Two Kinds of Liquids to Fix a Clogged Drain

When you need to fix a clogged drain, you should always prepare yourself mentally for the awful possibility that the drain will need to be disassembled and replaced entirely. That’s the worst case scenario, guaranteed to restore any drain system to service. The middle-of-the road solution is to snake the drain. This is difficult and uncertain work. But thanks to modern science, we also have a very easy solution that may be worth trying first of all. There are two types of liquids that you can use to clear a drain with as little as five minutes of work and a couple hours’ patience.

Image of a drain by Sissel Karlsen


Lye, known to scientists as “sodium hydroxide,” is an extremely caustic base. Remember high school chemistry? Bases are the opposite of acids, but just as powerful at dissolving things like hair, grease, and bits of food.

Commercial formulations of lye include extra stuff to make it work faster and more safely. For instance, Drano contains a mixture of lye, aluminum flecks, and sodium nitrate. Some of the lye reacts with the aluminum and gets hot, which increases the effect of the rest of the lye on the grease in the drain. When the lye dissolves the grease, it releases explosive hydrogen. This could detonate your drains, except the hydrogen gets safely absorbed by the sodium nitrate.

The pros of lye are that it’s effective against sticky clog-smears like what you find in kitchen sinks, as well as thick hair clogs in bathrooms. The solution is denser than water, so you can pour it right into standing water and it will sink.

Note that to use lye effectively, you need to raise any stoppers that might be in place (duh, but no really, check this, especially in tubs) and pour in enough of it to fill and bypass the P-trap. The parts that clog are often the P-trap or the slow-running horizontal just past it.

There are three cons to using lye.

First, lye is extremely dangerous. Use latex or rubber nitrile gloves and chemical goggles, or else be extremely careful about drips and splashing. Do not use lye while eating, smoking, or with a runny nose unless you take off your gloves and wash your hands before you touch your face. Never leave it within reach of children or pets.

Second, lye can get so hot that it boils the drain water. This may create aggressive bubbling or splashing in the sink or tub. If you have a spare bucket, turn it upside-down over the drain after you lye it. If there is a lot of standing water, the water may act as enough of a damper, or you may wish to start slow and pour only as much lye as needed. If you lye a garbage disposal, do not run the disposal until the water has settled.

Third, lye dissolves toilet wax rings. You cannot use lye in a toilet without creating a leak. You may not see it, but the leak will be there. Toilets must be plunged or snaked. If the toilet is backed up because of a clog below the wax seal, then depending on your plumbing configuration you could theoretically insert the lye into an upstream sink or tub and wait for the lye to work its way down past the toilet to the main clog. But most likely, such a clog would be noticeable as a sink or tub clog before you see it in the toilet.


The second kind of liquid assistance is called “build-up remover,” and it’s actually less of a “chemical” and more of a “biological.” Buildup removers are solutions of bacteria or biological enzymes that eat or dissolve the crud stuck to your pipes. They then get washed downstream. Bacterial cleaners are mixed with propylene glycol, which is the same liquid used to de-ice planes, and it’s the same as the “juice” people vape.

Compared to solutions of lye, bacterial drain cleaners are safer. They require less eye and skin protection. But you still should be careful not to ingest or splash the product.

Buildup removers are better used as a preventative on a regular basis than as a clog-fixer. They can dislodge wall coatings and create clogs. If this happens, pour hot water down the drain and it should loosen. You may need to alternate bacteria with lye to clear a neglected drain.

In conclusion, tough clogs need a combination of chemicals centered around lye as the main ingredient. Slow running and constricted drains can be moved along with periodic bacterial rinses. Always wear safety equipment, follow instructions on the label, and be patient. Good luck!

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53 Responses to Two Kinds of Liquids to Fix a Clogged Drain

  1. Jordan Lefroy says:

    I’m very pleased to find this great site. I wanted to thank you for ones time for this particularly wonderful read!! I definitely appreciated every part of it and I have you bookmarked to look at new stuff on your web site.

  2. Zac Styles says:

    This is a really good read for me. Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I have ever read. Thanks for posting this informative article.

  3. plumbing installation love says:

    Thanks for this blog. I learned some tips about this blog. I had experienced these problems last week thanks to my friend who help me with my problem. I hope you post more blog helps us. So that we can learn more. Thanks for the ideas you shared with us. It is a big help not just for me but for all the readers who don’t have any ideas about this kind of tips.

  4. panji says:

    It s good to know there are still a few good man out there who are willing to share good things with others. This website is good enough, complete with its cons and safety precautions, well presented and simple to understand, makes me recall Mac Gyver in the past. keep up the good work dude. I hope that the more you give, the more you ll gain.. thank you

  5. Alex says:

    Tried putting some hair overnight in concentrated lye solution. Nothing happen. Hair still there… sure it dissolved hair?

  6. plumbing installation sure says:

    Thanks for this blog you post. It is very helpful to me I hope you post more help from us. So that we can learn more about how to manage this kind of plumbing plan. Choosing the best for your home is the best you must do.

