Drain cleaners are some of the most concentrated and dangerous cleaning products available to the home consumer. The active ingredients are some combination of bleach, lye and caustic potash. Extra-strength drain cleaners are simply labeled “poison.”
Unfortunately, drain cleaners are also really good at dissolving hair, and hair is typically what clogs bathroom sink and tub drains. I wanted to find out if there was a safer and more environmentally friendly way to clean my bathroom drains.
My wife has long hair that I’m constantly vacuuming up. None of our bathroom drains has clogged yet, but I figured it was just a matter of time. I wanted to do some preemptive cleaning.
First I did some research, to learn about the different types of green cleaners. Here’s what I learned.
Home remedy cleaners: The most basic drain cleaner is mixing baking soda and vinegar and pouring it down the drain. The carbon dioxide air bubbles scrub the inside of the pipe, and the expanding air is supposed to push blockages down the pipe.
Bacterial cleaners: Remember how certain probiotics in yogurt are supposed to keep things “running smoothly?” Bacterial cleaners do the same thing in your house pipes. The bacteria and enzymes break down the fats and other gunk. I don’t have personal experience with these cleaners because, while the bacteria like chomping on fat, they don’t break down hair. These live cleaners are good for pipe maintenance, however. Two products I’d check out are Earth Enzymes and Bac-Out Drain Care.
Air Cleaners: If you have a completely stopped drain, a good option could be a compressed air cleaner. These seal around your drain and shoot air into the pipe. The force of the air against the water unclogs the pipe. Two widely available air cleaners are Plumb-Away and CLR Power Plumber.
I didn’t have a stopped drain, and I needed something that would remove hair. I found my ideal product in Zip-It. Zip-It is simple and ingenious – it’s a thin and flexible piece of plastic, about 18 inches long. It has sharp barbs sprouting from the sides every half-inch or so to grab the hair.
I stuck the Zip-It into my bathroom sink and pulled out … well, it’s pretty obvious.
My sinks were actually fairly clean. (To see some really nasty drains, watch this video. I could only make it 1 minute before I started to gag.)
After removing the hair, I wanted to make sure all of my drains were really clean. That’s when I turned to to the baking soda and vinegar.
I now have clean pipes once again. The Zip-It is in the closet, ready to be called into action when needed. And I’m going to ask my wife not to brush her hair over the sink.