What is a Zip-It Drain Cleaner (How To Use It)

what is the zip it drain cleaner

Anyone who has ever used a drain has to appreciate a handy, inexpensive tool that will get the contents to drain out of the sink, bath, or shower so you can get on with your life. The Zip-It tool is just such a miracle worker. 

The Zip It drain cleaner is a 25 inch long piece of specially designed plastic, which is inserted into a household drain to remove clogs caught on the stopper where most occur. The plastic injection molded Zip It was engineered by Eugene Luoma and consists of a strong, one-piece, flexible strip with unique barbs.

Continue reading to learn more about the many benefits of the Zip-It tool and why it is the best designed plastic strip drain cleaner on the market. It has been imitated but beware as many of these imitators strips will break off in your sink, unlike the Zip-It which does not.

Understanding What the Zip-It Drain Cleaner is Designed to Do

The Zip-It tool is the original and best alternative for non-invasive drain cleaning for the uninitiated and plumbers alike. This handy plumbing snake is the answer to your hair-clogged or otherwise obstructed drain.

This injection-molded tool has a handle on one end that allows for a firm grip while in use. When not in use, the handle doubles as a hanging method in storage until you need it again.

The pointed teeth along the flexible strip manage stubborn hair clogs without the hassle, stench, and invasive use of chemicals or machinery. 

A Zip-It works perfectly in hard-to-reach places and is safe to use in drains feeding into septic tanks or French drains. Be aware of inferior knock-offs, though. This is the original plastic drain stick and still the most effective.

Others may have copied the concept, but using and removing the original Zip-It is exponentially easier, and it handles clogged drains far better without getting stuck.

Efficiency and simplicity perfectly combined, the Zip-It tool clears clogged drains without the need for a professional plumber. Not only does it save the cost of a call-out fee and the associated mayhem, but it’s also reusable and easy to store. 

It works merely by inserting it into the drain and then removing it together with the offending clog. The tool is environmentally safe and inexpensive enough to dispose of should you choose.

The tool is not quite two feet in length and made of strong poly construction. It’s intended to unclog sinks, showers, and bath drains.

The Zip-It section that does the dirty work measures about 17 inches, while the handle of the original design takes it up to 20 inches. 

The tool available for sale today has seen years of improvements. The construction is from post-recycled plastic and is now longer than when first invented. 

The new rounded shape rather than the former flat design allows for the tool to bend as you need it to. This promotes smooth and easy use and stops it from getting stuck in the drain. 

But the Zip-It retains the originally designed barbs. The unique design of the flexible barbs creates a product that is rigid enough to get a grip on whatever is clogging the drain, and flexible enough to move smoothly in and out of such a small space.

The large handle makes allowance for two adult fingers to grip it easily and effectively.

This allows the user to manipulate the barbs to get a hold of stubborn culprits. Once all the hair and gunge causing the blockage is caught on the barbs, it is easy to remove it all from the drain (source).

Why is the Zip-It a Useful Tool?

The act of unblocking a drain using the Zip-It is known as snaking. It is indeed a nasty job that almost always leads to a gross result.

Some of us avoid it at all costs, often living with a slow-draining bath, shower, or kitchen sink rather than just getting down and dirty. 

But there is really no need to call in the experts or the landlord, who might just make you feel like a nuisance. With this handy little tool, the task at hand is not a big deal.

Clearing the blockage with this useful tool always leaves you wishing you had just got down to getting it done sooner. 

The Zip-It is unique in its simplicity. No costly out-lay. No waiting for a handyman or plumber. No harmful chemicals or toxic smells. 

Sure, you may have a little mess as a result, but if you know it’s coming, you can be ready. Simply dispose of the Zip-It once it has done the job, or wipe the mess off, easily and simply, and store it for future use. 

Beware of Iimitations

With a tool that works so efficiently at virtually no cost, any attempted copying of the concept comes as no surprise. And so it is with the Zip-It. 

Many have copied the concept under the name of hair snare, drain cleaning tool, stick drain cleaner, and drain openers. But the Zip-It is the best and only chemical-free and hassle-free option for ease of use and effective drain unclogging.

