How to Make a Biodegradable Drain Cleaner 3 Different Ways

Allie Ogletree
Written by Allie Ogletree
Updated May 4, 2022
Mother and son washing dishes
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Who says something au naturel can’t unclog that stubborn drain?

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Be it hair or dreaded mystery gunk stopping up your pipes, cleaning out the drain is a universally unpleasant experience. However, you can make this chore just a little less icky by choosing homemade solutions to do the job. 

So, roll up your sleeves and get your gloves on because these DIY biodegradable drain cleaners are a cinch to make.

Difficulty: 1/5 - You’ve got this!

Time: 30 minutes

Tools:

  • Glass jar

Supplies: 

  • Baking soda

  • Vinegar

  • Lemon juice

  • Salt

  • Cream of tartar 

  • Borax

Note: Which supplies you need will depend on the method you choose, so be sure to read below before heading to the store. 

1. Baking Soda, Vinegar, and Lemon Juice

Natural organic home cleaning products
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Who doesn’t have baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar hiding away in the kitchen? These staple household items go into baking, cleaning, science projects, and so much more, so it’s no surprise that they’re top contenders for clearing drains. Here’s how to use baking soda and vinegar for your clogged drains:

Materials Needed:

  • 1/2 cup of baking soda

  • 1/2 cup of vinegar

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice (half a lemon)

  • 1 gallon of hot water

Step 1. Pour the Baking Soda Down the Drain

To get things flowing again, pour that half cup of baking soda directly into the drain. Baking soda is alkaline and will cut through fats like grease and oils left in your pipes. 

Step 2. Mix the White Vinegar and Lemon Juice

Combine the vinegar and lemon juice. Then, pour the mixture down the drain after the baking soda. Vinegar is an acid and will make the baking soda foam, providing some agitation to clean your drain.

Step 3. Pour the Gallon of Hot Water Down the Drain

Patience is a virtue, so before you pour the hot water down the drain, wait five minutes to let the vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice work their magic. The hot water will wash out the foamy mixture, leaving you with a clean drain.

2. Baking Soda, Salt, and Cream of Tartar

A pot of baking soda
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Despite its name, cream of tartar is not a cream; it’s an acidic powder commonly used in baking to make delicacies like meringues. You can also use it for clearing out stubborn drains. Here’s how:

Materials Needed:

  • 1/4 cup of baking soda

  • 1/4 cup of salt

  • 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar

  • 3 cups of hot water

  • Glass jar

Step 1. Combine the Baking Soda, Salt, and Tartar

Add all dry ingredients to the jar and then give it a few shakes until thoroughly combined. 

Step 2. Pour Hot Water Down the Drain

Before putting your ingredients into the drain, pour 1 cup of hot water down the drain to loosen up any gunk. 

Step 3. Pour Dry Ingredients Down the Drain

Then, pour the full jar of ingredients down the drain, followed by the remaining 2 cups of boiling water (use caution here). The salt and baking soda react with the cream of tartar and release carbon dioxide, which helps clean metal pipes. Let the drain sit for one hour or longer before rinsing with regular tap water.

3. Salt, Vinegar, and Borax

Borax is a popular ingredient in many household products, from makeup to laundry detergent to natural pest control. You can also use it with salt and vinegar to penetrate pesky clogs:

Materials Needed:

  • 1/4 cup of borax

  • 1/4 cup of salt

  • 1/2 cup of vinegar

  • 1 gallon of hot water

Step 1: Pour Your Ingredients In One at a Time

Starting with the salt, pour each item down the drain, with the borax coming next, then the vinegar.

Step 2: Wait It Out

Let the ingredients sit in the drain for at least 30 minutes, but you can wait up to eight hours for the most difficult clogs. 

Step 3: Pour Water Down the Drain

Once you’ve waited for the minimum time frame, carefully pour the gallon of hot water down the drain to help get those final bits of blockages through the drain.

FAQs

What Is a Biodegradable Drain Cleaner?

Biodegradable drain cleaners use naturally derived ingredients that bacteria and other microbes can break down without being harmed. As a result, these ingredients are usually gentler on your fixtures and can be less harmful to the environment.

What Are The Differences Between Biodegradable and Conventional Drain Cleaners?

Conventional drain cleaners, like you might buy at the grocery store, use bleach (sodium hydroxide) as the main ingredient. On the contrary, biodegradable drain cleaners use gentler ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water to clear out drains. 

More powerful, store-bought biodegradable drain cleaners also use non-caustic enzymatic and bacterial ingredients to help break down stubborn clogs in your drains

While bleach technically is naturally occurring due to its organochlorine components, sodium hydroxide—the kind of bleach we use to whiten and disinfect household items—is artificial. This synthetic drain cleaner is a powerful combination of chlorine and sodium hydroxide. 

Bleach molecules quickly break down naturally over time, and bleach is very good at killing bacteria, viruses, and fungi, but it does not break down via organisms. Bleach is also extremely corrosive and releases harmful gasses—hence the need for wearing safety protections like rubber gloves, eye goggles, face masks, and long-sleeves and properly ventilating the room while using bleach.

When Should You DIY and When Should You Buy Biodegradable Drain Cleaner?

Sometimes, the drain is just too clogged—thanks, stubborn hair and soap scum. In this case, you’ll need a more powerful drain cleaner than you can DIY safely at home. But this doesn’t mean you have to choose a traditional drain cleaner. 

You can find biodegradable drain cleaners at your local home improvement store or online for those drains that need a little more oomph

While on the hunt for a formidable drain cleaner, the best options are non-chemical clog solutions that combine enzymes and bacteria. Enzymes break down waste that’s plugging up your drain, and bacteria come in to work away at the remaining gunk to clear it up.

You can also opt for a drain snake or toilet auger to pull out clogs if you’re hoping to avoid pouring substances into your drains altogether. 

Remember to avoid using a drain snake on old, galvanized pipes, which are more likely to get damaged.

DIY vs. Hiring a Pro to Unclog a Drain

If you’ve tried a DIY drain cleaner, switched to an enzymatic and bacterial one, and even tried an auger with no luck, then your next step is to call in a plumber to assess the situation and clear the drain. The cost to get a pro to clean your drain falls between $150 to $350 on average.

A plumber near you can determine what’s causing the blockage and strategize the best plan of action to return your drain to normal without the stress of troubleshooting a clog on your own.

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