Homemade Drain Cleaner – Green and Non-Toxic

You can make your own drain cleaner using ingredients you probably already have in your pantry, with no worries about the toxic and even fatal chemicals found in drain cleaners. You just need vinegar, baking soda, and citrus fruit peels.

DIY Homemade Drain Cleaner

Drain cleaners are one of the most toxic chemicals there are, in fact, they are on the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Hall of Shame because they  can cause blindness, burns, and be fatal if swallowed. I got rid of our drain cleaner about a year ago so the children could never get a hold of it – way too risky for me. I used to work in Internal Communications for a large company and a lady in our office nearly died after accidentally drinking Drano that a janitor had left at the soda machine. She mistook the janitor’s cup for her’s, and had such severe burns in her esophagus that it required many surgeries and several months in the hospital before she could even function normally. YIKES!

Garbage Disposal and Drain Cleaning – Baking Soda and Vinegar

A few weeks ago, I cooked a yummy dinner with fresh shrimp, and loaded up the garbage disposal with stinky shrimp shells. They did get all chopped up, but there was a nasty stank smell, like rotten shrimp, coming out of the pipes. Every morning we’d wake up and think there was a dead mouse somewhere, until we finally figured out it was probably the lovely shrimp shells stuck in the pipes. So, I tried the tip I learned about in the book, “Clean House, Clean Planet” for cleaning pipes – baking soda and vinegar. And as much of a believer as I am in the effectiveness of green, homemade alternatives, I was not expecting it to work – but it did!

I literally dumped about a handful of baking soda into the disposal, then poured in about as much vinegar. I didn’t measure either of them, but if you’re the type who needs a measurement, I’d do a cup of each. You’ll feel like you’re back at your third-grade science fair as it sizzles and bubbles up like a volcano, but it won’t harm anything. Then, I ran the disposal and washed it all down with hot water, and the stanky stank is gone!

Also Works With Front Loading Washers

This tried and true formula also works when the washer drum stinks sump-em (that’s Southern for something) awful and it looks like it’s trying to run away during the spin cycle. When I used to use bleach (have sworn that off forever now), I would run the cleaning cycle with bleach every month like the washer manual suggests, and I didn’t have any problems. Once I started using my own homemade laundry detergent, the stink got progressively worse, in part due to the fact that the door is supposed to be left open and the rubber drum wiped clean after every wash.

Then, I learned at Country Mama Cooks that HE washers get off-balance when the pipes get clogged up and it also causes the smell. The crooked wheels in my head started turning and it was then I realized there was no stink when I used to do the cleaning cycle with bleach every month. So, I decided to try my homemade drain cleaner in the washer instead – I dumped a cup of baking soda, a cup of vinegar, and a cup of hydrogen peroxide (read about all it’s magic here) straight onto the bottom of the drum and ran the cleaning cycle.

The smell was considerably less, especially after I also scrubbed the rubber seal around the perimeter of the drum where the door closes. Then, after another round, the smell was gone! Now I will use this method on a regular basis to keep the mildew at bay. I love using cheap things straight from the pantry to clean and get results!

Also Works for Clogged Pipes

I have used just baking soda, vinegar and boiling water to literally unclog pipes – it really works! We had a clogged sink in the bathroom and I poured in the baking soda, then some vinegar, watched the fizzing (which is really fun!) and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then, I poured a tea kettle of boiling water down the drain to rinse it all out and the clog was gone!

Garbage Disposal Cleaning – Dried or Pickled Citrus Peels

After writing about Citrus-Infused Vinegar for green cleaning, my mom and I have been using not just the pickled citrus peels (they sit in vinegar for a week to two weeks and really soften up) in the garbage disposal, but dried citrus peels as well. My mom found if left out, the peels dry in just a few days and become brittle, so they are then safe to put in the garbage disposal. Once you add the peels to the disposal, run it for a minute or so while running hot water down the drain and it will clear up stinkies as well!

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Comments

  1. Love this. I think I will start using vinegar for my massage sheets as well…been trying to find a green non-toxic way to remove oils from the sheets. I have been using baking soda..but I think vinegar mixed in might help too.
    Thank you.
    Cheri

    • Great idea! Yes, vinegar is excellent in the wash, but more so as a fabric softener. I’m not sure if it would remove oil, but there’s no harm in trying. Maybe it would if you spray it directly on the oily spots.

