How Drain Cleaners Work

The Alternatives: "Green" Drain Cleaners and Do-It-Yourself

Enzymatic drain cleaners may be a safer alternative to chemical drain cleaners, and they're easier on the environment. They use bacteria or enzymes that naturally feed on organic waste materials, such as hair and food waste, that often clog drains [source: Green Home]. These tiny living organisms then digest the waste and reproduce, spreading beneficial bacteria and enzymes throughout the septic system [source: Sheridan]. In fact, enzymatic drain cleaners were originally used to clean septic tanks and wastewater systems. Enzymatic drain cleaners are better for the environment because they don't contain dangerous chemicals that can leak into soil and water.

However, these drain cleaners do have their disadvantages. They're not as readily available in stores, and they work more slowly than chemical cleaners -- clearing a clogged drain may take hours. These products also tend to have a shorter shelf life than chemical drain cleaners do [source: Sheridan]. And although they're not as toxic as chemical products, you should still take the same precautions as you would with chemical drain cleaners.


If you're the do-it-yourself type, there are also some simple home remedies for clogged drains, including:

  • Pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain. Then pour half a cup of vinegar. Wait 15 minutes, and then pour in hot tap water.
  • Mix equal parts salt, vinegar and baking soda. Pour into the drain. Wait one hour, and then pour in hot water.
  • Mix half a cup of salt and half a cup of baking soda, sprinkle it into drain and then flush with hot water [source: Harrison].

There are a variety of remedies that may break up the clog in your drain, but wouldn't it be better to avoid clogs altogether? Read on for a few simple suggestions on how to prevent clogs.