What happens when you have twins and entrust blog writing to your husband because you're so busy? You get two "manly" blog posts in a row. Although now that I think about it, there are probably plenty of ladies concerned with keeping their drains flowing freely without using caustic chemicals.
How is all this related to homemade soap? Well, part of the reason drains require periodic maintenance is because of soap scum – a compound created from a reaction between soap and the calcium found in tap water. If you've got hard water (i.e., more calcium in your water) the problem can be worse, unless you're running a water softener. Soap, combined with hair, can create quite a nasty clog, or it can cling to pipe walls to effectively reduce the diameter of your drains, slowing them considerably.
The common ways to deal with clogs and build-up in drains are to physically remove them,
using a drain auger (aka snake), or to chemically remove them with a drain cleaner. The more commonly available consumer-grade chemical cleaners usually contain sodium hydroxide (lye), or sodium hypochlorite (bleach). Commercial-grade cleaners can contain some pretty nasty stuff –acids and the like. These aren't things I usually like to handle (I'll leave the handling of lye to Shannon to make her soap). I don't want to encounter them if I have to disassemble the pipes, nor are they things I particularly want to dump down the drain into our water supply, so I started to look for an alternative.
I came across bacterial drain cleaners, which usually contain bacteria and enzymes that naturally break down soap scum and allow hair and other waste trapped in it to be washed away. Since they can not dissolve hair, an affordable hair trap is a good investment. These drain cleaners commonly claim to be completely biodegradable, and are supposedly safe for all pipes. I have used them on pvc and galvanized steel with no ill effects.
The particulars may differ, but the two brands that seem to be most widely available work similarly. The procedure is to mix a scoop of the cleaner with a pint or so of warm water, pour the mixture down the drain, and let it sit for a number of hours. Later, rinse with hot water. The last product I used encouraged three consecutive nights of treatments once a month as a preventive measure. I treat every three months or so, which seems to keep my drains flowing well.
Since my house isn’t vacant during the day, the best time for me to treat is usually overnight. In the bathroom, I will typically start with the sink drain, which in my case is closest to the main drain, to clear the way for anything that may wash down from my later treatment of the shower. Doing one drain at a time means that treatment in total takes longer, but it leaves a faucet handy for
hand washing if someone needs to use the bathroom at night.
Supposedly, you can't use a bacterial cleaner in total clog situations (the solution can't reach the clog), but I have successfully used it on an extremely slow-moving bathroom drain with great success. There's almost nothing that plumbers dread more than clearing a clog from the hard-to-reach drain of a pedestal sink. I avoided this by using the bacterial cleaner - a few treatments later, and my sink drain was flowing beautifully.
So use your handmade soap without fear. With bacterial drain cleaners, soap scum is easily dispatched, and keeping your drains clean is almost as easy as using that handmade soap to keep
Disclaimer: Directions, usage, precautions, etc. may differ between those products I’ve used, and the ones you may encounter. Consult the instructions and observe all safety precautions recommended, and use only as directed.