Who Invented the Original Plastic Drain Stick?

Meet Gene Luoma, who grew up on the family farm in Duluth, Minnesota, where he has also raised his own family.

Over more than half a century in this country setting, he has invented a good many useful gadgets, coming up with ideas for innovative tools to help to overcome life’s many annoying obstacles (source). 

It was the year 2000 when yet another blocked drain inevitably reared its stinky head. Gene puts this ongoing problem down to his daughter Kim, who wore her hair in long locks — well and good until it came to hair washing.

Time and time again, Kim’s beautiful hair clogged the household shower drain. Today was the day Gene would solve the problem once and for all. 

Gene took a look around his garage, and inspiration hit. Taking an old plastic sled from its hanging place on the wall, the idea behind the Zip-It slowly took shape. 

Gene cut the worn-out sled into a strip that was a couple of feet long. A narrowed end to one side allowed for easy access down a drain. He then cut barbs on both sides of the long strip. 

Gene shoved the prototype down the shower drain, which had earlier presented with a slow draining.

When he pulled it back out, he was satisfactorily surprised at the amount of hair that came out with it. Eureka! The Zip-It had succeeded in its debut performance. 

Gene now had to file for a design patent and a utility patent for his new innovation. A home supply store enthusiastically snapped up his prototype following his informative and convincing sales pitch. 

Their plumbing buyer reassured Gene that his store would buy thousands of units once he could supply in suitably large quantities. 

Cobra Products secured the license to the Zip-It. All went well for the next decade, with sales of some 12 million units. Unfortunately, an infringement upon the patent duly followed, and a whole new battle began on the legislative front. 

You can read more about Gene Luoma in “Who Invented the Original Plastic Drain Stick?” 

Preparing to Unclog a Drain with a Zip-It

At the outset, it may be helpful to know that what you may retrieve from the offending drain will likely look very much like a dead rat. Of course, it is not a once-living vermin, just a matt of hair and soap and the like. Be prepared.

Prepare for a Mess

Make sure you have a plastic bag on hand to grip the barbed stick if need be, and in which to dispose of the offending clog. When getting ready, wear rubber work gloves.

You will be thankful for this when you see what comes out after you have successfully removed the offending gunge. 

Position a bucket under your drain. Have a thick cloth or paper towels at hand with which to clean the Zip-It. Keep a disposable plastic bag close enough to throw any gunge removed into without causing spillage mess on the way. 

A spare plastic bag might be necessary to grip the barbed stick when working the Zip-It out of the drain. You may need a reliable flashlight to see better as well.

Remove Plates, Grates, or Stoppers

Remove any obstacles, like overflow plates or stoppers that the Zip-It can’t fit through. It is not always necessary to remove the drain plug, but it would be conducive to simply remove the grate before trying to use the tool.

In the case of a bathtub overflow plate under, unscrew the plate and carefully avoid dropping any screws down the drain. 

Pull the stopper mechanism for the bathtub out through the gap behind the overflow plate. The overflow plate connects to the stopper mechanism.

Wearing your rubber gloves, and using paper towels, remove the hair from the underside of the stopper mechanism. If you’re lucky, this may be the cause of the clogging, and you may not need to remove more hair using the Zip-It. 

Check by running water down the drain for a few seconds. You will only need to continue with the steps to follow if the water does not drain away freely. If it does run freely, replace the stopper and the overflow plate.

Unclog a Drain Using the Zip-It Tool in Seven Easy Steps

Step 1: Insert the Zip-It tool into the drain until you come across the obstruction. Force the tool down as far as you can by twisting it until it breaks through the clog. 

Step 2: Make sure that the tool is as far down the drain as possible. Stop pushing only when the handle or little tab is the only part still protruding from the drain.

Step 3: Wiggle the Zip-It around when it is as far into the drain as possible. Spin it around the inside of the drain to make sure of grasping all the offending hairballs clogging the drain.

Step 4: Start to pull the Zip-It tool back slowly. If you experience any level of resistance, rest assured that you have snagged a big clump of hair and gunge. Tug it as much as necessary until the tool is out of the drain. 