  7. Nick Knack says:

    Your post gives some very useful tips on kitchen sink unclogging. Some things are best not to dispose in the drain like tea bags, egg shells, pastas or rice etc. Also, try not to dispose too many food materials into the drain. I’ve learned my part of doing these and the only solution was a emergency drain cleaning service.

  8. Priority Plus Plumbing says:

    History has proven that if you provide good service you will always have work. The directors of Priority Plus Plumbing, Peter Honey and Con Papadimitriou are living proof of this statement.These old TAFE buddies gained their licences back in 1996 and set off in two separate paths, running two companies. Yet neither were totally satisfied with the level of service they were able to offer customers.

  9. PJudge says:

    Thank you for this great article it helps a lot of Plumbing Business!

    We are also a plumbing company that fixes funnels and pipes and that is when bringing in experts who offer an assortment of plumbing administrations can be valuable, and discovering doesn’t need to be hard.

  10. Kamrujjaman Hridoy says:

    Thanks for the tips. I use baking soda and vinegar to unclog my kitchen, bathroom drains. I let it sit for 30 minutes then fallow it up with a kettle of boiling water. The keeps the pipes very clean. You do not mention this, is it ok to use this method? It works very well.

  11. rachel frampton says:

    My sister would like to have her sewer checked because she’s suspecting that it’s already clogged. Well, I agree with you that she must use latex gloves or rubber nitrile gloves if she’ll clean it out. Anyhow, if DIY won’t work, thank maybe hiring a professional service will be the best thing to do.

  12. Contractorfinder says:

    Thank you for telling us about this. In fact, when I realized that my pipeline was clogged, I was already thinking that I would have to completely change the pipes since conventional home remedies simply did not want to work. To be honest, it almost drove me to despair, because I realized that it would take a long time, and financially it was more costly. But now I understand that I now have at least two more solutions to this problem. Before, I didn’t even really think about it, but it’s good that I decided to look for answers on the Internet and I found your article.

  13. Lauren Bracy says:

    Thanks for sharing the blog! I get the plumbing services from Eagle Plumbing Services. they have a professional plumber. It is the best Plumbing company.

  14. Jaipur Maintainence says:

    Great post. Excellent tips and guides guys. Really helpful to improvise the business. Keep posting. Waiting for more of yours. I have enjoyed reading your article about plumbing service.

  15. Ricardo says:

    I’m curious to know why the much taunted “DRANO,” isn’t sold anymore; unless you all may know where I can buy this great product?

  16. John Carston says:

    I like the tip that you gave that you should expect the fact that your drain would be replaced or disassembled when having the service. Yesterday, my brother told me that he wanted to get their drain repaired due to blockage and slow drain of water, and he asked if I had any idea what would be the best choice to do. Thanks to this helpful article, I’ll be sure to tell him that he can consult a trusted maintenance plumbing service as they can provide preventative maintenance.

  17. ESCO says:

    Thank you for sharing such helpful information! Even though commercial drain cleaners may be effective, it’s still not recommended to use them very often. First, these products are very dangerous. People who inhale the fumes have damage to the throat, nose, and lungs. The chemicals can also corrode the pipes, which can lead to costly problems in the future. PVC pipes are particularly susceptible to this.

  18. Happy Hiller says:

    Thanks for sharing this!! I have one more thing to add that also might help you unclog your drain.
    For this fix, you’ll need a bucket, a wrench or pliers, some rags or towels, and a cleaning brush. First, you’ll place your bucket below the P-trap. Then turn off your water supply or the main shut-off valve. After shutting off the water, you will need to get under the sink and unscrew the slip joint nuts on both sides of the trap. You may be able to twist these off by hand, but you’ll probably want to use the pliers or wrench here. Once you’ve opened the trap, clean out and remove any blockage. Put the slip nuts back on and tighten with the pliers. Be careful not to over tighten!

  19. Adrienne Crawford says:

    I found the suggestions of using vinegar and baking soda or using a combination of salt, baking soda, and boiling water to unclog a drain quite interesting. These natural alternatives are worth a try before resorting to harsh chemicals. Thank you to the author for sharing these DIY solutions for unclogging drains.

  20. ST says:

    Thanks for such an informative article! To clean a drain, you can also take advantage of the cleaning power of citrus and enjoy a fresh-smelling drain at the same time!
    Pour half of a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by half of a cup of lemon juice. Then plug the drain and let it sit for an hour. Just like with the volcano trick, finish it off with a pot of boiling water, and your drain should be moving smoothly again, with the added benefit of smelling great!v

  21. Alice Carroll says:

    Thanks for the reminder that controlling the propagation of bacteria is also essential to consider when planning to get drain cleaning services. I’d like to find a good service like that because I plan to get a bathroom renovation soon. The drains in my bathroom will have to also get maintenance for that.

  22. Abbotsford Plumber says:

    I’ve always wondered about the science behind drain cleaners. Lye’s powerful reaction is fascinating, but I’ll definitely be cautious when using it. Bacterial buildup removers sound like a gentle and proactive way to maintain clear pipes.

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