May 18, 2008 7:15 AM   Subscribe

Should I use helpful bacteria to unclog shower and bath drains?

Some earlier commenters on plumbing matters have suggested this line of products, with these species. There are also many similar commercial products often marketed as "green."

As I am not a microbiologist, I don't have a clue what the bacteria will do. Will they multiply and will a hungry Blob-like colony crawl out of my drains and go on the rampage? What will the bacteria do to the local ecosystem?

More to the point, will they actually eat the hair and hair product gunk that is probably clogging the drains?
posted by bad grammar to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I've put bokashi liquid down the drain before now, with no ill effects. I do tend to scoosh it down with a bit of water, unless its the outside drain, though.

I've never really noticed an effect either way, but I haven't every done it religiously, and I've never really paid much attention to the drain. Mmm, minty fresh drains....
posted by Solomon at 7:24 AM on May 18, 2008

Have you already exhausted the non-chemical, non-bacterial possibilities? For example, you could try the Zip-It, which is pretty amazing (although make sure you steel yourself before looking at what it pulls out of the drain—I nearly barfed the first time).
posted by bcwinters at 7:55 AM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Zip-It looks cool. You could also use a wire coat hanger, untwist the end and straighten it out. This is what I use for my shower drain and it works just fine. But, as bcwinters said, be prepared for some disgusting stuff to come out.
posted by at 8:17 AM on May 18, 2008

They always seemed to work for me. My impression is that they eat the soapy, greasy, sticky gunk that forms in pipes, so that hair and lint won't get stuck.

When I remember to apply the stuff regularly, it seems like the drains run better. I don't think it will work for drains that are already clogged.

Presumably, they won't harm anything. If anything, they will help keep the sewers clean?
posted by gjc at 8:55 AM on May 18, 2008

Pouring a lot of boiling water down the sink sometimes really helps get things moving, have you tried that?
posted by Melsky at 10:31 AM on May 18, 2008

Use a toilet plunger. I found a small one in a dollar store that is very effective for flushing sink and tub drains.
posted by Raybun at 1:19 PM on May 18, 2008

For a slow drain - the biological stuff will help.

For a clogged drain - you need to physically remove the offending clog via a plunger, plumbers snake or Zip It. (Prepare yourself as bcwinters suggests. Really. Prepare. ) Or you can try the traditionql recipe for Drano type products. I don't recommend this. Drano can take a really long time to work in a badly clogged drain. If you use it and need a plumber anyway then he's going to charge you extra.

Here is what our pals at Consumer Reports have to say.
posted by 26.2 at 2:11 PM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you use a plumbers snake (they do work), definately wear some gloves and old clothes that you don't want to get messed up. and if it's a shower, don't go barefoot. I've done it and it's not pleasant. You get some disgusting crap out of a shower.
posted by majikstreet at 2:17 PM on May 18, 2008

Ugh, the stuff that comes out of a kitchen drain is even worse. All the pipes under the sink were clean as a whistle after all the plunging, vinegar and baking soda, Drano, and boiling water that we used, none of which had any effect at all. We had to open up the big pipe downstairs and my beloved spouse got to spend an hour snaking that fetid anaerobic mess out of there. Great way to spend a Saturday night (and Sunday, cleaning up the garage and doing a lot of laundry.) Looking at the length of affected 3-inch pipe I realized how little a pot of boiling water would really do. But this thing was fully blocked--if your drain is just slow, maybe something like water or Drano would help.

Personally, I decided today to get some of that enzyme stuff--so I can't help you with your question just yet but intend to start using it religiously in the kitchen. Having read about it for a while today it seems like nobody's saying anything all too bad about it, and the idea of an army of good bacteria chowing down on all that grungy nastiness really pleases me.
posted by bink at 4:32 PM on May 18, 2008

26.2 has it right: use the biological stuff for prevention and maintenance but don't expect it to shift an actual clog.

Once you get the pipes moving, invest a couple of dollars in a set of drain screens for both kitchen and bath. In the kitchen, we're impatient and sloppy with dish-washing and rinse too much past the screens, so we use another bacterial product to keep things clear. (No idea if it's better or worse than what you've listed.) But in the bath, the screens alone work really well to catch all the hair that would otherwise form a bristling slimy bolus somewhere downstream.
posted by dogrose at 5:14 PM on May 18, 2008

How big are the bacteria? Can they handle a plunger or a drain snake?
posted by muzzlecough at 5:26 PM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Honestly, a good plunging will usually do the trick on a slow drain. You have to make sure to use an old rag to plug the overflow hole on the tub, and you get some naaaasty stuff coming up out of the drain, but everything drains well afterwards.
posted by radioamy at 9:07 PM on May 18, 2008

We've used similar stuff and consider it a miracle.

We had a slow drain in our bathtub and the Zip it and a snake did very little. We both have short hair, so it was unlikely to be just hair gumming up the works. Recalling the nasty soapy buildup that occurs in our sink traps (which we used to disassemble and clean out with an old toothbrush), we decided to try this stuff. We poured it in every day for three or four days and it loosened up all the soapy crud that sticks to the sides of the pipes. Then ran a fair amount of hot water through and plunged the daylights out of it.* It really was a miracle. The water ran through so quickly you could hear the sucking sound of the drain. It had been a darn long time since it drained as well.

Now we use it every now and again to keep things running well. We also use it in the sink and have saved us from the nasty disassembly chore we used to go through.

* Yes, we did try just hot water and plunging. No real change.
posted by advicepig at 10:41 AM on May 19, 2008

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