Does Salt Unclog Drains?
A clogged or slow draining sink, bathtub, toilet or any other drain is quite frustrating to deal with to say the least. Nasty clogs will need you to call in a plumber to clear them, which is not cheap at all.
And that is where salt comes in. Common salt can be used to break down drain clogs but you should ideally use it to prevent clogs from forming in the first place. Just pour a spoonful of this dirt cheap product at night and you will hardly ever experience drain clogs.
This may sound like a bold claim until you put it to the test. In case you have an oily or stained surface sprinkle salt around it and scrub it using a brush with gentle bristles. The salt will help break down the stain, the same way it breaks down clogs in the drains.
When used on its own or combined with baking soda and vinegar, salt will break down fats, oils and grease in the drains, making them flow down the drainpipe easily. Apart from clearing drains, salt is also very effective in getting rid of drain flies therefore killing 2 birds with 1 stone.
While salt will help you avoid clogs in all of your drains, it is more suited to the kitchen sink drain, where the fats, oils and grease are found in large quantities. Shower/bathtub drains is another area where the salt will prove to be effective.
What Does Pouring Salt Down the Drain at Night Do?
All your house drains are designed with a P-trap. A P-trap is a U-shaped bend just below your drain opening which also looks like an inverted P.
In case you want to see a P-trap check under your kitchen/bathroom sink or on the side of your toilet. You however cannot see your shower/tub P-trap as it is hidden but it looks just like the one in your sink cabinet.
The P-trap has 2 main functions:
- Due to its shape, it allows a constant amount of water to be held there at all time. The water acts as a barrier, preventing sewer gases from coming up through the drain, and instead use the vent. Any time you have a sewer smell in your kitchen or bathroom one of the P-traps is empty.
- It traps potential drain clogs, preventing them from clogging the drainpipe farther away where it would be more difficult to unclog.
Whenever you have a clogged drain (a drain with standing water or a slow draining fixture) the problem is usually at the P-trap. Clearing the P-trap will have your fixture draining as it should.
When you dump salt down the drain, the salt settle at the P-trap where it starts to break down the clog immediately. Were it not for the P-trap the salt would simply flow down the specific drain and out into the sewer lines.
The good thing about using salt to unclog drains is that it is septic-safe and will have no effect on the microbes in your septic tank. Unlike a drain snake and chemical drain cleaners like bleach, salt does not harm your plumbing in any way.
How to Unclog a Drain Using Salt
As I said, the primary reason for pouring salt in your drains and leaving it overnight is not to clear clogged drains, but rather prevent clogs from occurring. It is always easier to prevent drain clogs than dealing with one.
To do this, just pour a spoonful (or even 2) of common salt down the drain and leave it overnight. For better results, starts by running hot water down the drain for about 20-30 seconds.
Not only will the hot water melt and wash away some of the grease and fats, but it will also replace the cold water in the trap. The hot water in the trap will dissolve the salt better, for easy breakdown of the gunk in the P-trap.
In the morning when you wake up, dump hot water (about a gallon) down the drain. The water will flush down the already broken-down gunk leaving your drains clear and without smell.
If you are dealing with a fully clogged or slow draining fixture, you will need more power to clear the clog. You do that by incorporating baking soda and vinegar into the mix.
If you have standing water in your fixture, you will first need to drain it. The objective is to have the mixture acting directly on the gunk and not dissolving in a large quantity of water, reducing its effectiveness. You can either scoop the water out with a cup or suck it out using a shop vac.
Once your fixtures are drained you are ready to proceed. This is how to do it:
- Pour half a cup of salt water down the drain.
- Follow it up with a full cup of baking soda.
- Slowly pour 1 cup of vinegar down the drain, as it will react pretty fast with the baking soda.
- Leave the solution to work out its magic overnight.
- In the morning blast hot water down the drain, to wash down all the broken-down gunk. Never use boiling water on a porcelain fixture, or one with plastic drainpipe. Boiling water will cause the porcelain to crack and deform or loosen PVC pipes.
How Do I Keep My Drains Clear?
As already started, keeping your drains clear is easier than unclogging them. While pouring salt down your drain at night will help in clog prevention, there are other methods to prevent clogs and keeping your drains clear at all times.
Different drains in your houses are clogged by different things and therefore there is no a specific answer for all drains. Let us look at all of the most common ones.
With the kitchen sink drain, you want to avoid dumping fats, oil and grease (FOGs) down the drain. FOGs are quite sticky, and when drained down the sink combine with other organic matter to form a hard clog in the drainpipe or P-trap, which does not only clog the drain but smells terrible.
Running hot water down your kitchen sink every time you dump anything other than water will help to melt and wash down sticky gunk leaving the drain clear.
When it comes to toilet drains, the number one cause of clogs is toilet paper. Use off too much and thick toilet paper results in a ball of toilet paper in the toilet trap or drainpipe meaning the toilet cannot drain.
Use (and teach your children) to use as little toilet paper as possible. A double-ply toilet paper is also less likely to cause a clog that a triple-ply toilet paper.
If you want to completely eliminate toilet paper usage in your house, consider installing a bidet. The best bidet to install is an electronic bidet toilet seat, which comes with a dryer meaning you will not need to use toilet paper to dry yourself after cleansing.
Take your time to also check the list of items which should not be flushed down a toilet drain. While at it, ask your kids to never go to the bathrooms with their toys. Almost every plumber has pulled a toy from a toilet drain.
To keep your shower/bathtub drain clear, consider installing a shower drain hair catcher. Most clogs in shower/bathtub drains are caused by hair balls which collect in the trap. A shower drain hair catcher is easy to install and will save you a lot of headache.
Apart from the above prevention measures, dumping a cup of baking soda followed by an equal amount of vinegar down your drains every now and then will help dissolve and break down gunk and grime in drains, and at the same time leave your drains smelling fresh.