How to Clean a Drain With Lye

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves

  • Eye protection

  • Mask

  • Lye

  • Tablespoon

  • Water


Avoid inhaling the fumes created by lye mixed with water. Do not mix lye with other chemicals. Do not use lye if you have cast iron pipes.

Unclog drains with lye.

Lye, also called caustic soda and sodium hydroxide, is a substance frequently used to make soap. Lye is available in liquid, pellet, flake or powder from most home improvement or hardware stores. It is an effective substance for use in unclogging drains and is often one of the active ingredients in commercially available drain cleaners. Lye works because it is caustic and actually dissolves hair and grease, which are the root causes of the drain clog.


Video of the Day

Step 1

Put on gloves, eye protection and a mask before opening the lye. Lye is extremely caustic and will burn your skin.

Step 2

Place 2 to 3 tsp. of lye directly into the hole of the clogged drain.

Step 3

Turn on the faucet for one to two seconds to dispense enough water to wet the lye. Only 1 or 2 tbsp. of water is required, so do not allow the faucet to run for more than a few seconds.

Step 4

Open any nearby windows, or turn on the ventilation fan. Leave the room, and close the door to the room to contain the fumes.

Step 5

Allow the lye solution to sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Run clean, hot water through the pipes for one to two minutes to rinse all traces of the lye out of the pipes.



Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Johnson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in various online publications including eHow, Suite101 and Examiner. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and began writing professionally in 2001.