Monday, August 19, 2013

Reduce: DIY Drain De-Clogging

A tall grass prairie restoration site I visited while at ESA
Well, welcome back me.  It has been a second guys!  As you probably know if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, I've been away at the Ecological Society of America conference, then I was a little ill, then I got a fellowship (!!!!), then I started packing for our move at the end of the month, and then my boyfriend started nagging me about unclogging the sink.

See, as anyone who has ever rented housing probably doesn't need to be told, our bathroom sink clogs up a lot.  We are really careful not to flush a bunch of hair or what have you down it, but inevitably, about every other month, it needs to be attended too.  Usually, the fella' takes care of this ASAP, but after the last Drano purchase, I told him next time the sink needed fixing I wanted to attend to it.  Earlier this year, I was perusing Pinterest and came across something which I quickly stuck on my Green Lifestyle pinning board:  an all natural drain de-clogger.  Now, Drano itself doesn't have a ton of explicitly cataloged negative impacts to the environment (read: I couldn't really find any studies about it).  However, the two major active ingredients, bleach (NaOCl) and sodium hydroxide (NaOH), are known to have several human health impacts (see some EPA reports here and here).  Plus, the stuff comes in a plastic bottle, which I don't feel comfortable reusing for anything had Drano in it.  The final nail in the coffin, for me at least, is that the stuff costs between 5-10 dollars a bottle.  Generally, if it will hurt me if I accidentally eat it and if it costs a bit of money, I'm over it.

Image courtesy of
Enter the Pinterest solution.  According to the original pin, I could mix half a cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar together in the sink and then pour a kettle of boiling water down after it, and voila no more clog!  I would link to the website that generated the pin, but it turns out the link just lead me to a picture of a you'll just have to accept that I didn't come up with this, but I don't know who to credit. 

 Now, both vinegar and baking soda get a seal of approval from the EPA (see the fact sheets here and here).  The only caution is that high concentrations of acetic acid (found in vinegar) can be harmful, but if you ever had college chemistry, you know that vinegar is only 5-8% acetic acid.  Additionally, baking soda comes in a cardboard container, which is great.  Unfortunately, the vinegar I bought came in a plastic bottle.  You certainly can buy vinegar in glass, but it costs more.  I justified by buying in bulk, knowing that I would use the stuff for lots of other things round the house, and feeling like I could actually reuse this plastic container after the vinegar was gone...because vinegar doesn't sketch me out.  Last, a huge thing of vinegar plus a box of baking soda only cost me about 5 dollars, and I have tons of vinegar and about half a box of soda left over to cook and clean with in the future.  
But that still leaves the ultimate question, did it work?  The answer:  YES!  I had to perform the treatment twice because I let the drain get really bad.  That's why there are no pictures of me fixing the sink in this post.  My sink was gross.  However, it was super easy, and we're all fixed up now!  I'm really excited this worked out, and will be using this solution from now on instead of alternative products.  Bonus points, these are the ingredients you used to make your elementary school science class volcano!  There was no eruption at these proportions,  but I did feel like I was playing not cleaning.  Win, win.    

Last Word:  I love DIY solutions that require less chemicals and save me money.  It's like all my favorite things in one neat little package.  As time goes on I will be testing out a lot more of these all natural internet claims!  I'm excited to experiment and see what happens.  

What do you think?  Have you ever tried a "green" solution off the internet?  Were you rewarded or disappointed?  Do you have any suggestions of things you'd like me to research or try out?  Let me know in the comments section!

UPDATE:  I did this again today (8/30) with my garbage disposal and after two applications and a little plunger action, we were good to go!

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