If you are experiencing a very slow drain or a stubborn clog, chances are it is time to call a professional plumber. There is little that can be done once something has lodged itself inside your drain or pipe, but if you are simply experiencing the early signs of a slow moving drain, you may be able to solve the problem on your own - and with more gentle products than the harsh chemicals you find in the stores. There are also gentle, natural ways to prevent clogs and reduce the amount of build-up in your pipes and drains so that you may avoid a costly visit from a plumber down the road.
Two natural products that have been shown to help break down small hair clogs and/or sediment build-up are baking soda and vinegar. A one-to-one ratio of vinegar and baking soda (a half a cup of each or a full cup of each depending on the severity of the clog) works wonders in a safe, natural way. It is best to leave the solution in the drain overnight without running water through so that it can works its magic without being diluted or washed through. After allowing it to sit for at least 8 hours, begin running very hot water and plunging at the same time.
Hydrogen peroxide has also been shown to break down sediment or soap residues, but it is not so effective for hair clogs. If you suspect that your clog is due to residues, pour one cup of hydrogen peroxide down the drain, allow it sit for 10 minutes and then plunge. This may need to be repeated a few times, but it generally works for clogs not due to hair.
If you are not currently experiencing slow-running drains but want to prevent them from developing in the future, one very effective way is with pure, boiling water. Pouring three quarts of boiling water down your bathroom or kitchen sink and your shower drain once per week works wonders breaking down soap and other cleaners that build up and can even help move hair and sediment through the system. It is best to pour it as forcefully as you can for the best results. You can also add vinegar and/or baking soda to the boiling water for additional protection against build-up.
A professional rooter or plumbing company should be called if your drain is running very slowly or is clogged altogether. One obvious reason for calling in a pro is that stubborn clogs generally need snaking, but even more important you want to make sure the clog isn't something more serious like a backed-up septic system. Moreover, clogged drains should ideally be dealt with right away to avoid harmful bacteria from forming.