Coconut oil can be used for (almost) everything, but does it have one major disadvantage? Drains in the sink and bathtub can be exposed to high amounts of melted coconut oil, especially if you use it for DIY scrubs, as a moisturizer/body butter, for oil pulling and more. Its melting point is low because it melts when it touched your skin, but cold drains can make it build up. So how do we remove it from the drains?
The short answer to the question above is: YES, coconut oil does clog the drains, but you can prevent it.
Before you throw all the coconut oil to the trash (or down the drain 😀 ), let’s see why it clogs the drains.
Why does coconut oil clog the drains?
Coconut oil has the melting point at 24°C/76°F, so it solidifies at lower temperatures. Drains are usually metal and cold, so this is the reason why the oil clogs. Other greases can also clog, for example, bath oils or massage oils, but commercial products have ingredients that make them less oily and less clogging. You can add soap to your DIY products, but not all recipes can be adjusted this way.
So, what can we do?
How to prevent clogged drains when using coconut oil?
- Don’t pour any coconut oil down the drains (or into the toilet)! This seems obvious, but if you oil pull, spit it into the trash. Also, any rancid oil should be disposed in the trash and not through the drain. If you keep a jar of oil in the bathroom, store it somewhere else, because it:
- can get rancid
- can contain bacteria if the jar is open: the warm and moist environment is great for bacteria growth
- you can accidentally spill it into the drain: this the reason for the worst cases of clogged drains, because the amount of oil is just too high for any cleaning. Other oils can clog it as well, for example, massage oils that you use in the bathtub.
- Clean the drains: oils, dirt and hair can build up, especially down the bathtub pipes. Always clean the hair out of the bathtub drain right after washing, so it doesn’t clog it furthermore. Especially long hair make the drains tighter because they get stuck and the fluid can’t be removed. I have experience with these because I never listened to everyone who told me to clean them and the drain got seriously clogged. Unclogging was way less fun than regular cleaning. 🙂
- Use cleaning products: I’m all for the natural solutions, so here are a few:
- start with hot water: this seems too easy to work, but if you live in a moderately warm area, coconut oil won’t harden as much as in colder countries. As always, clean it often, for example, pour some very hot water down the drain right after using oil based products. The best water is almost boiling, but don’t use the boiling one-this can damage your drains and make the situation even worse. Some people who used boiling water, had their drains exploded, so don’t make anything too drastic. Hot water won’t be too damaging, especially if you use some warm water beforehand. Start with warm and continue with very hot water. Don’t use any cold water, because coconut oil can become solid.
- if hot water doesn’t help, try some detergent: I believe in natural, but some things need to be cleaned with commercial cleaning products. Soap probably won’t work, because you’d have to push it down the drain to clean the clogged area and any water would water it down (and make it less effective). Detergents, especially those for unclogging, will clean it thoroughly and the likelihood of any permanent damage to the drains is low. Call a cleaning company for a serious problem, tough, because it’s better to pay for cleaning than for replacing the drains. 🙂
- try manual cleaning: use a wire to clean (similar to the one for unclogging toilets), but since this is too time-consuming for larger areas, use it only for removing hair.
- some suggest the use of lye: lye reacts with the oil and saponifies it, so it basically creates a soap. BUT, this is by no means a safe solution, so don’t do it. Lye makes the temperature rise immediately and this reaction could make the drains explode.
- the ‘volcano’: another not-so-safe option. If you combine baking soda and vinegar, you will get a chemical reaction that could unclog the drain. Acids and alkaline products react and this can be used for cleaning multiple surfaces, for example, bathtub, sink, and limescale. The problem with this solution is that we don’t like to measure, so we just pour a lot of both ingredients and this creates a volcano. If the drains are very clogged, the pressure could push the dirt, oil and hair upwards into the sink or bathtub OR it could make the drains explode. If you do choose to make this DIY cleaning product, then follow this ratio: 1 part baking soda, 1 part vinegar, 2 parts hot water. First, pour the baking soda, follow with vinegar and wait for 30 minutes or more. Then pour hot water and it should be unclogged! 🙂
- limit the amount of coconut oil that goes down the drain: this might be difficult if you like to use it in DIY skin care products, but it’s worth it. The cleaning and maintenance can not replace all the build up that can happen, because even if you do clean your drains, it can clog somewhere else. Who cleans more than a few meters of pipes? 🙂 Use it outside of the bathtub, for example after showering when you step outside, so it doesn’t get flushed down the drain. I haven’t seen any problems with oil scrubs, but I do clean everything regularly, so this might be the reason. 🙂
Have you ever had an unpleasant experience with coconut oil and drains? Tell me in the comments below!
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