It makes the task a great deal easier to use a disposable plastic bag at this point if the tugging proves laborious. Wrap the plastic bag around the part of the barbed stick that is within your grasp. In this way, you now have a firm grasp with which to really give it a good pull. 

Step 5: Remove the “hair rat” from the tool. Dispose of the muck in a disposable plastic bag.  Use a thick cloth or paper towel to wipe the barbs clean. 

Check by running water down the drain for a few seconds. You will only need to continue with the steps to follow if the water does not drain away freely.

Step 6: Repeat the process until you are certain the drain is completely free of whatever was clogging it. Avoid splashing all that you manage to pull out with the tool by pulling slowly and carefully each time.

Clean the mess off the barbs, using a brush for stubborn clingers. Now is the time to make use of the disposable plastic bag to dispose of the hair and gunge.

Step 7: Screw the overflow plate back in place once you are certain you have successfully unclogged the drain. Flush the drain with boiling water. 

Advantages over Liquid Drain Cleaners 

Faced with the ongoing dilemma of slow drainage over time, Gene Luoma also had the added obstacle of a septic tank sewage system.

Before inventing the Zip-It, he tried solving the problem with plungers, liquid drain chemicals, and twisted coat hangers. He got no satisfaction and had repeated problems. 

Americans spend nearly 300 million dollars a year on liquid drain cleaning products. These include such brands as Drano and Liquid plumber (source).

Liquid Drain Cleaners Require Repeated Use

Most manufacturers recommend pouring some of their product down your pipes once a year, even if you have no issues. Some go as far as recommending it twice a year.

On top of that, liquid drain cleaners are toxic and dangerous to you, to your pipes, and the environment.

Liquid Drain Cleaners are Hazardous to Your Health

Liquid drain cleaners are a health hazard since a spill can cause chemical burns, while an errant splash to the eye can cause vision loss. Breathing in the fumes of such cleaners can also cause permanent lung damage or even death in sufficient doses.

Researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center set out to document just how dangerous liquid lye, a common component of drain cleaners, is. They reviewed patients who came in with injuries related to drain cleaners  (source).

They were shocked to discover just how little liquid lye was needed to cause harm since even 1 mL was enough to cause necrosis of the esophagus.

Liquid Drain Cleaners Damage Your Septic Tank

Since a septic tank must have sufficient healthy bacteria to break down the waste, it is imperative that harmful chemicals do not enter the septic tank system. For this reason, drain cleaners are not a good cure for blocked drains.

There are safe ways to unclog and clear a drain without risking the efficiency of the septic plumbing system. Use any of the following solutions safely and in conjunction with the Zip-It for better-smelling, clean, and deodorized drains.

All Natural and Environmentally Friendly 

Image by Skyro via FreeImages

The original improved designed Zip-It is recyclable, reusable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. It is safe to use in the home, with French drains and septic tanks, as well as organically friendly for soakaways, and leadoff into gardens and onto lawns. 

There are also a few tried and tested options available to use in conjunction with the Zip-It drain cleaner for a cleaner, deodorizing result. These are also safe for use with septic tanks and French drains.

Flushing with Hot Water 

Boiling water poured down a clogged drain will soften the clog, melt soap scum, and kitchen grease. This may free any gunge trapped in the grease or scum, ready for the Zip-It to remove. 

High-Pressure Water 

Blasting the clogged drain with pressurized water can forcefully loosen a solid clog. 

Vinegar and Baking Soda 

The reaction between the vinegar and the baking soda may well unclog a blocked drain while removing nasty odors. Pour a couple of teaspoons of baking soda into the clogged drain and follow with half a cup of vinegar.  

Final Thoughts

No matter where you lay your hat, the Zip-It drain cleaner is the safe alternative for clogged household drains. There is no risk to children, pets, the environment, or your sewerage system, with this handy little drainer cleaner. 

Safety notwithstanding, the Zip-It won’t break the bank and does not require a big area of your garage or tool shed. Easy to use. Easy to store. Safe all around.