I never thought I would ever want to know how to unclog a blocked drain using hoe products. One always assumes the easiest solution would be drain cleaner, if not phoning a plumber. But when my kitchen sink became a pond, even though I had pulled out the rubber stopper, with a week before pay day, I knew I had to think creatively. I don’t know any plumbers who work for free and, at R84, a bottle of drain cleaner was out of my reach. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, I had to come up with a solution. Thankfully, I am from the Sarafina and MacGyver generation, so my rude younger brother keeps reminding me. And improvisation comes naturally.
For mild blockages
What is a “mild drain blockage?”
If a pipe drains slowly, this could be termed a mild blockage. Such a blockage can easily be remedied using household chemicals without incurring punitive plumbing fees.
Typically, kitchen sink drains become clogged due to solid fats and food debris, all that bacon grease that Ausi Pinky washes down the drain. If ever there was a reason to scrape leftover food into the bin rather than the kitchen sink, then this is it.
And how to unclog a blocked drain, the first solution…
You’ll need baking soda, vinegar, a kettle and boiling water.
Begin by slowly pouring a litre of boiling water mixed with dishwashing liquid down the drain. Once the liquid level drops below the drain strainer, tip a cup of baking soda down the drain. Next, pour equivalent amount of white vinegar. A fizzing sound accompanied by white foam will rise from the drain. This is the chemical reaction between the alkaline baking soda and acidic vinegar and should not be cause for alarm.
Leave the products to slowly work through the blockage. After 10-15 minutes, pour another litre of boiling water down the drain. Your drain is clear without a single rand spent on a plumber or drain cleaner.
How to unclog a blocked drain – extreme blockage
Sometimes the baking soda and vinegar solution just won’t work. Not when you have a serious blockage.
I came upon this solution after my bathtub had become completely blocked. Unlike sink drains, a bathtub drain blockage occurs due to heavier and sometimes inorganic material such as lint, wool and lime scale build up from hard water. You can also add hair balls and fingernail clippings to the mix. In my case, the bathtub, with its light bulb hanging directly above, traps insects which are drawn to the light before dying in the tub below. I don’t know why none of those moths will ever realize that the love for bright city lights will kill them. Anyway, the natural human instinct is to wash all the insects down the drain before using the tub. Over months, these little critters, along with lint build up from Ausi’s laundry, create an immovable blockage. This was essentially why I had to find a more severe solution to how to unclog a blocked drain.
You’ll need a dry bath sponge, un unwanted cup of tumbler, face mask, boiling water and some battery acid.
First scoop out the stagnant water from the bathtub using a tumbler or jug and pour it down the toilet. Remember not to use your favourite cup for this. Because you will not be able to scoop the water in the strainer, you will have to soak it up with a dry sponge. Once all the water is gone, put on your face mask – dankie Covid – and open the doors and windows, because what comes next is not for faint lungs. I’ll wait while you get your face mask. Now…
Slowly pour an entire bottle of battery acid, taking care to pause at intervals so that the acid level does not rise too far above the drain strainer level. Unlike the mild fizzing of baking soda and vinegar, the reaction of battery acid and whatever is clogging your drain – dead moths, months of laundry and hair – is much more volatile, characterised by bubbling dirt and pungent fumes. It will look like a science experiment. At this stage you will be glad you wore your face mask and opened the windows.
If your plumbing is old school steel pipes, you might not want to leave the acid for too long because acid tends to corrode steel, why else do you think serial killers use it to disappear bodies! However, if your drain is rubber or plastic, the only thing that is in danger of being eaten by the acid are the insects and hairballs inside the drain. You can leave it for an hour. Once the acid subsides, pour two litres of boiling water to wash your troubles away. And now you know how to unclog a sink without drain cleaner or that overpriced plumber!
Battery acid pros and cons
A bottle of battery acid is far more potent but much cheaper than factory made drain cleaner. And if you have any leftover after the unclogging your drain, you can always use it in your car battery. The downside, however, is that without precautions, acid fumes could be harmful. Furthermore, acid can corrode steel pipes not to mention instant skin damage if handled improperly.
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