Lye to Maintain Drain Pipes

The main reasons drain pipes clog are: fat, food waste or fecal waste, and hair.

There’s a cheap product out there that can help manage them all, and avoid clogs, and the annual call to the roto rooter guy: lye.

Back in the day, everyone used lye to unclog drains. The popular brand was Red Devil, but that’s no longer available.

The current substitute I use is Zep Crystal Heat, which is lye with some blue dye, to resemble Drano. Drano is also lye, but with some aluminum in there to buffer the product.

The instructions say how to use the lye to unclog a sink. Personally, I only do this maybe half the time. I have a sense of what’s clogging it, and, usually, opt to try snaking it before using chemicals.

What I use lye for is regular maintenance.

Every couple months, I put a couple teaspoons of lye down my kitchen or bathroom sink, and then run the water until I’m pretty sure that lye isn’t stuck in the trap.

Then I let it sit a couple hours.

Then I run some hot water down there for a minute.

Lye is hazardous, and you should never pour water into lye. Pour a spoon or two of lye into the sink. Then follow it with water down the sink.

What’s going on with lye?

Lye combines with water to make lye water. Lye water combines with fats to make soap.

Lye water combines with hair and causes the hair to weaken. It’s a hair relaxer.

Lye water combines with organic matter, and helps to disintergrate it. I think the lye attacks the cells.

So, lye is pretty powerful, against organic and fatty matter. It’s not so strong against plastics and metals, so it’s pretty safe for use on pipes.

However, I like to use small amounts of lye, so I’m pretty certain that it’ll all react with something like fat or hair, and none will be left to damage pipes, or even to boil and produce “smoke” or “steam” that’s vaporized lye, that’ll damage your lungs.

After a couple hours, when the lye water has had time to react with the waste water and grease on the pipes, I run water down the sink, just in case some was left behind.

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Copyright 2023 and John Kawakami