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Recently, I needed to buy some pipe cleaner, as sometimes even with care hair and other detritus gets lodged so deep down the shower drain that it is not possible to get it out. I always try to avoid/reduce use of bleach and other hard chemicals or products that incorporate them, as in the end it goes down the drain is not good for the environment.

However, unfortunately the 'bio' product of the same brand of cleaner I had used before (didn't know it existed before) was not very satisfactory so far. Is there maybe someone here who could offer details of the chemical function of these types of cleaners, and either knows a method to improve the use of the bio/organic one or recommend another product or compound that is easy on the environment but cleans drains well? For the proper use, the instructions say that for the 'organic' one (yes sorry for that chemically improper use but ...) you should add hot or warm water to start the reaction, though my worry is also that this added water will just flush the product down the drain depending on the size of the drain.

I know some of these ingredients and how they likely function, but not all of them and I am not sure what the combined effects might be. To my understanding the 'non-organic' one relies on the reactive power of chlor(ide/ine) and resulting reaction products, whereas with the organic one I am not really sure.

Specifically, it is about these two products: rorax and rorax bio (at least on the German market) The ingredients of rorax (said to be chlorine based in marketing) are given as water, sodium hydroxide, sodium hypochlorite, myristamin oxide, sodium silicate, fatty acids, C6-12-, natrium salts as per http://detvo.werner-mertz.de/?lang=de&country=DE&prod_id=109655

The ingredients of rorax bio are given as water, sodium chloride, urea, sodim laureth sulfate, sodium thioglycolate, sodium hydroxide, Amide polyglycol ether, parfum, colorant according to http://detvo.werner-mertz.de/?lang=de&country=DE&prod_id=114331

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Congratulations on being environmentally sensitive!

The problem with sink drains is the device that lifts and lowers the stopper. It is a rod that protrudes into the drainpipe above the U-trap; it catches hair and provides a bacterial nest and eventually slows water drainage.

Older drain cleaners were based on alkali to dissolve hair; some used aluminum to foam and break up the hairy mass. Bleach plus alkali works well too, and kills bacteria. The newer, less aggressive formulas can use thioglycolate to dissolve hair (also used on human legs!).

In the overall scheme of life, with all the other bodily wastes going down the drain, a little drain cleaner may not be a big problem, and where it is important, the government usually has a statement or a regulation.

Even without regulations tho, it would be kind to the environment to limit our use of toxic chemicals. Using a lot of ineffective product may be worse than using a little of a more aggressive product. I would suggest two approaches:

1) Pour just a little of the effective product down the drain, but only when it drains slowly (you can measure the drain speed by filling the bowl to a certain line, then timing how long it takes to empty). This little bit (10-20 mL?) will saturate the clog because it is higher than the bottom of the U-trap. Give it some time (many minutes, even hours); see if it has opened up. If not, repeat. This may go against product recommendations to use a lot of product, but I suspect that the bottom of the U-trap is not blocked (any water flow usually cleans that out). This will reduce your environmental impact by using your brain.

2) Use a mechanical method. a) A stiff copper wire with a tiny hook at the end is useful for digging out hair, and often opens up the drain with just a lot of hot water. b) Cut a hollow rubber ball in half to make a tiny plunger. Place it over the drain (with the stopper lifted a little) and press it up and down to push the clog all the way down the drain.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your answer. Just some comments. Maybe I should have added that in this case the most problematic is the shower drain, not the sink, so there is no 'stopper' in this case. If it was a sink, I would likely just disassemble the U-trap and clean it that way. The product recommendation in the one I use (there are more concentrated ones) is to use 250 ml of the 1 L bottle at a time, then wait between 5 mins to overnight. I always let it sit overnight. However due to the shape (very flat/narrow) of the drain, it is even harder to get to. $\endgroup$ – step21 Oct 22 '18 at 11:30
  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps you would feel better just adding half of the recommended amount (125 mL) and see if that works. Or whatever minimal amount of whichever product can do the job with the least amount. This is also a money-saver! $\endgroup$ – James Gaidis Oct 22 '18 at 16:13

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