Pouring salt down the drain is a waste of time (and salt) according to plumbing experts

Plumbers explain why pouring salt down the drain is a waste of your time (and salt), and what you should be doing instead to keep your drains healthy.

Close up of kitchen sink with view out of window.
(Image credit: kim sayer / Alamy Stock Photo)

Is pouring salt down the drain a good idea? Perhaps you've read up about using salt in the drain at night to stop bad smells wafting through the air – if you think there are fat deposits down there – when you don't have a dedicated drain unblocker handy. And we all know how tempting it is to follow the latest viral cleaning trends and hacks after all...

If you tend to stick by the most eco-friendly cleaning products around, then the salt hack is especially appealing. Even more so as it's pretty inexpensive and readily available as a pantry staple. You may already use salt for cleaning... So is pouring salt down the drain actually an effective way to clean and unclog a sink? Or are we just wasting our time? Not to mention, salt.

We asked some plumbers.

'Pouring salt down the drain doesn't work'

Sorry to disappoint, but the verdict from plumbing experts is that pouring salt down your drains is just not a good idea. Whether it's to clean a shower drain or your kitchen sink drain.

The idea behind this hack is that because salt is abrasive it will physically scour your pipe, thereby flushing out any clogs. That's a nice idea in theory, but in practice, there is no evidence that salt actually does this. Plumbing experts at Meyer's explain that 'you would need a lot of salt to scour the entire interior of your pipes, and we never recommend dumping a large quantity of anything but water down your drains.' 

And, if you've got uPVC pipes, you must never pour salt down them as it could corrode the inside of your pipework.

Would you really want to pour your entire supply of salt down the drain? You wouldn't be able to use just table salt, either – you'd need crystallized salt, which means using your expensive, high-quality sea salt. From the expense point of view alone, this isn't worth it.

A white kitchen sink with bright kitchen window and poppies

(Image credit: Andreas von Einsiedel / Alamy Stock Photo)

Moreover, you could end up damaging your plumbing. Owner of John The Plumber Jake Romano says using salt to clear your drain:  ' I honestly can't imagine it being very effective. It's certainly not a remedy that I've recommended. On its own, I can't imagine it being too useful. Maybe it becomes effective when combined with other stuff.'

In other words, if you pour a bit of salt down your drain, it probably won't do any harm, but you won't see much of a result. Combine regular salt, from Amazon or another store, with other ingredients, though, and you're in for a better chance of success.

A stainless steel kitchen sink

(Image credit: Jamie Mason / Alamy Stock Photo)

What to clean drains with instead of – or as well as – salt

You will notice that most DIY drain unclogging remedies use more than one ingredient. Typically, some combination of baking soda, borax, vinegar, and soap is used, but rarely just one ingredient on its own. 

The plumbers at Meyer's approve of baking soda for getting rid of the odor caused by accumulations of food waste sticking to your pipes, and of borax for dissolving grease, but caution that 'if there is a stubborn blockage deep in your plumbing, you won’t solve it by pouring a homemade or store-bought solution down the drain. At that point, the most effective solutions are snaking (or cabling) the drain with a drain snake or hiring a plumber to perform hydro jetting.'

So, by all means, give a DIY drain clearing hack a go, but try using more than just one approach. If a combination of several ingredients does nothing, and to avoid adding to any plumbing problems, call a pro.

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.