Plumber’s Guide to Keeping Drains Clean: Essential Tips and Recommendations

Are you tired of clogged drains and unpleasant odors emanating from your sink or bathtub? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Keeping drains clean is a common concern for many homeowners. Fortunately, plumbers have some tried and tested methods to keep your drains free-flowing and odor-free. In this guide, we’ll share with you some essential tips and recommendations from plumbers on how to maintain your drains in top condition. From regular cleaning to using natural products, we’ll cover it all. So, read on to discover the plumber’s guide to keeping your drains clean and trouble-free.

Understanding the Importance of Drain Maintenance

The Risks of Clogged Drains

Clogged drains can pose significant risks to both the structure of your home and the health of those living within it. Here are some of the most common risks associated with clogged drains:

  • Water damage: When a drain becomes clogged, water is unable to properly flow through the pipe. This can cause water to back up and overflow, potentially leading to damage to walls, flooring, and other structural components of your home.
  • Unpleasant odors: Clogged drains can also produce unpleasant odors as a result of the buildup of organic matter and bacteria. These odors can be particularly problematic in areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, where they can be difficult to eliminate.
  • Health hazards: In addition to being unpleasant, clogged drains can also pose health hazards. If the buildup of bacteria and other organic matter is not properly cleaned, it can lead to the growth of mold and mildew, which can cause respiratory problems and other health issues. Additionally, clogged drains can potentially release harmful gases, such as sewage gas, which can be dangerous if inhaled.

Given these risks, it is clear that regular maintenance of your home’s drains is essential for both the health and safety of your family and the integrity of your home. By following the tips and recommendations outlined in this guide, you can help to prevent clogs and keep your drains flowing freely.

The Benefits of Regular Drain Cleaning

  • Preventing clogs

Regular drain cleaning helps to prevent clogs from forming in your pipes. Over time, debris, hair, grease, and other materials can accumulate in your drains, eventually leading to blockages that can cause water to back up and damage your plumbing fixtures. By keeping your drains clean, you can avoid these costly repairs and ensure that your drains continue to function properly.

  • Extending the life of plumbing fixtures

Regular drain cleaning can also help to extend the life of your plumbing fixtures. When drains become clogged, they can become damaged from the pressure of the backed-up water. This can lead to leaks, which can be costly to repair. By keeping your drains clean, you can avoid these problems and ensure that your fixtures last longer.

  • Ensuring proper water flow

Finally, regular drain cleaning can help to ensure proper water flow throughout your home. When your drains become clogged, water can become backed up in your sinks, showers, and other fixtures. This can lead to slow draining and even flooding. By keeping your drains clean, you can ensure that water flows freely throughout your home, making it more comfortable and convenient to live in.

Types of Drain Cleaning Products Recommended by Plumbers

Key takeaway: Regular drain cleaning is essential for the health and safety of your family and the integrity of your home. There are different types of drain cleaning products, including chemical drain cleaners, enzymatic drain cleaners, and mechanical drain cleaners, each with their pros and cons. Natural and eco-friendly drain cleaning methods such as baking soda and vinegar, citric acid, and plungers are also available. Proper disposal of food waste, regular hair and lint removal, and scheduling professional plumbing services are important preventive measures for drain maintenance.

Chemical Drain Cleaners

Chemical drain cleaners are one of the most popular options for unclogging drains. These products come in various forms, including liquids, gels, and powders, and are designed to break down the obstruction and dissolve it, allowing the water to flow freely.

How they work

Chemical drain cleaners work by using harsh chemicals to break down the obstruction, such as hair, grease, or debris, and dissolve it. The chemicals penetrate the obstruction and react with it, causing it to break down into smaller pieces that can be easily flushed away with water.

Pros and cons

One of the main advantages of chemical drain cleaners is that they are easy to use and can quickly unclog most drains. They are also relatively inexpensive and can be found in most hardware stores. However, they can be dangerous if used improperly, and they can cause damage to the pipes if they are not used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Additionally, they can be harmful to the environment and should be disposed of properly.

Safety precautions

When using chemical drain cleaners, it is essential to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Always wear gloves and other protective gear when handling these products, and avoid inhaling the fumes. Never mix chemical drain cleaners with other chemicals, as this can be dangerous. If the product does not work after a few minutes, do not continue to use it, as it may be causing damage to the pipes. Always dispose of the product according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Enzymatic Drain Cleaners

Enzymatic drain cleaners are a popular choice among plumbers due to their effectiveness in breaking down organic matter, such as hair, grease, and food residue, that can clog drains. These cleaners contain natural or laboratory-produced enzymes that target the source of the blockage and dissolve it over time. Here’s a closer look at how they work, their pros and cons, and safety precautions to keep in mind when using them.

