Septic Safe Ways to Unclog a Sink Drain

When you’re faced with a clogged drain, you might find yourself reaching for a liquid drain cleaner. But, for the good of your pipes, you should reconsider. Liquid drain cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can damage your pipes and plumbing system. If you have PVC or older pipes, these chemicals can cause corrosion. The convenience of liquid drain cleaners isn’t worth the risk of potentially setting your home up for a major plumbing emergency. Instead, opt for one of the following quick, easy, and septic safe ways to unclog a drain.

What’s causing your clog?

Before you unclog a drain, it’s helpful to know what’s causing it in the first place. That way, you can prevent the clog from happening again. When it comes to kitchen and bathroom sinks, many of the things you do every day—like cooking or washing your hands—can contribute to clogs. Here are the most common causes:

Kitchen sink clogs

Fat, oil, and grease (FOG)

The most common cause of kitchen sink clogs are fatty substances, or FOG: Fat, oil, and grease. Oils coat drains and build up over time, causing the drain to get slower and slower before it clogs completely. Grease and fats solidify when they cool, creating a total blockage.

Food particles

Be mindful of the food products you choose to wash down your garbage disposal—many of them can clog the drain. Vegetable peels and other large food particles can get trapped in the p-trap, otherwise known as the curved pipe underneath the sink. Noodles and grains expand in water and clog drains as well. Along with clogs, the accumulated food particles can also create a nasty sewer gas smell.

Bathroom sink clogs


If you or someone in your home has long hair, it probably comes as no surprise that it’s the cause of your clog. These clogs usually occur right below the drain, making methods like snaking the drain especially effective for removal.

Soap scum

Greasy residue from soap tends to coat the inside of your pipes, resulting in a clog. Severe cases of soap scum buildup can actually corrode pipes.

The fixes

No matter what’s causing your clog, the following tips and tricks can get things running smoothly again—without any damage to your pipes or plumbing system.

Boiling water

This easy method requires nothing more than a pot, a stove, and water. Simply boil a pot of water and pour it down the drain. However, you shouldn’t attempt this if you have PVC pipes, as the heat can loosen their joints. Boiling water can also crack porcelain sink bowls, so make sure to pour the water directly down the drain instead of directly into the sink.

Vinegar and baking soda

If you ever made a volcano in science class, you know that baking soda and vinegar produce a bubbling chemical reaction. You can use this duo to clear drain clogs naturally. Start by adding one cup of baking soda to the drain, and then wait a few minutes. Follow up with two cups of vinegar. The noise of the chemical reaction will indicate that the mixture is working.

Wait another couple of minutes before pouring some hot water down the drain. If the problem isn’t solved, repeat the steps again, or move on to another method.

Drain snake

A drain snake, otherwise known as a drain auger, comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. To clear a sink clog, you’ll need a standard 25- or 50-foot drain snake. All varieties of drain snake come with jagged ends to snag, cut, and destroy clogs in your pipes. If your sink has a drain stopper, you’ll need to remove it using a wrench or tongue-and-groove pliers before snaking.

Once the drain stopper is removed, here are the steps you’ll follow to remove a clog with a drain snake:

  1. Insert the snake into the drain until the cable meets resistance. This could either mean it’s hit a bend in the pipe or has encountered the clog.
  2. Rotate the snake against the blockage until you feel that the snake has either attached to the clog or broken it up.
  3. Pull the snake out of the drain. If the clog is solid, it’ll come up along with the snake.
  4. Run water down the drain to ensure that the clog is gone.

Wire coat hanger

While they’re not as common as plastic hangers, you may have a wire hanger or two in your closet. You can easily fashion one into a DIY-drain snake. Take the hanger and straighten it out to the best of your ability. Then, bend one end to create a hook. Push your new drain cleaning tool into the drain and start fishing for the clog. Be careful not to push the clog further into the drain. Once you’ve removed as much of the clog as you can, run hot water into the drain to clear the rest up. If the clog is gone, your drains should be back to running smoothly.

Wet & dry vacuum

A wet & dry vacuum is a useful tool for unclogging drains. Start by connecting the vacuum to a power supply and preparing the surrounding area. Protect your floors by covering the perimeter surrounding the drain with towels and have a bucket handy nearby. Once you’re ready, proceed with the following steps:

  1. Create a tight seal over the drain with the vacuum hose and turn the vacuum on to its highest setting.
  2. Keep the hose over the drain until you hear the sound of the motor change, indicating that it’s sucking out a clog. Some water splashing may occur during the process due to air pressure.
  3. Once the clog is removed, slowly remove the hose.
  4. Run hot water down the drain to clear out any remaining pieces of the clog.

Dish detergent

This method works best on clogs caused by grease—like residue from shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom, and cooking grease in the kitchen. Dish detergent can break through the greasy clogs the same way it breaks through grime and food waste on your dishes. Start by squirting a fair amount of detergent down the clogged drain, then follow it with a large pot of boiling water. This should take care of pesky grease clogs. You can also use this as a preventative method to keep clogs from forming in the first place.

Drain problems? Call Chas Roberts

When DIY solutions aren’t enough, call in the experts. We can clear clogs and clean your drains with powerful tools to get the job done. It’s one of the many services we offer our customers, and one of the many reasons why homeowners have trusted us for over 75 years. Contact us to get started.