A clogged drain isn’t only a nuisance; it can also be a liability. Beyond creating frustrating slowness, it can emit sickening odors, create excessive bacterial and mold buildup, and can even weaken older pipes and cause leaks.
One homemade “remedy” for a clog is to pour salt down the clogged drain at night. The theory goes that the salt somehow dissolves greasy deposits on pipe walls. It might sound like a great alternative to using harsh chemicals to clean your drains, but while salt might be less dangerous than corrosive chemicals, its utility for unclogging drains is a myth.
A more evolved version of the salt remedy requires the addition of vinegar and baking soda, followed by a flush with hot water. Unfortunately, there is little to no evidence that this combination of household ingredients is an effective solution for unclogging a stuck drain. The most effective of these ingredients is hot water, which can soften some of the fatty deposits that might lead to recurring drain clogs. But for anything more than a minor constriction, hot water is generally not useful.
If Not Salt, Then What Will Clear a Drain Clog?
As mentioned, it’s also common for homeowners to turn to chemical solutions when home-concocted remedies aren’t effective. But chemical drain cleaners do not address the root cause of many types of backups and can be very dangerous to handle, as they are caustic and can cause severe burns to the skin, eyes, and other mucous membranes.
Chemical drain cleaners can create a highly toxic, hazardous situation if they are poured into a drain full of standing water but do not clear the clog. Mixed with the water and other compounds in the clogged drain, they create an even more toxic “soup” that creates an unsafe situation for any person who attempts to take further action against the clog.
The most effective way to eliminate and prevent clogs is to hire a professional, experienced plumber to make an assessment and remediate the problem. It’s common for homeowners to assume that a plumber isn’t necessary for clogs, which might be true for the occasional superficial hair-related backup. But failing to request the services of a licensed plumber for anything more can result in costly damage.
Oftentimes, clogs that appear superficial are caused by deeper, systemic problems that reduce wastewater flow. Only a licensed plumber can diagnose the source of the problem and take proper action using any one of a number of targeted methods and tools, including specialized cameras and lights to examine pipes for the cause of the problem and hydro jets, snakes, or rooter devices to mechanically break up and eliminate hardened grease (especially in kitchen sinks) and mineral deposits that are frequently the cause of recurring clogs.