Someone uses a plunger to unclog a drain
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Eco Unclog, Chemical Dodge

Cleaning Green: Eco-Friendly Plumbing Solutions to Unclog a Drain (And Prevent It From Happening Again)

Kimberly Hutchings
December 6, 2023

Clogged bathroom drains (while admittedly gross) are also, unfortunately, a fact of life, and every homeowner (and renter) will likely come across the issue at least once or twice.

From hair to foreign objects, soap scum to food scraps, there are a million reasons that our sinks, showers, and toilets can stop draining effectively, but chemical cleaners such as Drano (while sometimes effective) can also be harmful to ourselves and the planet.

Why? Well, their corrosive nature and harmful ingredients can be dangerous if contact is made with your skin, eyes, or respiratory system. They can degrade the quality of your pipes, making them more susceptible to leaks. And, they run the risk of making their way into our water systems, where they can have unhealthy effects on our clean groundwater supply and the aquatic life that call these ecosystems home.

But you can’t just leave your bathroom drain blocked, so what do you do?

Well, before you reach for that bottle of Drano, consider some of these clean and green tips to unclog your drain with eco-friendly ease (and prevent it from happening again!).

Eco-Friendly Plumbing Solutions To Unclog A Bathroom Drain

Take Advantage Of The Power of Suction With a Plunger

First things first, it’s always good to begin by trying to unclog your drain the old-fashioned way — with a plunger.

The good news is, chances are you already have a plunger at home, but making sure you have the right type of plunger is important. There are a few different options available, and you’ll find that some work better than others on different types of drains.

Here are the types of plungers you’ll want to consider and the types of clogs they’re best suited to fix.

The Standard Plunger

Standard plungers feature a long stick with a rubber cup positioned at one end. You may also hear them referred to as cup plungers or sink plungers from time to time. They tend to be your best bet if you have a clogged sink but aren’t as functional for unplugging a toilet. That’s because their cup-shaped bottom is best designed for flat surfaces, and it can be hard to create a seal on more curved edges like those found at the bottom of your toilet bowl.

The Toilet Plunger

The best type of plunger for versatile use, the toilet plunger is also known as a flange plunger and features a rubber flap (the flange) on the underside of the cup.

This flap allows it to fit most drains with a stronger seal, making it ideal for both toilets as well as blocked sink and shower drains. If you’re going to invest in one plunger, make it this one!

OHMCONNECT’S PLUNGER PICK! Make things extra environmentally friendly by investing in a plunger that’s made from eco-conscious materials! This one from Full Circle is crafted from recycled aluminum, bamboo, and ceramic, and arrives in minimal, sustainable packaging. Plus, Full Circle is a certified B-Corp, too!

The Accordion Plunger

And finally, there’s the accordion plunger, which features a series of air chambers that can compress and expand to create a powerful vacuum. These plungers are specifically designed to help with toilet clogs. They can be trickier to use, which can deter some homeowners, but when used effectively, they create a strong suction that works well on tough blockages.

Once you’ve selected the plunger that’s best for your circumstances, it’s time to get to work!

In order to clear a blockage with your plunger, you’ll first want to make sure that you’ve created a seal completely around the opening of your drain. Once your plunger is positioned correctly, begin to pump slowly. The vacuum seal that the plunger creates will help shift and free any blockages that are stuck in your toilet or drain — problem solved!

PRO TIP! If you’re dealing with a clog in your sink or bathtub, always make sure that your overflow hole is plugged before you start plunging (that’s that little opening higher up where excess water drains when the water levels get too high). Using a plug or a damp towel to block the opening can do wonders in helping create a better seal.

Try A Drain Snake To Manually Unplug Blockages

Now, if your plunger doesn’t get the job done, it may be time to kick things up a level and bring out the drain snake.