How they work

Enzymatic drain cleaners work by introducing enzymes into the drain, which then break down the organic matter, converting it into a gas or liquid that can be easily flushed away. These enzymes are classified into several categories, each targeting specific types of organic matter:

  • Proteases: These enzymes break down protein-based substances, such as hair, skin, and grease.
  • Lipases: These enzymes target fats and oils, effectively dissolving them and preventing them from solidifying and clogging the drain.
  • Amylases: These enzymes break down carbohydrates, such as starches and sugars, found in food residue.
  • Cellulases: These enzymes can dissolve cellulose, which is found in plant material and can accumulate in drains over time.

Pros and cons


  • Effective: Enzymatic drain cleaners are highly effective at breaking down organic matter, making them a popular choice for plumbers and homeowners alike.
  • Safe for pipes: Unlike harsh chemical drain cleaners, enzymatic cleaners are gentle on pipes and won’t cause any damage.
  • Slow and controlled dissolution: Enzymatic cleaners work gradually, dissolving the blockage over time rather than blasting it apart, which can cause pipes to crack or shift.
  • Safe for the environment: Enzymatic cleaners are biodegradable and eco-friendly, making them a responsible choice for those concerned about the environment.


  • Time-consuming: Enzymatic cleaners take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners, and multiple treatments may be required to completely clear a blockage.
  • May not work on all blockages: Enzymatic cleaners are most effective on organic blockages, and may not be as effective on harder blockages, such as those caused by mineral buildup or debris.

Safety precautions

When using enzymatic drain cleaners, it’s important to follow these safety precautions:

  • Always read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Wear gloves and eye protection when handling harsh or concentrated enzymatic cleaners.
  • Never mix enzymatic cleaners with other chemicals, as this can create hazardous reactions.
  • Keep enzymatic cleaners out of reach of children and pets.
  • Avoid pouring enzymatic cleaners directly down the drain, as this can cause the product to foam and overflow. Instead, pour the cleaner into a bucket of hot water and let it sit for a few minutes before pouring it down the drain.

Mechanical Drain Cleaners

Mechanical drain cleaners are devices that use a clog-removal system to clear blockages in drains. They work by inserting a flexible rod with a auger at the end into the drain pipe. The auger rotates and breaks up the obstruction, allowing it to be removed from the drain.


  • Mechanical drain cleaners are effective at removing blockages caused by hair, soap, and other debris.
  • They are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.
  • They can be used on all types of drains, including those in sinks, bathtubs, and showers.


  • Mechanical drain cleaners can be difficult to maneuver in tight spaces.
  • They can cause damage to the drain pipe if the auger is not removed after use.
  • They can be dangerous if the user is not careful, as the auger can spin out of control and cause injury.

Safety precautions:

  • Always read the manufacturer’s instructions before using a mechanical drain cleaner.
  • Wear gloves and eye protection when using a mechanical drain cleaner.
  • Never use a mechanical drain cleaner on a drain that is connected to a sewer line.
  • Always turn off the water supply to the drain before using a mechanical drain cleaner.

Natural and Eco-Friendly Drain Cleaning Methods

Baking Soda and Vinegar

  • How to use:
    • Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain followed by one cup of white vinegar.
    • Cover the drain with a plate or dish and let it sit for several hours or overnight.
    • Pour boiling water down the drain to clear the blockage.
  • Pros and cons:
    • Pros:
      • Eco-friendly and safe for the environment.
      • Inexpensive and readily available.
      • Can be used for various cleaning purposes.
    • Cons:
      • May not be effective for severe blockages.
      • May require multiple treatments for complete removal of blockages.
      • Can cause a strong odor that may be unpleasant for some people.

Citric Acid

Citric acid is a popular natural and eco-friendly drain cleaner that is derived from citrus fruits. It is a weak acid that can dissolve grease, soap residue, and other organic matter that accumulates in drains.

How to use

To use citric acid as a drain cleaner, follow these steps:

  1. Pour half a cup of citric acid powder down the drain.
  2. Add a gallon of hot water to the drain.
  3. Wait for about 30 minutes for the citric acid to work its way down the drain.
  4. Rinse the drain with hot water.