    • Not really a green solution to your problem, but a little shot of plain dish soap (the favorite seems to be blue Dawn) along with the vinegar will probably strip oils from the sheets for you. That’s what the cloth-diapering mamas use to remove any build-up of oils & residues from diaper creams, lotions etc in cloth diapers. Just run an extra rinse cycle to make sure you’ve rinsed all the soap out – it gets really foamy!

    • Try chalk for oil in fabrics. If small spots on clothes, just rub with chalkboard chalk and let set about an hour before washing. This works even if you have previously washed and dried item. For sheets, try using sidewalk chalk and grating over large spot then rub into oil spot. I did this after spilling body oil on my sheets. I even used colored sidewalk chalk and it didn’t transfer any color to sheets. Chalk looked dark blue when it absorbed oil, but came right out in wash.

    • And for this particular reason, I don’t use oil to massage….
      Last time I forgot my lotion, and had to use someone’s oil–still can’t get the stench out, so I am grateful for the ideas also. And it’s not even, that there are stains, just generally, the oil rubbing off of the client-doesn’t matter how wonderful and high quality, scented oil it is..
      Thank you, love the ideas!

    • Wanda Boomhower says:

      I found in order to get the body oils out of clothes, sheets, etc., was to wash in hot water with a grease lifter like Lestoil or Pinesol then rinse very well.

    • Something that is excellent at removing oily or greasy stains is shampoo.
      So simple but it works so well & makes total common sense. It takes
      oil out of your hair, yes?

  2. I do 2 big pitcher fulls of cubed ice. The first one is just ice. The second one usually has lemon peels mixed in it. Not only does it do a great job cleaning but the ice helps to sharpen the blades. Love the lemony smell afterwards.

  3. Don’t know how green this is, but seltzer or soda water, poured directly onto a stain, especially an oil stain will take it right out. Just pour it on and throw into wash. Works on black oil stains from husbands trying to fix the car, too. It’s also great for cleaning any kind of stainless steel. Just put it on your scrubbie (I crochet mine from wool/nylon and felt) and then wash the stainless steel. Dry with a cotton rag.

    • Totally green, Susan! Great idea. My mother-in-law pours club soda on carpet stains, especially if they’re stinky, and she swears the smell comes right out. I’m amazed it works on black oil stains – wow! You’ve just given me content for another post. :) Thanks for the tips!

  4. Amazing idea.. Thanks for sharing information about homemade drain cleaner..
    Jon Ray recently posted..Plumbing, Drainage & Heating Services in Vancouver B.C. & Lower MainlandMy Profile

  5. I use ice then bunch of lemons ( after i squeeze the juice) and 1/2 cup of baking soda. for my laundry whooch turns out always spotless, I use dishwashing detergent w/ baking saoda and vinegar. it will take the oil stains out too…a faster way to remove wine or oil stains is the pour sea salt on the spot and let the salt soak up the wet stain (5-10 mins) then wash it…..

  6. I use ice then bunch of lemons ( after i squeeze the juice) and 1/2 cup of baking soda for the garbage disposal… for my laundry which turns out always spotless, I use dishwashing detergent w/ baking saoda and vinegar. it will take the oil stains out too…a faster way to remove wine or oil stains is the pour sea salt on the spot and let the salt soak up the wet stain (5-10 mins) then wash it…..

  7. …I have been using this concoction for about 20+ years..and I swear by it. You can also use straight white vinegar to unclog your toilet… pour in one cup, close the lid, and give it a half an hour to an hour. Flush ; if necessary use a plunger, then do so. Pour BOILING HOT WATER – 2 cups minimum- down the bowl and reflush. Voila ! I use Vinegar for so much stuff..! I use it soak delicate whites , also great for removing perspiration stains and smell from whites. Soak in your washing machine for at least
    half an hour and wash . I use it in the final rinse for my dishwasher..clean dishwasher, clean dishes. My kinds know when I have been using it…lol. ‘ The house smells like Vinegar…” .lol. when I steam clean my carpets, I add white vinegar and it removes all the odors..from just having your pets laying on the rugs. Ditto when I wash my throw rugs.Everything smells CLEAN.

  8. You’re not supposed to put shells in the garbage disposal. That you toss into the trash if you don’t use them to make some stock for soups. If you don’t plan on making the stock that same day you can put them in freezer bags and pop in the freezer until you need them. :)

  9. I just wanted to know the portions for a clogged drain. Do you use the whole box of baking soda to what ratio of vinegar. Or do you just eyeball it?

