Removing Buildup in Cast Iron Drain – Here’s What You Need

Nothing is more frustrating than noticing your drains are not working efficiently. Drains get clogged, leaving little room for water and other materials to go through. Homes with cast iron drains are the most affected. Cast iron clogs up after reacting with substances and elements flowing through them.

The reactions are catastrophic, forming hard blocks that prevent a smooth flow. Over time, they also form a layer around it, reducing the diameter of each pipe. The repeated blockage will make you question your systems and even look for ways to end your struggles. The stench, sewage overflow, and leaks can disrupt your peace and health.

When it finds its way out, it can contaminate the vegetation around it. In some states, you might get reported for violating health and safety laws. This means court injunctions, fines, or even jail time for polluting the environment and endangering lives.

Moving out might be a solution, but you would rather deal with the problem head-on when a better drain system is not guaranteed. We are going to focus on the considerations below that you require to make when removing buildup in cast iron drains:

  • What causes the buildup in cast iron drains
  • How to remove the buildup at home
  • When to remove the buildup
  • When to consider professionals for the job

Why Can’t You Replace the Clogging Drain Instead of Unclogging It?

1) Cost

It is not a cheap affair to replace drains. The process requires permits from local governments and professional assessments before work commences. In old homes, you need to prepare for the worst. You might be opening a can of worms with little or no prior maintenance.

Damages caused by these pipes to other parts of the house over the years might be extreme and hard to ignore once opened up. Most home insurance providers do not cover leaks and damages caused by neglected leaking pipes.

When cash strapped, this is not an undertaking you want to venture in. As a homebuyer, have your home evaluated first for such problems to avoid future problems

2) Originality

We all have memories we want to keep close to and for as long as we can. For some, cast iron drains in their homes represent that. This means they are willing to have their problematic pipes for as long as possible. Additionally, demand for homes that have retained all their original structural pieces has increased. As a home seller, this would increase your pitch toward potential buyers.

What Causes Clogging in Cast Iron Drains?

Like PVC drains, such as hair, oil, soap scum, and solid substances, items that do not break down are the common culprits. They form clumps within the drain preventing the regular flow. In cast iron drains, deterioration is caused by deposits of minerals such as calcium, lime, magnesium, sodium, and other substances.

Iron reacts with these substances flowing, leading to layers around the pipe’s interior. The coatings reduce the diameter affecting both the capacity and flow. Failure to descale these layers in the pipes will see you deal with repeated maintenance, which can be draining.

Ways to Unclog the Buildup in Cast Iron Drains

CablingThis is achievable if the clogging cause is from external matters and not the pipe’s oxidation process that forms layers. The buildup comes from continuous activities or even an unexpected event, such as accidentally dropping an item down the drain.

The basic form of cabling is by using clothes hangers. You can stretch your hanger and push the hooked end inside the drains. The hook fishes out any debris in the pipe, clearing your drain. Flush it after the fishing expedition to ensure you have fully cleared the pipes. You can also use cables and blades. The cable lowers the blades down the drain, and the blades scrap the edges to remove substances on the pipe walls.

This will remove the accumulation or even push it down the drain but cannot descale the pipes. This is only achievable when the pipes are straight, as a simple bend will limit movement inside the drain. Avoid dropping the cables, hangers, and blades as they further increase the risk of clogging.

1) Vinegar and Baking Soda

This has been one of the oldest tricks in the history of unclogging. Baking soda and lime break down the gunk and grime in the pipes, unclogging your pipes with ease. Mix equal parts of baking soda and vinegar and mix. This forms a fizzle, and you can pour it down the drain.

The process would be a fun activity with kids around as kids get excited watching such reactions. Be cautious, as kids are curious and can easily consume substances. Give the mixture time to break down the clumps and bonds formed. A day is recommended but when you do not have that, let the drain rest for half an hour.

When time is up, add a pot of hot water or several jugs, depending on your water heating process. Have breaks between each pour to let the water work its magic. You can also use washing soda, which is more alkaline than ordinary baking soda. However, pour water first before running the washing soda. Once comfortable with the results, pour vinegar to remove contaminants around the surface and counter the stench.

2) Hydro jetting

This process allows you to shoot pressurized water down the pipes. It requires a special nozzle to ensure the targeted pressure is achieved. Hydro jetting is effective when removing roots since they do not dissolve or break down. The process is only effective in places with water since its effectiveness requires several sessions.

The process is shunned by environmentalists, water conservation bodies, and agencies as it literally pours water down the drain. The pressurized water also threatens old or weak joints as it can lead to leaks. This leaves you in a worse situation than before the process. However, the results are impressive for cast iron pipes in their pristine condition.

The process is expensive. It should only be conducted by professionals. Pressurized water is dangerous and can cause massive damage when not handled with utmost care.

2) Picote

This is an air circulation process that yields excellent results. The air is pressurized to form a cyclone-like speed. When directed in the pipes, it cleans the pipes and carries every debris it finds in its way. It maintains a circular motion to ensure nothing is left behind when adequately controlled.

It works both indoors and outdoors without causing any damage. It is considered the perfect alternative to hydro jetting, as it does not waste water. It also utilizes the atmospheric air and its impact on the environment. This process is considered the most expensive and relatively new in some markets.

Prevention Is Better Than Unclogging

1) Use Bins and Traps

When you can, prevent the dirt and pipes from clogging. This helps reduce the accumulation of sludge and mineral deposits down the drain. Start by preventing particles from going down the drain. Remove food particles from utensils before washing them.

Use dirt traps on sinks to catch all the particles, hair, and dirt before they can flow into the drains. In toilets and bathrooms, provided bins can be used as alternative disposal options. They can be used for things that cannot be flushed down the drain, such as diapers, sanitary towels, hair, papers, wipes, and even condoms.

2) Watch Out for Kids and Pets

Watch kids and pets who are known to put things in toilet drains. They get intrigued by watching how the flushing process swallows the items. Lock bathroom doors where possible and train them on the effects of pushing things down the drain.

3) Pour Hot Water

Pouring hot water down the drain from time to time helps melt away any compaction trying to form. Smudges react and oxidize with walls when left around for too long. Water breaks them down, leaving only uncontrolled degradation to take its course.

Regular Maintenance

Scheduling regular maintenance is also a fantastic option to counter any long-term effects of smudges left in pipes for too long. Professionals will help you counter any problems that might affect you in the future if not addressed. They also offer solutions to control the formation of layers in the pipes, which helps you keep your pipes for longer.


Cast iron drainpipes are prone to normal tear and wear, but you can increase their lifespan by doing the bare minimum. A few home tricks work, but you need to involve professionals to keep them working optimally. However, there is only so much you can do for these pipes. Do not hesitate to update your system when it is time to throw in the towel.

It might cost you more to keep them running in the long run than to replace them. If you do not want to lose the cast iron drain appeal, more are being produced today. Find your seller and make the necessary updates. However, old is good, and a piece of history is worth keeping around at any time.