  5. Pros:

    • Citric acid is a natural and eco-friendly drain cleaner that is safe for the environment.
    • It is a cost-effective solution for unclogging drains.
    • Citric acid is readily available in most grocery stores.
  6. Cons:
    • It may take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners.
    • Citric acid can be corrosive to metal pipes, so it should be used with caution.
    • It may not be effective for all types of drain blockages.


Plungers are a common and effective tool for clearing clogged drains. They work by creating a seal around the drain opening and applying pressure to force the blockage to move or be removed. There are several types of plungers available, each designed for specific types of drains and blockages.

Types of Plungers

  1. Standard Plunger: A standard plunger is the most commonly used type of plunger. It has a flat, cup-shaped end that is designed to create a tight seal around the drain opening.
  2. Toilet Plunger: A toilet plunger is designed specifically for use in toilet bowls. It has a flange-shaped end that is placed over the opening of the toilet bowl and seals the water in.
  3. Accordion Plunger: An accordion plunger is designed to be flexible and adaptable to different drain sizes. It has a rubber tip that can be expanded or contracted to fit the size of the drain opening.

How to Use a Plunger

  1. Assemble the plunger according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  2. Place the plunger over the drain opening and apply downward pressure.
  3. Hold the plunger in place for several seconds to allow the pressure to force the blockage to move or be removed.
  4. Repeat the process as necessary until the drain is clear.

Pros and Cons of Using Plungers

  • Plungers are inexpensive and easy to use.
  • They are effective at clearing clogs caused by hair, soap, and other debris.
  • They are eco-friendly and non-toxic.

  • Plungers may not be effective at clearing clogs caused by larger objects, such as children’s toys or food.

  • They can be messy to use and may cause water to splash out of the drain.
  • They may not be suitable for all types of drains, such as those with tight openings or unusual shapes.

DIY Drain Snakes

DIY drain snakes are an affordable and effective way to unclog drains. They are easy to make and use, and can be a great alternative to harsh chemical drain cleaners. Here’s how to make and use a DIY drain snake:

Materials needed:

  • A stiff wire or metal rod (such as a coat hanger)
  • A bucket or container to catch the debris
  • Gloves and safety goggles

How to make and use:

  1. Unscrew the drain cap and remove any screens or filters.
  2. Insert the wire or metal rod into the drain opening and push it down into the drain pipe.
  3. Use a bucket or container to catch any debris that is dislodged.
  4. Slowly pull the wire or metal rod back up, along with any debris that has accumulated.
  5. Repeat the process until the drain is clear.

Pros and cons:

  • Pros: affordable, eco-friendly, and effective.
  • Cons: may not be suitable for all types of drains, and can be time-consuming.

DIY drain snakes are a great option for unclogging drains in the home. They are a natural and eco-friendly alternative to harsh chemical drain cleaners, and can be made using materials that are readily available. However, they may not be suitable for all types of drains, and may require some time and effort to be effective.

Preventive Measures for Drain Maintenance

Proper Disposal of Food Waste

Effective disposal of food waste is a crucial aspect of maintaining healthy drainage systems in households and commercial establishments. The following tips and recommendations provide valuable insights into proper food waste disposal:

Tips for Reducing Food Waste in the Kitchen

  1. Plan meals ahead: By planning meals in advance, home cooks can make more informed decisions about food purchases, reducing the likelihood of waste.
  2. Store food properly: Proper storage of perishable items, such as potatoes, onions, and tomatoes, can help prevent spoilage and extend their shelf life.
  3. Use a food diary: Keeping track of food waste can help home cooks identify patterns and adjust their behavior to reduce waste.
  4. Prepare meals efficiently: By using cooking techniques that minimize food waste, such as using every part of a vegetable, home cooks can reduce waste and save money.

The Importance of a Fine Mesh Strainer

A fine mesh strainer is an essential tool for properly disposing of food waste in the kitchen. By using a strainer, home cooks can:

  1. Remove excess water from solid food waste, making it easier to dispose of in the garbage.
  2. Prevent blockages in drainage systems by ensuring that no large pieces of food waste are disposed of down the drain.
  3. Reduce the likelihood of unpleasant odors by keeping food waste contained in the strainer until it can be properly disposed of.

By following these tips and recommendations, home cooks can contribute to the maintenance of healthy drainage systems and help prevent costly repairs and cleaning services.

