If you want to see some serious toxicity hazards, check out a bottle of liquid drain cleaner. This has to be one of the worst substances in conventional house cleaning, right up there ahead of oven cleaner. The reason these two products are so dangerous is that they are meant to dissolve solid masses on contact, with little to no elbow grease at all. That means that whatever is in your drain – which is usually a mass of hair – will be eliminated by this stuff. But just think about it. This is not a discerning chemical. It does not sense what it is touching and decide, “I’m not supposed to dissolve this. I am supposed to dissolve that. And now I’m supposed to stop working and disappear.” This stuff is really, really, really bad. If it accidentally comes into contact with your skin, you’ll have serious problems. What if you have little ones who get their hands on this? Furthermore, I have a septic system. Anything that goes down my drain lives in my septic system and eventually leeches into my yard. Even if I were on a city sewer system, things don’t disappear down the drain. They show up in our oceans and water supply. Any chance this is biodegradable?

So, if you’re sink is smelling a little swampy but it is draining fine, you probably just have some gunk coating the pipes. Jumping straight to the vinegar and baking soda remedy in the video below will do the trick. However, if your sink is draining slowly, you have a clog that needs to be cleared. Whether it’s hair, a toy, a rubber band or whatever, you have to get it out. Before you call the plumber, check out these directions from my hubby. He even coached his sister through this process from across the country, so there’s hope for you, too. Then you should proceed to the deodorizing.

To clear a sink drain:

  1. Remove all junk from the cabinet under the sink. Ask yourself, “Why do we have so much of this (fill in the blank)?”
  2. Lay out a towel that can get dirty on the inside of the cabinet.
  3. Take a basin or short bucket to catch the eight or so ounces of gunky sink water.
  4. Take several digital pictures of the pipes in case you get into trouble later.
  5. Use a pipe wrench or channel lock pliers to disconnect the P-Trap. The P-Trap naturally enough is a J-shaped pipe that connects the vertical sink drain to the wall pipe. As you are looking at the fittings, they come off by turning them from left to right.
  6. Remove the P-Trap and drain water into basin. If you’ve used a Drain-O sort of product that is still in the trap, use gloves, eye protection and anything else you need to keep from touching that stuff.
  7. Unbend a coat hanger or do something similarly clever to clean out the pelt of hair from both the P-Trap and the vertical drain pipe.
  8. If necessary, unscrew the drain actuator from the back of the vertical pipe. Take more digital pictures. Remove the pop up drain stopper and check to make sure that the pipe is clear.
  9. Put everything back together in reverse order. Use the pictures you’ve taken to guide you if you get stuck. If you can still pick up the stopper clear out of the sink, you haven’t done it right.
  10. It you have a double vanity, go ahead and do the other sink while you’re at it. Otherwise, it is guaranteed to clog next week.
  11. Post out how clever and handy you are on your favorite social networking site.
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