How to Clean Drains with Baking Soda and Vinegar

  • Drains are challenging to clean. First, their insides are invisible to the eye, so one can’t reach them easily. Also, PVC pipes are tougher to handle because they are more delicate than ceramic sanitary facilities in your bathroom. 
  • Choosing a suitable cleaning product for your drains raises many questions. For example, should you use a homemade drain cleaner, or is unclogging drains better with store-bought harsh chemicals?
  • This article focuses on well-known, homemade drain cleaner options—mainly the mix of baking soda vinegar. Keep reading to tackle this topic thoroughly.

Dealing with clogged drains

A clogged kitchen drain or bathroom drains are a nightmare, but luckily, there are several ways to deal with this problem and resolve it quickly.

According to Family Handy Man, you can count on:


Hair and soap scum is a standard bathroom sink problem. 

Although it brings to mind a toilet rather than a sink, a plunger will be able to remove stubborn clogs in your bathroom or kitchen as well. 

Tip: Just remember to clean the plunger thoroughly first if you use the same tool you used before in the toilet.

How to unclog a sink with a plunger?

First, remove any plug or cover from the drain. Let the faucet run until there’s about an inch of water in the clogged drain. Next, place the plunger over the drain. Ensure it covers it entirely, provides a complete seal, and creates pressure inside the drain. 

Now, you can get to the action—pump the plunger up and down vigorously for less than a minute. Then, take it away to check if it helped to unclog drain. If water stays in the sink, keep pumping until the situation gets better. 

Wire hanger

Here’s another mechanical solution. 

Go to your closet and take a regular wire hanger—you’ll use it to break up drain clogs following the steps below. 

Use a pair of needle-nosed pliers to straighten the hanger into a long single wire.

Important: Don’t straighten the entire hanger. You want to keep the hook intact on one end.

Stick the hook end down the drain. Move it around and rotate, keeping a tight grip on the other end.

At the point of resistance, wiggle the hanger around and rotate it a few more times to finally slowly pull it out of the drain.

Clean off any nasty gunk you took up from your sink with a paper towel. Repeat as needed. 

Important: Be careful! Using too much force will cause smashing the clog more profound into the pipe, which can only worsen the problem.

Drain snake

A drain snake is a tool designed especially to unclog drains.

If you have a completely clogged drain, it may be better to use this specialized tool than a simple hanger. 

First, place the end of the drain snake into the drain and turn the handle on its end. This movement will push the tip of the snake down into the drain. 

Keep cranking the snake in until you come across resistance. When it does, rotate the snake and continue cranking until it breaks through the clog. After you’ve broken through the clog, pull the snake out, carefully cranking it out the drain. 

To flush the clog, run hot water into the drain for a couple of minutes (hot tap water is a way to go).

Dish soap

If you are reluctant to use chemical drain cleaners to remove drain gunk accumulated in your sink, consider using dish soap, a gentler option from the same department. 

It’s also a more environmentally friendly method than letting harsh chemicals go down your clogged drains. 

Grease from food particles is prone to congealing in pipes and causing clogged drains. 

Regular dish soap is all you need to break up a grease clog.

To unclog your sluggish drain, take a kettle, fill it with water, and heat it to a boil.

Find a way to remove any standing water from the sink and the drain and simply pour dish soap down the drain. Be generous with the amount of dish soap you pour in. 

 Wait for the soap to drip until it reaches the grease clog. Give it a few minutes. 

Now, you can pour the hot water from the kettle down the drain to flush it. 

Tip: One time may not be enough, so repeat as many times as necessary to completely break down a grease clog. Also, if the clog persists for too long, you may deal with something else than grease.

Sodium hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide lye is a strong base that’s effective when engaged in attacking clogged drains.

Combined with water, it makes soap, reacting with fats and greases. It occurs in nature and is sewer- and septic-safe. 

Important: Sodium hydroxide is very corrosive and can cause severe burns in all tissues that it contacts. It hydrolyzes protein, which poses a threat to the eyes (can lead to severe eye damage).

How to use sodium hydroxide to eliminate organic material from your drain clog? Combining it with water will cause a chemical reaction and some bubbling action that we know from science class. 

