While sink drains are occasionally stopped up with something dropped down there by an…ahem…naughty child, the most common reason for a clogged drain is a simple and disgusting combination of hair, dirt, and built-up grime.

Chemical drain cleaners are effective on most clogs, but these cleaners are often expensive, potentially harsh enough to damage your septic system, and positively terrible for the environment. They can also cause unpleasant skin irritation for the individual using them (in the event of any splashback during application).

In addition, the cost can add up over time. A 32-ounce bottle of Drano can cost around $5, and it will take at least half the bottle to unclog the drain (and the entire bottle is needed for stubborn clogs). If clogged drains are a frequent problem, that’s a costly solution!

Fortunately for you (and unfortunately for plumbers), there are three inexpensive and natural options for unplugging your drain.

What You’ll Need

  • One large bottle of inexpensive, generic white vinegar (save the good apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar for cooking!)
  • One large box of baking soda
  • Metal coat hanger
  • Small sink plunger (smaller versions of toilet plungers, made for sinks, and found for less than $5 at hardware stores)

Method One: Baking Soda and Vinegar

Most of us remember, from our grade school days, the cool foaming and bubbling effect that occurs when vinegar and baking soda are mixed together. This same combustive action is also a great way to erode and dissolve smaller drain clogs. This is particularly true with clogs composed mainly of grease and fatty acid buildup, making the baking soda and vinegar method perfect for kitchen sink clogs.

Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the clogged drain first, followed by 1/2 cup of white vinegar.

If you have a smaller-than-normal sink, you may need to cover the top of the sink with a large cutting board or cookie sheet to prevent the foam from spilling over the sides.

Allow the chemical process work for a full five minutes.

Finish off the process by pouring boiling water down the drain to flush out any baking soda residue and any lingering vinegar scent.

 Method Two: Homemade Coat Hanger Auger

If you’re like most people, you probably have way too many cheap metal coat hangers in your closets. Sacrificing one for this cause is absolutely worth it, and it will make you feel like MacGyver!

The first step is to remove the sink stopper. Do this by either unscrewing it with your fingers, or by unscrewing the pivot rod, found under the base of your sink.

Next, unravel the coiled end of the coat hanger, and straighten almost the entire length of the hanger, keeping the hooked end in its original shape.

Give the sides of the hook a gentle squeeze so it’s narrow enough to slide down the drain without losing its hook shape.

Push the hook end down into the drain, and gently push, pull, and rotate the hanger. Occasionally pull the hook end out of the drain to see if any debris has been snagged.

Remove any debris from the hook, throw it away, and repeat the process until running water no longer collects at the drain.

Method Three: Sink Plunging

As with the coat hanger auger method, it is necessary to remove the sink stopper for easier access.

Before using the sink plunger, run hot water into the sink until it holds at least three inches of water in the basin. Next, place the sink plunger over the drain and pump with the same motion used to operate a toilet plunger.

To make the process a little less messy, consider placing some old towels or rags on the floor around the sink to absorb any dirty water that splashes out.

Pro tip: These three methods work best in tandem, particularly with stubborn clogs that just won’t seem to give.

This is a guest post by L.K. from Albany, NY
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7 thoughts on “Three Affordable Ways to Unclog a Drain”

  1. Stachia Vorhees says:

    Being a plumbers wife and helper for many years I caution about using a wire coat hanger. Some people have old galvanized or aluminum pipes that if a hanger is used might actually puncture the drain. The zipits that you can purchase at the hardware store are much safer. If you have a double bowl sink, you also need to place the strainer in the sink and run water in the opposite sink and have someone hold a wet rag over the drain or another plunger. You need the pressure to stay inside the drain to move the clog on through.

  2. Stephanie Prock says:

    I use the baking soda and vinegar a lot….works great for “dog grime” too. Just be careful plunging sinks that have a garbage disposal, unless you want an insurance claim and new floors!

  3. If you have a double, side-by-side kitchen sink, find a buddy to hold another plunger down tightly on the other drain without pumping while you pump with the plunger on one of the drains. Otherwise, the clog won’t move.

  4. Check out The Drain Claw. It will unclog a drain because of hair and it’s reusable. Works great.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I swear by Zip Its! You can get one or two packs at Menards for about $2 each. They get my super long hair out of the drain every time! And if you clean them off they can definitely be used over and over again.

  6. Long haired lady says:

    Or you could get one of those zip it things for $2 at the hardware store to pull all the hair out. One time use, but incredibly effective.