How to Unclog a Drain Without Harsh Chemicals

Updated: May 27, 2024

Need to clear up a clog but don't want to mess with any chemicals? Here's how.

There are plenty of products on the market made to chew through the nastiest stuff that’s clogging drains. But those products typically contain nasty chemicals that can be bad for your health and harmful to your plumbing. So why go that route when safer and equally effective options exist?

Here are some of the best ways to unclog your drains without using chemicals.

Dish Soap

Grease can easily congeal in pipes and clog a sink drain, causing a whole host of issues. To break up a grease clog, attack it with something you likely have sitting right next to your sink — dish soap. Here’s how:

  1. Fill a kettle with water and heat it to a boil.
  2. Remove any standing water from the sink and the drain.
  3. Squirt a liberal amount of dish soap down the drain.
  4. Let the soap drip for a few minutes so it reaches the grease clog.
  5. Pour the hot water from the kettle down the drain to flush it.

It may take more than one cycle to fully break down a grease clog. If the clog persists, you’re most likely dealing with something other than grease.

bathroom sink plunger Jasmin Merdan/Getty Images

Grab a Plunger

Bathroom sinks are notorious for hair and soap scum clogs. The good news is, you can use the same tool to unclog your bathroom sink as you do your toilet — a plunger. Just don’t use the same plunger you use on your toilet, or at least clean the plunger thoroughly first.

Here’s how to unclog a sink with a plunger:

  1. Remove any plug or cover from the drain.
  2. Let the faucet run until there’s about an inch of water in the sink.
  3. Place the plunger over the drain so it covers it entirely and creates a complete seal.
  4. Pump the plunger up and down vigorously for up to half a minute.
  5. Watch to see how the water drains. If it stays in the sink, pump the plunger again.

Baking Soda and Boiling Water

Baking soda is a fantastic natural cleaner that chews through grit and grime. Combine baking soda with a little vinegar and some boiling water and you’ve got yourself a powerful, chemical-free unclogging compound. Here’s what to do:

  1. Fill a kettle with water and heat it to a boil.
  2. Pour the boiling water down the drain to loosen the clog and warm the pipes.
  3. Fill the kettle back up and heat up more water.
  4. Pour one cup of baking soda and a solution of one cup of water and one cup of vinegar down the drain.
  5. Plug the drain for 10 minutes.
  6. Pour boiling water into the drain.

The reaction between the baking soda and the vinegar should loosen the clog enough so the boiling water flushes it from the pipe.

Also learn how to clean and unclog your kitchen sink, and get your smelly, stopped-up drain running fast again.

A Wire Hanger

You can also use a wire hanger from your closet to break up drain clogs. Here’s how:

  1. Use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to straighten the hanger into a long single wire, keeping the hook intact on one end.
  2. Stick the hook end down the drain, rotating it as you go while keeping a tight grip on the other end.
  3. Once you reach a point of resistance, wiggle the hanger around and rotate it a few more times.
  4. Slowly pull the hanger out of the drain and clean off any gunk with a paper towel.
  5. Repeat until the clog is entirely removed.

Work carefully while using this method. Too much force will smash the clog deeper into the pipe, making the problem worse.

plumbing snake drain Moussa81/Getty Images

Drain Snake

If a wire hanger isn’t doing the job, you might need to buy a drain snake. These are specifically designed to unclog drains. They tend to do a pretty good job if you know how to use them. Here’s how:

  1. Place the end of the drain snake into the drain.
  2. Turn the handle on the end of the drain snake. This will push the tip of the snake down into the drain.
  3. Keep cranking the snake into the drain until you feel resistance.
  4. Rotate the snake and continue cranking until you feel the snake break through the clog.
  5. Once you break through the clog, crank the drain snake the opposite way to pull it out of the drain.
  6. Run hot water into the drain for a few minutes to flush the clog.