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Deep cleaning? Don’t forget your drains

Why drain clearing should be part of your cleaning regime, and how to do it

During lockdown you may find that you have a lot of time on your hands or, given the amount of time you’re spending at home, that you’re starting to notice how much it could do with a really deep clean. Deep cleaning your home is never a waste of time and even though you may be very house proud and believe that you’re already pretty good at keeping it clean, you would be surprised at the hidden dirt you’ll find conducting a proper deep clean.

So what might you include on a deep clean that you may not get done as part of regular cleaning routines? Certainly you would do things like clearing and cleaning the insides of cupboards, cleaning the tops of cupboards and the kickboard plinths, and descaling the kettle but one thing that really ought to be included is giving your drains a once over.

Both kitchen and bathroom drains see a lot of action: food waste, hair, soap, and dirt are washed down every day. These can build up over time (actually, it doesn’t take very long at all to build up, if you’re not careful about it) and create problems. Drains that become blocked can be really bad news: not only could they require the services of a plumber to resolve but they could back up and cause damage to your home.

Preventing drains from becoming blocked isn’t actually very difficult at all. It just requires two things: be careful about what you put down the sink and periodic clearing to keep them flowing and prevent build up.

How do you clean your drains?

Keeping drains clear is pretty simple; they can be kept clear by putting some kind of drain cleaner down them. Certainly you should do this if you find that water takes a while to flow away, indicating that something is blocking it, but actually it makes sense to do this regularly to keep on top of it. As it doesn’t require that much effort, it’s not even something that has to be left for deep cleaning; it can easily be included in your routine cleaning. All you need to do is add some kind of cleaning substance to your drain in order to break down the waste that is in there.

What cleaning substances can you use to clear drains?

You have a number of options when it comes to cleaning your drains. A really effective way is to buy drain cleaning liquids or powders. These do work well but contain very strong chemicals and can even potentially erode pipes over time. If you are looking to reduce the amount of chemicals in your home (and environment in general), or just save money, there are several homemade remedies you can make just using standard household items you’ve probably already got in the cupboards. Here are few you could try:

Baking soda and vinegar

Mix 2 parts baking soda and 1 part salt and pour down the drain. Warm 4 parts vinegar and pour down on top of the baking soda and salt. It will bubble and fizz. Let it work for 15 minutes and then flush through with hot water.

Washing up liquid

Yes, simple old washing up liquid. This is a good one for the kitchen sink where there might be fat and grease down the drain. Dish washing detergent contains grease busting ingredients so it’s really good at breaking down these fatty deposits in the sink but you need a bigger dose than you would get doing your general washing up. Boil some water and add 2 tablespoons of washing up liquid. Pour this slowly down the sink.

Borax, salt and vinegar

Anyone whose kids went through the slime making phase may well have borax still in the cupboard! Mix 1 part each of borax and salt and 2 parts vinegar. Pour into the sink and then pour in boiling water from the kettle. Let this sit for an hour and then flush through with hot tap water.

Ways to minimise drain blockages

Prevention is always better than cure so as well as cleaning your drains regularly, do what you can to prevent the build up in the first place? Try to always stick to the following:

  • Put food waste into the bin. Before you rinse your plates and pans, scrape as much of the food waste into the bin rather than let it wash down the sink. You should always do this before putting items in the dishwasher as you don’t want to clog those pipes up either
  • Use a sink strainer in the plug hole. This will catch larger pieces of food and prevent them going any further
  • Never pour fat down the sink. Any fat, but particularly fat that becomes solid when cold, will clog up the drains so pour into an old yogurt pot or food carton and dispose of in the bin
  • Watch what children are putting down the sink. Kids have been known to put all sorts of things down sinks and toilets that they really shouldn’t such as toys, paper, slime or even water beads (which can cause a huge problem) so keep an eye on them and make sure they know not to put anything down except soap and water

What to do if your drains do get blocked and these remedies don’t work

If you do find that your sink, bath or shower is failing to drain away properly, then you may have a blockage that can’t be resolved using a DIY fix. In this instance, it’s best to get a professional opinion and call out a plumber. They will be able to diagnose the problem and offer a fix. Of course, if you follow the advice above it’s likely that you’ll never need us!

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