How to Clear a Drain Blocked with Fat, Hair, or Food

Blocked drains are the bane of every homeowner. They can be difficult to deal with, especially because they often don’t make themselves known until the most inconvenient moment. Here at Streamline, we know how much hassle blocked drains can be.


But never fear; the experts are here! There are several effective methods to resolve the issue, depending on the type of clog. Keep reading to discover how to clear a drain blocked with fat, hair, and food scraps: three of the most common culprits of a clogged drain.


What could be blocking your drain?

One of the most common causes of drain blockages is fat, oil, or grease. That’s because liquid oils or fats are easy to pour down the drain but solidify as they move through the pipes. Over time, this can cause a build-up of solidified grease along the pipe walls that eventually results in a blockage.


The best way to find the culprit is to use your senses. Most fat-clogged drains still let a small amount of water run through, thus creating a gurgling or bubbling noise. They also tend to smell like old oil or grease traps. On the other hand, hair or food blockages often send little pieces of detritus back up with the water they’re blocking.


From there, it’s a simple matter of location, location, location. If you’re in your bathroom, hair is likely your problem. Food is the next suspect on the list if you’ve determined your clog isn’t grease.


With that covered, let’s look at common household methods to keep your drains clear.


Hot water and vinegar – good for clearing grease

This is a tried-and-true method that has served many homeowners well. A 50:50 mixture of boiling water and white vinegar is like a less-toxic version of store-bought drain cleaners. It’s less likely to strip your pipes or damage your airways.


To clear a fat-blocked drain, slowly pour your vinegar-water mixture down the drain. This gives the hot water time to melt through the grease stuck to the pipe walls, allowing the vinegar to wash it away permanently. The vinegar also helps with the lingering smell of fat or grease.


If this doesn’t completely clear the blockage the first time, try following it up with a second dose a few minutes later. Larger blockages often need repeated treatments to loosen and wash away.


Plunge your sink – good for clearing food scraps

If food is clogging your sink, then you should always try to plunge the blockage away first. This is especially helpful when your sink is backed up with standing water, as getting other methods to work would require an empty sink.


Once you have your plunger, form a tight seal over the drain and plunge repeatedly. Go quickly, keeping your plunger beneath the water to maintain a tight enough seal.


Baking soda and vinegar – a drain cleaner alternative

If plunging doesn’t clear your food scraps, baking soda and vinegar are a good next step. Like the hot water and vinegar mixture that clears drains blocked with fat, baking soda and vinegar function as an alternative to commercial drain cleaners.


This method works best when your sink isn’t backed up with water, as the mixture needs to flow into the pipes.


Start by shaking a cup of baking soda down the drain, then follow it up with a cup of white vinegar. Then, cover the sink drain with a plug or other cover. The baking soda and vinegar will work away at the clog, so leave it for around fifteen minutes before unplugging it.


Once done, check if the water is running freely!


Snaking the drain – good for hair-clogged drains

Unlike clearing drains clogged with fat or food, a little bit of elbow grease can resolve hair-clogged drains. Hair clogs often result from the build-up of soap scum, hair, and loose skin flakes. That means you can reach into the drain and dislodge the blockage with a simple tool like a plumbing snake rather than trying to dissolve it.


If you don’t have a plumbing snake, you can try removing the drain stopper and manually extracting the blockage. Use pliers or a wire hanger to reach the pipe, and make sure you wear gloves!


Still experiencing trouble with your drain?

Drain unblocking can be tough, especially when traditional household methods like the ones above aren’t working. If you’re still experiencing issues with a blocked drain, call the experts at Streamline Environmental & Drainage.


Our professional team will be in and out in no time, leaving a clear drain in their wake. Reach out to us today to streamline your life and your plumbing!