Learn How To Clean Soap Buildup In Your Drain

Keeping your space clean is a major thing. Especially your bathroom! Do you know how to clean your toilet the right way? How about shower glass and shower curtain? And here comes the next question… Have you been facing recurring incidences of clogged drains lately? If yes, then the culprit may be soap scum. Lime soap can appear in your drains over time, and the only way to rid of the problem on your own is to clean yours regularly. Before you have nightmares of being elbow-deep in unclogging solutions and drain openers – relax. 

a clogged dirty sewer pipe from leftover food

Our guide comes equipped with various tricks and tips to help you combat soap scum and keep your drains squeaky clean. Oh, and there’s a DIY step-by-step tutorial to help unclog your drains the right way too!

Why does soap buildup cause problems?

Lime soap takes the form of white residue that appears around shower stalls, bathtubs, pipes, and drains. Generally, soap scum is a bigger concern where the water quality is hard (it has a higher magnesium and calcium content). 

However, over time, scum can appear in drains just as easily in households that run on soft water. That’s because even though soft water has a low calcium and magnesium content, it’s not entirely free of the said minerals. 

If you’re wondering whether hard water is entirely to blame for the existence of lime soap – the answer’s no—soap scum forms when the minerals present in hard water react with the fatty acids in soaps. So, technically, it’s the combination of soap and hard water that results in the clingy white substance you can sometimes observe around your sinks and bathtubs. 

soap residues and hard water on a shower faucet

Water passing through your drains does much to get rid of the stuff. However, prolonged hard water and soap use will eventually lead to gradual scum intensification and clog drains. 

And, that’s not the only problem. Scum can serve as a hose to a variety of bacteria – leading to hygiene concerns. Aside from standing water in your sink or bathtubs, soap residue can also encourage the growth of mould or mildew. For more information on how to remove mould from your bathroom check our guide.

How to clean soap buildup in your drain step-by-step

Here’s the thing. Our cleaning methods to keep the plumber away include natural ingredients. We don’t recommend the use of commercial drain cleaners for three significant reasons. 

One, the harsh chemicals utilised in drain cleaners can be harmful to your health. Ingredients such as bleach, lye, caustic potash, etc., have high toxicity levels. They can result in burns if they come in direct contact with your skin. 

Two, using chemical cleaners may actually lead to bigger plumbing problems. The ingredients used in chemical drain openers can sometimes damage the drain pipes – leading to a much costlier concern within your household plumbing system

Three, once you pour the drain opener down the pipe, it will eventually find its way to wherever the drain leads out and can negatively impact the ecosystem in various ways. 

Long story short, if you’re hoping to avoid all the concerns we just listed out, try out our natural scum build-up removing techniques listed below. This way, you’ll rid yourself of stubborn clogs and keep your health, PVC plumbing, and the environment safe!

Method 1: Warm water, white vinegar and baking soda drain cleaner

We’re talking about a bunch of things that you have around your house. So this first method couldn’t be any easier even if it tried! Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Start by heating water in a large pot. Allow the water to heat until it’s warm, and then pour it down the affected drain. This will help in melting and softening the scum in piping. Don’t try to pour hot water or boiling water down the drain because this can damage the PVC pipes. 
  2. Next, pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain, immediately followed by half a cup of vinegar. Affix the stopper and allow the drain cleaning solution to do its job.
  3. Once 30 minutes have passed, heat up water in a large pot again. Pour the water down the drain to wash away any remnants of the scum. 
  4. You may have to repeat steps 1 to 3 to completely clear a scum clog. But, the good news is, doing so will not damage your plumbing in any way. 

Baking soda and vinegar

Method 2: Salt, warm water and liquid detergent drain cleaner

Think again! It could be easier! Here are the steps that you need to follow:

  1. Heat water in a large pot and pour it down the relevant drain once it’s warm. 
  2. Next, pour down one cup of liquid detergent, followed immediately by half a cup of salt. Allow the detergent and salt to combat grease, gunk and scum for about 30 minutes.
  3. Then, heat up two litres of water (about half a gallon of water) and pour it down the drain of your bathroom sink, bathtub, shower drain, or garbage disposal. Doing so will help flush down the loosened scum and other clogging matter – resulting in blockage-free plumbing.

Homeowners dealing with particularly stubborn kitchen sinks or bathroom drains may have to repeat this process once or twice to clear the pipes of the block completely

Hand of a man pouring drain cleaner in a drain

How to prevent the drains from clogging 

Since giving up on using the kitchen, bathtub or sink drains altogether is out of the question – what else can one do to keep from resorting to the clog remover every few days? 

That’s precisely what we’ll be discussing in this section. You see, it’s not enough to have a handy homemade drain opener ready when disaster strikes. Especially if there are ways, you can avert the catastrophe from happening in the first place. 

So, here’s a list of tips and tricks to help you: 

  1. To ensure your drains work like clockwork all the time – don’t wait for them to start malfunctioning. Instead, be proactive, and clean your drains regularly twice a month at least using any of the two cleaning methods listed above. 
  2. Scum is a bother when dealing with drains. But sometimes, they can clog without any scum interference. That’s why it’s useful to have certain tools handy. For instance, a long wire hook can work wonders in clearing out small objects or hair stuck in the pipes. Another helpful tool to always have around is the trusty plunger. Plungers are perfect for detaching objects stuck in the curved pipe underneath your sink and allowing water to flow freely through the pipe like it ought to. 
  3. Try not to pour oil or grease down the kitchen drains because, much like scum, fat can slowly clog your drain over time and be an absolute nightmare to deal with. 
  4. Chuck veggie or fruit peels and leftover bits of food in the trash and not your kitchen sink
  5. Invest in mesh traps for all your drains. These handy little gadgets can help catch all kinds of icky stuff (like scum, food particles, etc.) from flowing down to your pipe and stop a blockage right in its tracks. 

Unfortunately, dealing with cloggy drains isn’t something you can avoid 100% of the time. With life being what it is, sometimes we’re too busy to think about drain pipe health until a problem presents itself. Taking certain precautions can go a long way in reducing the number of times you need to deal with blocked drains. For instance, a simple mesh trap can help keep all types of trouble-causing particles out of your plumbing and into the trash – where they belong. 

Woman in yellow rubber gloves washes and cleans a sink with a sponge and brush

However, if it so happens that you’re faced with a difficult drain, nonetheless, you can always fall back on the natural and safe drain-opening solutions mentioned here and get your life back on track without too much hassle. That’s definitely a win-win type scenario. Try and avoid stocking harmful chemicals in the house, especially if you have little ones running around. Remember the safety of you and your loved ones always comes first!

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