Clear a Clogged Drain With SCIENCE!!!

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Introduction: Clear a Clogged Drain With SCIENCE!!!

Party Like It's 1929!

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Party Like It's 1929!

Hey guys, howzit?
If you are, or know someone who is, a person with excessive facial hair, this one's for you.
So I trimmed my beard recently, and, like an idiot, neglected to clear the larger masses of hair before rinsing out the sink over which I do my trimming.
I thought, naively, that the hair would simply be flushed down as so many of its predecessors had been.
I was wrong. What I ended up with was a sink that wouldn't drain as a result of my foolishness.
Apparently, I have such remarkably strong and healthy hair, that the attempts of tweezers and even Dran-O were insufficient to reopen the clogged waterway.
Then I happened upon an idea, fresh from the third grade science fair.
Vinegar and Baking soda.

(PS: these photos were taken after the fact, so imagine if you will, a snarling mass of hair and myself in shimmering armor standing ready to do battle with it.)
(PPS: or just imagine a clogged sink and a slightly de-bearded guy...)

Step 1: GET!

  • Vinegar.
  • Baking Soda. SODA. Not POWDER. SODA.
  • Spoon!
  • A clogged sink. Mine was clogged with my own beard trimmings, but I leave you to your own devices for that one.

Step 2: OBEY!

Take a spoonful (or two) of baking SODA, and put it in your sink.
Since my drain was clear of hair at the picture taking time, I had to give it a couple of spoonfuls for dramatic effect.

Step 3: SUBMIT!

Pour some vinegar into the drain. I stopped when I heard fizzing, because I didn't want to wash all the SODA down the drain.

Step 4: Turn Your Head and COUGH!

What happens is a lot of fun, as well as useful.
The baking SODA and vinegar combine, creating a mass of foaming death that violently surges upwards in an attempt to break free of its sink-y tomb.
It also fizzes fairly quickly, hopefully bringing any light debris (read: beard hair) up with it, where it can be safely (but no less disgustingly) grabbed and disposed of properly.

Step 5: REFRIGERATE!

Last, put he Baking SODA in your refrigerator; it keeps food fresh and hairless (always a good thing...)

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90 Comments

Interesting idea. Will this clear a drain if the clog isn't merely "loose debris"? Another good way to get more violence out of this reaction is to microwave your vinegar (in a micro-wave safe container) to near-boiling. I've used this method to descale faucet aerators before.

You shouldn't microwave liquids (viscous ones like soup aren't a problem). I know you can without any problems but here is the risk: Bubbles form in boiling water around impurities in the liquid or imperfections in the surface of the container. As the water gets hotter the bubbles slowly begin to get larger and rise. This process takes time, as the water is heated along a gentle thermal gradient. A microwave is capable of heating water faster than bubble formation occurring. This can result in water in an impossible state, heated beyond 100C and still a liquid. Any shock to the system, throw in a grain of rice/acoustic shock the container, can cause the water to "leap" from the container and virtually explode in all directions. 100C+ water flying about your kitchen? Not cool. Thin (non viscous) liquids should be heated in a pan on a hob. I know you said near-boiling, but my point is that it is very hard to judge that in a microwave. Be safe kids

I've wanted an answer to that phenomenon for a long time. Thanks for answering the question I never got around to asking.?

The traditional solution to this problem (which can also occur if you're boiling liquid on the stove in a pan/pot/kettle with a glass or otherwise almost perfectly smooth surface) is a "boiling stone" -- a piece of irregular rock (or some more sanitary, scientific alternative for food--for this, I suspect any small irregular pebble would work fine -- the more porous the better). Putting this in before boiling ensures that there are nucleation sites to encourage the constant formation of bubbles as it heats, so you don't have kind of nasty massive critical single-bubble overload lasersage is describing.

Interesting. Good point about glass on the hob, I hadn't considered that. I like the boiling stone idea, I've never come across it before.

We have 'em in the lab, they're called boiling chips. They're in the manual in every fricking lab gut professor always says not to bother with them (we do all boiling of things in the hood.)

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I use a few grains of salt or sugar (depending on the food item- salt in my tea? No thanks). If the traditional exploding-microwaved-coffee is caused by adding powdered sugar, head off the problem and put a little in before heating it. I wonder if putting the vinegar down the drain and quickly putting the plug in would be a good idea? It might pressurise and blow the blockage down the drain, or it might shoot out of the overflow and get all over you.

Haha.. I have personal experience very similar to what you've just postulated. Plumbers will sometimes do something called "ballooning" the line when a drain snake won't clear things out. Basically what they do is hook a special hose up to your drain line that creates a seal and pressurizes the line between the drain and the clog, forcing it through. Well in my case, the clog was in there pretty good I guess and ended up blowing out into my bathroom (from the kitchen) up through the sink and bathtub. They didn't notice until we heard water dripping through the floor into the basement. The guy swore that had never happened before, but I never want to clean up such a stinky mess like that again. So, in most normal homes, a little pressure caused by a chemical reaction probably won't hurt anything, but you'd be safer plugging other drains around the house too.

Thanks for including the safety tip/disclaimer I should have.

Awh yeah, or some conc H2SO4 lol Aaron