue and headaches begin. But even if you’re not hosting guests who throw all kinds of things down the drain, you’ve still had to deal with a clog before. Or a slower-than-normal drain. Or odd gurgling noises. Or stinky odors.

Well, we spoke to a couple of plumbers who cautioned us against using store-bought drain cleaners. Not only are they pricey, they also have the potential to make matters worse. Instead of truly dissolving the clog, they tend to just push the clog deeper into your pipes. Harsh cleaners “also have the potential to damage your pipes; if [the pipes are] older, they can easily corrode,” says Loren Bottem, plumbing manager with Genz-Ryan, a plumbing, electrical, and HVAC company.

Cool! So, um, what should you do? We asked some plumbers to tell us what all home cooks should have on hand in case of a clog.

Here’s what they had to suggest.

1. Baking soda and vinegar

Bottem suggests baking soda and white vinegar for clogged drains. Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, agrees and recommends concocting a mixture of 1/3 cup baking soda and 1/3 cup white vinegar in a bowl. Once combined, you’ll notice the mixture will start to fizz. “Pour it immediately down the drain and the fizzing action will help break down the grime,” says James. “Let it sit for about an hour, and then flush with hot water.” You can also pour a little baking soda down the drain first, and then chase it with white vinegar.

Related: What Really Happens When You Mix Baking Soda with Vinegar?

2. Borax

Umberto Griccino, a commercial plumber and consultant at House Grail, says you can wear gloves and combine 1/2 cup borax with 2 cups of boiling water. Pour the mixture down the drain, wait 15 minutes, then flush it with hot water. While borax works wonders on drains, be very careful while you use this household cleaner, as it can be toxic and irritating to your skin and eyes and, if inhaled, it can lead to nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Also, avoid pouring boiling water down the drain if you have PVC piping or a porcelain sink, as it can cause damage.

3. A plunger

Of course, a plunger can also help to unclog a drain, Griccino adds. Fill the sink with a few inches of water, then work the plunger up and down over the drain several times. When you pull the plunger off the drain opening, the force should pull up whatever was clogging it. 

What drain-cleaning tips and tools do you use? Tell us in the comments below.