Need some advice on unclogging my drain!

Via Merete Mueller
on May 1, 2008
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drain unclog natural nontoxic chemicals

Dear Eco Cleaning expert Bill Capsalis,

I’m turning to you for some expert eco cleaning advice. I’m writing the editor’s letter for this issue of elephant, on the importance of toxic-free cleaning and the mindful life (I think it’ll complement your article nicely).

I myself have some pretty nasty clogs in my drains—lots of hair in the the bathtub and bathroom sink—and I tried using vinegar and baking soda and boiling water, but it didn’t make much of a difference. I’m faced with the possibility of having to go out and buy Draino or some other nasty product, but I can’t in good conscience do that while I’m in the process of writing a letter that preaches to our readers how bad those products are.

Do you have any suggestions for unclogging my drain the eco way? Your help is much appreciated!

Cheers, Heather Merete Mueller.


About Merete Mueller

Merete is a writer and filmmaker, and was once-upon-a-time the Managing Editor of elephant journal's print incarnation, from 2006-2008. Today, you can find her on Twitter @meretemueller and on her blog To The Bones. Her first documentary, "TINY: A Story About Living Small", about people who have downsized their lives into homes the size of a parking space, premiered at SXSW in March 2013.


10 Responses to “Need some advice on unclogging my drain!”

  1. Liz, the aunt says:

    For hair in drains: I went to Lowe’s and bought a $7 plastic thingy with backwards spikes. It’s like a small drain snake. You wriggle it into the drain and pull out all the muck and hair. Works like a charm!
    Your kind of drain problem should not require caustic chemicals at all.

  2. Hey thanks for the question. And sorry for the delay.

    Don’t ever use Drano! Just take the trap apart to get the hair out. If it is a sink look underneath where the elbow pipe is and you should be able to twist the big wide screws by hand – loosen them up and pull the elbow out and unclog your drain! Use rubber gloves. It can be nasty. If it’s in a shower try a mixture of your fingers digging into the drain to pull the hair out. Also try some straight Hydrogen Peroxide in the drain. That might help. You should buy a drain cover – little plastic mesh thingy that fits over the opening of the bathtub drain to trap hair. Couple of bucks at McGuckins and no hair in the trap!

    And at McGuckins they sell this natural bacteria powder which is very health for you pipes – puts good bacteria in the pipes and east away at the bad stuff – I treat my pipes once a month and it keeps the plumber away!

    See ya!

  3. elephant says:

    Aunt Liz, look atchu, reading our web site and dispensing eco advice to we so-called greenies out here in Colorado, I love it!

    You rock.

    Your nephew,


  4. […] Bill Capsalis (author of our Summer eco-cleaning spread) and other readers have helped me out with a few tips. Check ‘em out, and if leave your own ideas. I need all the help I can get. ~ Heather […]

  5. […] wish I’d known about this site back when I was looking for help unclogging my drain (update: I still haven’t found a product that works, and still […]

  6. Not sure if this qualifies as eco, but…Coke seems to work (will also cure you of ever wanting to drink the stuff after you see it work on a clogged drain). Pour in and leave overnight. You might have to repeat…but drain will clear.
    Of course, a drain "snake" is likely the most eco-friendly alternative.

  7. Beverly says:

    I found that with my tub, just popping off or unscrewing the drain (or the little cap that plugs it closed) will reveal the source of the clogging – and therefore it's easy to reach in and clean the mess out. I also spotted a drain cleaner at Whole Foods, although I have not used it yet. For a sink – Cleaning out the trap, although messy – advise you use a bucket under there when you unscrew the pipe/piece to catch the "yuck"….

    Drain snake and natural bacteria powder also sound like great options…good luck!

  8. Stephie says:

    I have a complete phobia about hair that's not attached to the head – and hair in the drain is my worst nightmare(I feel sick just thinking about it)! I have a solution to my problem – get someone else to do it with a coat hanger wire!

    Have you seen this film about a woman unclogging her drain?!

  9. Stephie says:

    Here's the link, sorry! – Kitchen Sink

  10. Vicky says:

    I had the exact same problem with my sink drain and had also tried the baking soda/vinegar/hot water trick with no luck. I bought a plunger and used that on the sink, and it worked pretty well.