Regular Hair and Lint Removal

Regular hair and lint removal is an essential aspect of drain maintenance. Hair and lint accumulation can lead to clogs and blockages in drains, resulting in water backups and foul odors. To ensure proper drain function, it is crucial to regularly remove hair and lint from the following areas:

Bathroom Drains

Bathroom drains are particularly susceptible to hair and lint buildup due to frequent use and the presence of bathroom fixtures like showers and sinks. To maintain bathroom drains, homeowners should:

  • Use a drain strainer or cover to catch hair and lint before they enter the drain.
  • Regularly clean the strainer or cover and dispose of collected hair and lint.
  • Use a plunger or a plumbing snake to remove any hair or lint blockages that may have formed.

Kitchen Drains

Kitchen drains, including the sink and dishwasher drain, can also accumulate hair and lint from food preparation and washing. To maintain kitchen drains, homeowners should:

  • Use a drain strainer or cover in the sink to catch hair and lint.
  • For the dishwasher drain, consider using a dishwasher cleaning tablet or a dishwasher drain booster to help break down food particles and prevent buildup.

Laundry Room Vents

Laundry room vents, which are responsible for venting hot air and lint from the dryer, should also be regularly cleaned to prevent buildup and potential blockages. Homeowners should:

  • Regularly vacuum or brush the lint filter after each use to remove loose lint and fibers.
  • Check the vent hood and ductwork for any visible buildup and clean as necessary.
  • Have the dryer vent professionally cleaned and inspected every 1-2 years to ensure proper function and prevent blockages.

By following these regular hair and lint removal tips, homeowners can maintain healthy and efficient drain systems in their homes.

Scheduling Professional Plumbing Services

  • When to call a plumber
    • When you notice slow or clogged drains that don’t respond to DIY fixes
    • When you smell strange odors coming from your drains
    • When you see signs of water damage or leaks around your drains
  • What to expect during a drain cleaning service
    • A plumber will inspect your drain system for any blockages or damage
    • They will use specialized tools to clear any clogs or debris
    • They may also recommend additional repairs or maintenance based on their findings
  • The benefits of regular professional inspections
    • Identifying and addressing potential issues before they become bigger problems
    • Extending the life of your drain system
    • Ensuring your home remains safe and comfortable

Professional plumbing services can provide a wide range of benefits for drain maintenance. When it comes to scheduling these services, there are certain situations where it’s recommended to call a plumber. If you’re experiencing slow or clogged drains that don’t respond to DIY fixes, it’s likely time to call in a professional. Strange odors coming from your drains or signs of water damage or leaks around your drains can also indicate a need for professional assistance.

During a drain cleaning service, a plumber will inspect your drain system for any blockages or damage. They will use specialized tools to clear any clogs or debris, and may also recommend additional repairs or maintenance based on their findings. Regular professional inspections can help identify and address potential issues before they become bigger problems, extend the life of your drain system, and ensure your home remains safe and comfortable.


1. What are some recommended methods for keeping drains clean?

There are several methods that plumbers recommend for keeping drains clean. One of the most effective methods is to regularly use a drain cleaning solution or a plunger to remove any blockages or buildup in the drain. It is also recommended to avoid pouring grease, oil, or other substances down the drain, as these can cause blockages and damage to the pipes. Additionally, it is important to have your drains professionally cleaned by a plumber on a regular basis to prevent any potential issues.

2. How often should I have my drains professionally cleaned?

The frequency of professional drain cleaning will depend on several factors, including the age and condition of your plumbing system, the level of usage, and the type of substances that are commonly poured down the drain. As a general rule, it is recommended to have your drains professionally cleaned at least once a year to prevent any potential issues. However, if you have a newer or well-maintained plumbing system, you may be able to extend the interval between cleanings.

3. What are some common signs that my drains need to be cleaned?

There are several signs that your drains may need to be cleaned. Some common signs include slow-draining water, foul odors emanating from the drain, and gurgling noises coming from the pipes. If you notice any of these issues, it is a good idea to have your drains professionally cleaned as soon as possible to prevent any potential problems.

4. Is it safe to use drain cleaning chemicals?

Drain cleaning chemicals can be safe to use, but it is important to follow the instructions carefully and use them in well-ventilated areas. Some chemicals can be harsh and may cause irritation or other issues if used improperly. It is also important to avoid using chemicals if you have a septic system, as they can be harmful to the bacteria that are necessary for the system to function properly.

5. Can I use baking soda and vinegar to clean my drains?

Yes, baking soda and vinegar can be effective at cleaning drains. To use this method, simply pour baking soda down the drain, followed by vinegar. Let the mixture sit for several hours, then rinse with hot water. This method can help to break down any blockages or buildup in the drain, and it is a safe and natural alternative to chemical drain cleaners.

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