Each home has a very sensitive plumbing system which is relied on heavily for many of our daily activities. Whether you are having a bath, a shower, washing up, using the toilet, or even putting a load of laundry on, you will be using a plumbing system. So, when there is a plumbing problem, it can be quite annoying. Luckily, drain cleaning usually solves these issues and allows us to continue using our plumbing.
Plumbing issues are often caused by clogged drains or pipes. This occurs when one or more of the following amalgamate within the pipework and prevents water from traveling through:
- food particles
- foreign objects
- cosmetic products
- soap scum
- oil or grease
- other debris
These plumbing issues can cause foul smells, drain flies, and the inability to use whatever items are clogged, and so it is essential to clean the drain as soon as possible. The best way to do so is by paying for professional drain cleaning services, however, sometimes that is not feasible, and people opt for DIY drain cleaning options instead.
What are the DIY drain cleaning options?
There are plenty of hacks and ideas out there to help people clean drains themselves, without having to fork out for a plumber. Some of these ideas have been around for decades, like the baking soda method, and others are newer. The most common DIY methods of drain cleaning are:
Baking soda and vinegar
Baking soda and vinegar is a time-tested method of drain cleaning and is one of the most common DIY drain cleaning techniques. It works great on many clogged pipes and often saves people from having to call out a plumbing company to look at their home’s plumbing system.
To use baking soda and white wine vinegar to unblock a drain, you should pour 1 cup of each down the offending clogged drain and then leave to sit for 5 minutes or longer. When you return, you should run hot water down the drain to clear out the blockage.
The baking soda and vinegar will combine within the drain and a chemical reaction will occur, fizzing away at any blockages sitting within your drains and breaking them up.
Another method of DIY drain cleaning is to use hot or sometimes boiling water. This involves pouring said water down the drain in the hopes that the heat will melt any blockages. It is particularly effective against blockages caused by grease or soap scum.
For some, the go to DIY drain cleaning method is to use a plunger on the plumbing systems. This is often a tool used by professional plumbers, and so many people choose to use it within their homes. Plungers work by increasing the pressure in the pipe and then suddenly releasing it, forcing the water to sink and then rise rapidly, moving any blockages out of the way in the process.
To use a plunger on a drain, place the plunger over the drain opening and ensure that a tight seal is created. Using a firm hold, press and pull the handle of the plunger to create and remove the pressure within the drain.
Another tool that is used in both DIY methods and by professionals, is the drain snake. Sometimes called an auger, a drain snake is a drain cleaning tool that unwinds into the drain and prods and pokes at any blockages to break them up.
There are two types of drain snakes: the shop-bought and the homemade. Homemade drain augers are usually bent coat hangers, whereas shop-bought augers are purpose-made.
To use a drain snake, you simply put one end into the problem drain and then unwind the auger using the handle. When you hit a blockage, unwind, and rewind again and again to break it up.
Chemical drain cleaners
Chemical cleaners are one type of liquid drain cleaner that work to remove blockages and clean drains by using harsh chemicals. They are readily available in shops, online and elsewhere, and are often considered the easiest way to unblock a pipe.
Enzymatic drain cleaners
Another type of liquid drain cleaner, enzymatic cleaners do not rely on chemicals but instead use biological components known as enzymes to eat away any natural blockages within the drain.
Which drain cleaning methods cannot be used?
So, which of these DIY methods of drain cleaning are harmful to your pipes, and why? We asked for the advice of a drainage specialist at Rider Drains Cleaning & Repairs because of all the disinformation found online. If you’re going to treat your drains as a DIY project, you should be sure to avoid using:
Chemical drain cleaners
Chemical drain cleaners do more harm than. They’re packed full of harmful chemicals that can damage the environment when released at the end of the plumbing system, and they can cause serious damage to your pipe walls. On top of this, many of them can cause irritation and nausea if used in closed spaces like small bathrooms.
You should also be sure to buy your plumbing tools, not make them. Makeshift tools like a coat hanger drain snake can scratch and cause damage to your pipes and are also much less likely to work effectively when used.
Many DIY methods involve using boiling water from a kettle. This is not a good idea. You should always use warm or hot water on your blocked drain rather than boiling, as it can warp plastic pipework.
Which drain cleaning methods are safe to use?
That is not to say that DIY drain cleaners are all bad! Baking soda and vinegar, drain augers, plungers and enzymatic cleaners can all work wonders, however, they might not work if it is a serious clog, or a clog caused by tree roots or movement. It is always worth contacting a professional plumber to help with your drain cleaning instead of relying on your own DIY plumbing services.