  10. Vinegar and baking soda also works great to clean your tub/shower.

  11. I have also found that if you put about a cup of white vinegar in the laundry along with normal wash loads, funky smells are gone. Things like wet towels that have been wet too long, animal smell on anything, when kids get sick and do not make it to the bathroom and get it all over what ever they are wearing or sleeping in/on. This works! Wash just like you normally would, but put about a cup of white vinegar in with it. Also helps get rid of e-coli.

  12. Since we are on the vinegar subject, try washing your linoleum floor with hot water & vinegar (I have used both cider & white). I fill up my sink about half full with hot water & then put in a cup of vinegar. Cleans it squeaky clean! Plus helps keep drain clear when u drain the dirty water down the sink. I have also used white vinegar in teh wash to remove mildew smells if I forgot about it & also works as a fabric softner–especially good for those with sensitive skin. Thanks for the chalk tip for oil stains–never knew that one!!! :)

  13. Actually vinegar and baking soda just neutralize each other, you’re better off using separately. Basic chemistry http://everydayeinstein.quickanddirtytips.com/vinegar-and-baking-soda.aspx

    • Hmm, that’s interesting. This article says that’s what’s leftover from mixing baking soda and vinegar is not just water, but also sodium acetate. It seems it is used a lot in manufacturing. All I know is the anecdotal evidence of it working in mine and many other people’s drains.

      • Lindsey is correct. Baking soda and vinegar produce water, salt, and carbon dioxide. For any effective cleaning, use one or the other but not both at the same time. They do not make sodium acetate, but sodium chloride — table salt.

  14. I have a Shark floor steamer. i just have a hard time thinking you can get a floor clean with only hot steamy water..even tho it says not to use cleaners, I do.. i fill the measuring cup about 1/2 full with white vineger then fill the rest of the way with water…then i steam clean..i think it’s clean now!!!!!!

  15. Bonnie Hilley says:

    We were having new carpet installed in a camper we just bought. When our installer pulled the old carpet and pad out the floor was wet and smelly. He told me to buy a large baby powder and empty half of it into a bowl and mix baking soda with the power left in the container. I did and mixed it well. He sprinkled it on the wet floor. He was leaving it on overnight and I asked him if he needed my vacuum cleaner to get it up in the morning. He said no, he put the new pad and carpet right on top of the powder. I still use it for carpet freshner and it works great!

  16. I use vinegar in the wash for stinky (or is it stanky) towels. When one of the drains gets to moving slowly I make a slurry of corn starch and water. I put it down the drain followed by hot water. It works in the shower also.I like the slurry, because it is so much fun on my fingers.

  17. Just wanted to add my 2 cents on sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid (baking soda and vinegar) combining to form sodium acetate……that is indeed what you create and NOT sodium chloride (table salt) as there is no chloride anywhere in the 2 ingredients to pop up and form it. Also, see info on this site http://www.instructables.com/id/Sodium-Acetate/

  18. Baking soda and vinegar works for so much. I used it in the house we’re renting a lot because the last tenants left it in terrible condition. The first thing was on soap scum in the bath tub and then on grease and grossness that was stuck to the hood above the stove. NOTHING, no cleaners at all, could take the soap scum or the grease off but the vinegar and baking soda mixed together took it right off. I also use it in laundry and drains. It’s so cheap and works better than most products I’ve tried.

  19. Michelle Patterson says:

    So excited to try this out! #oils4everyone

  20. Tested recipe, definitely helps to clean drains and keep them smelling fresh. But be careful with boiling water as it might damage certain sealants. Very hot water is just as effective. Thanks for sharing!
    Brian The Drain Cleaner recently posted..Hair drain clogs and ways to prevent themMy Profile

  21. Marie Lawrenz says:

    I have 2 dogs & am always cleaning my carpets but they still stink. Tomorrow I will try the vinegar to get the odors out. Thanks for the tip, I never thought of that! Can’t wait to get them smelling fresh again!

  22. To remove oil and grease I put a can of coke cola in the wash. My son works for KFC and his uniform gets back with grease and oil so i ut that in with my normal detergent works a treat.

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  24. Does this work for toilets?

  25. Awesome post. Thanks for sharing. If you ever need some help on cleaning your drains then contact us. We’re just a click away.

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