Chemical drain cleaners are readily available at your local hardware and grocery stores. They are generally liquids or crystals that you pour down a clogged drain to clear it out. They work well enough, but some homeowners are not comfortable with using chemicals that could damage their plumbing. Instead, they turned to homemade solutions like baking soda and vinegar.
The baking soda and vinegar idea has been promulgated across the internet for many years. It is simple enough to do and doesn’t expose you to potentially dangerous chemicals. But does it actually work? According to the folks at Salt City Plumbing, it does – at least for minor clogs.
Salt City Plumbing is a general plumbing contractor and drain cleaner in Salt Lake City, UT. They say the key to the baking soda and vinegar solution is doing it the right way.
A 4-Step Process
For starters, this solution may not work for especially persistent clogs better cleared with a mechanical plumbing snake or high-pressure air. For minor clogs, it works well enough. Here is the 4-step process recommended by Salt City Plumbing:
Boiling Water – First, bring a pot of water to a vigorous boil and pour it down the drain.
Baking Soda and Vinegar – Next, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow that with either one cup of straight vinegar or a 2-cup mixture of vinegar and hot water.
Plug the Drain – The third step is to plug the drain and let everything sit for 5 to 10 minutes. You need to give the baking soda and vinegar time to do their thing.
Boiling Water Again – While you are letting things sit, bring another pot of water to a vigorous boil. After 5 to 10 minutes of sitting, unplug the drain and pour the boiling water down it.
If all goes as planned, that second pot of boiling water should pretty much flush the clog through the pipes and out into the sewer discharge. If not, you may have to repeat the process a second time.
How It Works
The baking soda and vinegar drain cleaner solution is based on two things: the acidic nature of the vinegar and the pressure created by the hot water. The two work together to clear minor clogs consisting of regular debris that would normally be flushed down the sink.
Vinegar is acidic in nature. When it comes in contact with baking soda, the two create a chemical reaction that stimulates the acid and causes fizzing and bubbling. That fizzing and bubbling action will begin to break down whatever is clogging the drain. As for the hot water, it creates pressure in the drainpipe.
Pouring boiling water down the drain begin the process of building pressure above the clog. The pressure combines with the acidic baking soda and vinegar solution to work on loosening it. Finally, that last burst of pressure created by the second pot of boiling water helps to force the clog through the pipes.
When It Doesn’t Work
When the baking soda and vinegar solution doesn’t work, you have a more persistent clog requiring more aggressive action. A mechanical plumbing snake is a good option. Mechanical snakes can be purchased at any hardware store. If that doesn’t do it, you probably need the help of a plumber.
Plumbers use a variety of tools including commercial-grade snakes and machines that remove clogs with air pressure. At any rate, plumbers know how to clear drains that do not seem to cooperate with baking soda and vinegar drain cleaning solutions.