Not long ago, the internet was bombarded with a clickbait ad that teased “Pour Salt Down Your Drain Tonight, Here's Why"—but the “why” was never answered. This ad has spurred a spike in Google searches and questions related to the benefit of pouring salt down drains. Is there any benefit to it? What does it do, and how does it work, if it works at all? Can it actually harm your plumbing?
Below, we’ll give you our plumbing experts’ take on salt’s ability to clear a clog, along with some plumbing tips to consider.
Is there any benefit to pouring salt down your drains?
Short answer: not really. Salt, by itself, doesn’t really do anything beneficial for your plumbing system. The theory we’ve seen online is that because salt is coarse, it will create a scouring action that scrapes debris from the inside of your pipes, particularly when you flush it with boiling water afterward.
There’s no evidence that this is what actually takes place. First of all, you would need a lot of salt to scour the entire interior of your pipes, and we never recommend dumping a large quantity of anything but water down your drains. It should also be noted that if your drain is made of PVC pipe (rather than CPVC, which is heat-resistant), pouring boiling-hot water down the drain can warp the pipe material and cause a leak.
Can salt be used in homemade drain cleaners?
Typically, salt is only part of old “homemade remedies” for clearing clogged drains. A couple of these “drain cleaners you can make at home” are featured on HGTV.com. One remedy calls for combining a half cup of table salt and a half cup of baking soda and pouring the mixture down the drain. The instructions say to wait 30 minutes (or overnight for a tough clog) before flushing the mixture down the drain with a pot of boiling water. Other solutions include a similar mixture of ingredients, such as salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar as well as salt, vinegar, and borax.
Do homemade drain cleaners really work?
That depends. If your drain has some gunk accumulated along the pipe walls, and you want to get rid of the odor it’s creating, one of the methods above with baking soda can probably help to absorb the smell. Baking soda is well known for its absorbent properties. Similarly, boiling water and soap (or similar substances, like borax), are effective at cutting through grease—a major clog-causing agent—so this type of cleaner could help prevent future clogs or “clogs-in-the-making.”
However, if there is a stubborn blockage deep in your plumbing, you won’t solve it by pouring a homemade or store-bought solution down the drain. At that point, the most effective solutions are snaking (or cabling) the drain with a drain snake or hiring a plumber to perform hydro jetting. Both of these professional drain cleaning methods require zero chemicals and are the best long-term solutions for tough clogs that a plunger can’t dislodge.
Need help with a clog? Count on our Griffith plumbers at Meyers Companies, Inc.: (219) 240-0610.