Add three cups of sodium hydroxide to the cold water. Stir with a plastic or wooden spoon. Observe as the mixture begins to fizz. It will heat in an exothermic reaction with the water. Pour the solution into your sink or drain and wait for 30 minutes before rinsing with boiling water.

Lemon juice and baking soda 

One of the at-home remedies for a clogged kitchen sink is lemon juice. 

First, you want to pour some boiling water down the drain—hot water always loosens existing buildup, at least a little. 

To clear away clogs and refresh your drain, use ½ cup of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and ½ cup of lemon juice. Start with pouring baking soda, then lemon juice.

Important: Make sure that you don’t toss too much baking soda—it’s easy to overdo it, causing even more severe clogs in the drain. 

When lemon juice and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) are inside, seal the drain with a drain cover and let your solution sit for about an hour. Then rinse with a previously prepared pot of boiling water. Water that goes down the drain opening will remove any remaining residue.

The lemon juice and baking soda will create a foaming sensation, luckily clearing up your clogged drain effectively. 

Vinegar and baking soda

Baking soda chews through grit and grime. So no wonder there is another way to clean a clogged drain with baking soda.

Whether it’s a shower drain, kitchen drain, or soap scum in the bathroom sink, if you have to remove drain gunk, consider this option

Combine baking soda with vinegar and boiling water to create a potent yet chemical-free unclogging mixture. 

Heat water in a kettle until it boils. Then, pour boiling water down the drain. It will loosen the clog and warm the pipes. Then, heat more hot water.

You’ll need:

  • one cup of baking soda, 
  • one cup of water, and 
  • one cup of vinegar; 

Pour these elements down the drain and plug the drain for 10 minutes. Then, pour boiling water into the drain.

The reaction between the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and the vinegar solution will work to loosen the clog. Then, with the extra boiling water added, it will all smoothly flush out from the pipe.

Using baking soda and vinegar raises a lot of questions. 

For example, does vinegar and baking soda combined damage PVC pipes?

Fortunately, vinegar won’t hurt PVC pipes. It is acetic acid, but it won’t generate heat inside the PVC. Certain chemical cleaners might melt the pipes, but vinegar isn’t risky. 

When you use vinegar to unclog PVC pipes, it’s best to pour it on baking soda.

Combining baking soda and vinegar is a better (more natural) way to dissolve hair clogs without harsh chemicals.

Also, can you leave baking soda and vinegar in the drain overnight?

Feel free to pour one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar down the drain, followed by two cups of boiling water. Let it work overnight and get rid of stubborn clogs for good. 

This baking soda combination can work wonders!

To unclog a clogged garbage disposal, first pour baking soda inside. Then, pour vinegar down the garbage disposal. Wait for 20 minutes until the fizz breaks down the clog. Wash away the baking soda and vinegar mixture and food waste down the pipe with hot water.

Why is a vinegar and baking soda mix so beneficial?

While baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a base, vinegar comprises acetic acid and water and is an acid.

Combining these two causes a reaction that creates carbon dioxide and water that bubbles through the clog—baking soda and vinegar break the clog up to create loose material.

Baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water will help clean drains naturally, but to fully unclog your more-challenging drains, you may also consider using chemical drain cleaners.

When to call professional plumbers?

In some cases, you’ll be able to do it all by yourself. In others, it will be challenging to get rid of a clogged drain without problems. 

The help of professional plumbers may come in beneficial for your household if drain cleaning isn’t enough. 

You may need to protect your plumbing system with professional drain cleaning services that optimize water flow.

You should also know that multiple clogged drains point to a bigger problem. Even the best drain cleaner won’t be effective if it’s not one but more drains that keep moving slowly or often get clogged. 

A professional plumber will use specialized drain cleaning equipment to clean the drain line thoroughly from the opening to the lateral piping outside the building.

Also, watch out for chemical drain cleaners, as with some of them, you risk damaging pipes. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Too much baking soda powder can severely clog a drain. Baking soda turns into a cement-like mass, completely clogging every space it settles in.
Coca-Cola poured down the clogged drain can be quite effective—it's caustic and can clear away buildup gathered in your drains. Yet, it's a no-brainer that this method is far milder than commercial drain cleaners.
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