A drain snake, also known as a plumber's snake, is a flexible, long metal (or plastic) cable with an auger on one end (a coiled piece of metal that resembles a corkscrew) and a handle on the other. It's used by uncoiling the cable down the drain until the auger reaches the point of blockage. Once you’ve reached the clog in your drain, gently wiggle the snake around to try to dislodge the obstruction, stopping when you no longer feel resistance. Make sure to do this gently, as you don’t want to damage your pipes! The plastic version is a little easier and can just be threaded down the pipes, twisted in a circular motion and pulled out. These work well for long hair clogged drains.

PRO TIP! If you don’t have a drain snake on hand, a wire coat hanger can do the job, too! Simply straighten the wire hanger until you have a long wire with a small hook at the end. Lower the wire down your drain and use the hook to pull free any gunk and debris — easy!

Get Out The Shop Vacuum to Unclog Your Drain

And finally, if your plunger and drain snake don’t work, it may be time to double down on suction power (without adding any chemicals) by using a shop vac!

Shop vacs, also known as wet and dry vacuums, can be used for suctioning dust and debris as well as spills, leaks, and, you guessed it, all that gunk that’s plugging up your drain.

If you don’t own a shop vac of your own (and don’t have a friend that can lend you theirs), you can usually rent one from a local hardware store like Home Depot or Lowes, making this an accessible solution for almost everyone!

Once you’re set up for shop vac success, here’s what you need to do.

How To Use A Shop Vacuum To Unclog a Drain

  1. The first step is to remove your drain stopper and clear away any hair, food, or other debris that may be visible.
  2. Next, insert the head of your vacuum hose down the drain, doing your best to make the seal as airtight as possible.
  3. Before you turn your vacuum on, make sure the setting is turned to exhaust rather than suction. This enables air to blow out the end of your hose rather than sucking air in.
  4. Start off by turning your vacuum on for 15-20 seconds. You may hear a high-pitched whining noise at first, but this will shift significantly when the obstruction is dislodged.
  5. If nothing happens after the first 15-20 seconds, switch your vacuum setting to suction mode and try again. Switching back and forth between suction and exhaust mimics the push and pull of a plunger and can help to dislodge tough blocks.

In just a minute or two, your drain should be working good as new — win!

CAUTION! On occasion, you may experience some blowback as your drain clog begins to dislodge (gross, we know). It’s always a good idea to keep a few towels close at hand in case you need to go on clean-up duty!

Avoiding Future Drain Clogs

Hopefully, by now, your drain is clear, and water is flowing freely once again — phew! What a relief. It’s now time to consider how we can stop those nasty clogs from happening again in the future. Luckily, there are a few eco-friendly ways to achieve this, too!

Get A Strainer For Your Kitchen Sink

Investing in a strainer for your kitchen sink is a simple way to prevent unwanted food scraps from making their way down your drain. These strainers sit inside your drain, creating a basket that allows water to filter through while catching any larger materials that tumble down the drain hole.

Once a day, simply empty your strainer into the trash, and boom! Crisis averted.

Invest In A Hair Catcher For Your Shower

Similar to a strainer for your kitchen sink, a hair catcher is another great way to avoid bathroom clogs, this time in the shower! They work by catching loose hair as it goes down the drain, letting water flow freely while avoiding build-ups that can cause unwanted blockages.

We love the TubShroom because it fits inside the drain, hiding away any captured hair until you take it out for emptying! But if you don’t want to put anything down there, this one works just as well and goes over the entire drain.

Pre-Clean Your Cookware

And finally, consider giving your cookware a little pre-clean before putting it in the sink for washing! Scraping any residual food scraps into the trash and wiping away grease with a paper towel can go a long way in avoiding clogs in your sink down the line.

And there you have it! Three simple and effective ways to fix plugged drains the eco-friendly way and a few helpful ways to avoid blockages down the road.

We hope these tips will help you fix any clogs without much effort or expense, but remember, if these techniques don’t work for you, calling an experienced plumber is always a good choice, too!

Editor’s note: If you make a purchase through our affiliate partner links, we may receive a commission. This does not impact the recommendations we make.

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