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Is It Really Possible to Use Baking Soda and Vinegar to Clean a Drain?

spoonful of baking soda with vinegar in background

When you decide to tackle a clogged drain yourself, it’s tempting to reach for chemical drain cleaners after the plunger has failed you. After all, it says “skip calling the plumber” or “unclog a drain instantly” right there on the package, so it must work, right?

Throughout many years of offering drain cleaning services in Allentown, PA, and nearby local communities, our team has firsthand experience with the dangers of liquid drain cleaners. They eat away at the lining of your pipes, can harm your garbage disposal, can affect your septic system, and even burn your eyes and skin. So put down that so-called miracle in a bottle — it’s nothing but snake oil.

If you’re still stymied by your clogged drains but aren’t yet ready to call in professional plumbers, you may be familiar with another option: baking soda and vinegar. But can you really use baking soda and vinegar to clean your drains? Read on to find out — and learn a few things about chemistry along the way.

The Facts Behind the Fizz

The reason you used baking soda and vinegar in your science class volcano back in your school days is due to the chemical reaction between these common household products. When baking soda and vinegar are combined, two specific chemical reactions occur.

First, an acid-base reaction happens between the basic, high-pH sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and the acidic, low-pH vinegar (acetic acid). When the hydrogen ions in the vinegar react to the sodium and bicarbonate in the baking soda, two new chemicals are born: sodium acetate and carbonic acid.

The second reaction occurs when the carbonic acid that has formed begins decomposing within the liquid of the vinegar. This is the reaction that produces carbon dioxide — which results in all that foaming and bubbling you remember from science class.

Can Baking Soda and Vinegar Really Clean Drains?

So, can you really clean a drain with baking soda and vinegar? Many online “life hack” accounts post about it as if the two products in any combination will work to miraculously clear any clogged drain. But your kitchen drains aren’t as simple as social media would have you believe. There are a few things to keep in mind when trying this at-home drain cleaning technique:

Don’t Forget the Heat

Many people report that the baking soda and vinegar technique doesn’t work to clear their drains. This is because if it’s done incorrectly, the trick won’t be effective enough to actually clean out anything, let alone a stubborn clog. Before you try using baking soda and vinegar to clean your drains, you cannot forget to pour hot (ideally boiling) water down the drain first to soften grease and clean out soap scum. Note: this should only be done in kitchen drains as boiling water can crack porcelain in bathroom sinks.

Measuring Matters

Before you put vinegar and baking soda down the drain willy-nilly, you’ll need to have the right ratio for an ideal reaction; otherwise, you’ll just be pouring the money you spent down the drain — literally. If you’ve not had success in the past, consider that you may be using the incorrect ratio. You should use a ratio of 1:2 baking soda to vinegar. In other words, if you’re using ½ cup of baking soda, use 1 cup of vinegar, or if you’re using a cup of baking soda, use 2 cups of vinegar. Using huge amounts of each product isn’t necessarily better even if you keep to the ratio, so don’t feel the need to use a massive amount, either.

Some Clogs Won’t Budge

No matter what you use, some drain clogs just aren’t going to budge without the help of the professionals. Whether they’re caused by tree roots, stuck objects, or other hard-to-remove debris, stubborn clogs need to be removed by a plumber ASAP before they damage your plumbing — or you damage your own plumbing attempting to remove them. If your drain stays clogged after trying the baking soda and vinegar method, or you’re constantly dealing with clogged drains, get in touch with us as soon as you can for drain cleaning services in Allentown, PA.

Should You Try DIY Drain Cleaning Methods?

While it may be tempting to “save a few bucks” and go the DIY route when it comes to cleaning or unclogging drains, you should be very wary of the life hacks you see online, TikTok, and on other social media platforms. Any type of DIY chemical mixing is especially dangerous since the wrong ratio could result in a mixture that hurts your skin or harms your plumbing. Instead of wasting your time and money on DIY drain cleaning tricks that will most likely fail, you should call a plumber who can take care of a stinky and clogged drain in a snap.

Can You Use Liquid Drain Cleaners, Even Once?

We understand the temptation to use a quick fix on a stubborn drain. However, liquid drain cleaners and other harsh chemicals claiming to fix your plumbing issues can actually do more harm than good, even when you use the cleaner only once.

Here’s why you should stay away from liquid drain cleaners:

  • It deteriorates the lining of your pipes.
  • It can cause expensive plumbing leaks.
  • It can burn your eyes and skin while you’re using it or after the fact.
  • It will continue to eat away at all the substances it encounters in the sewer system or your septic tank. It can also seep into the groundwater and soil, harming the environment.
  • If it’s still in the drain when you call a plumber, the drain cleaner can burn your plumber.

Instead of risking the health and safety of your plumbing system, your family, the environment, and your friendly local plumbers, choose the safer alternatives to liquid drain cleaners, which include snaking and hydro-jetting.

When Clogs Won’t Clear, Contact Curtis Total Service!

If your plumbing problems are becoming persistent, or your clog won’t clear, the crew to contact is Curtis Total Service! Our friendly, professional team will be at your home in no time to help with any plumbing services. We’re also available for HVAC and electrical repairs! Whatever you need around your house, we can probably help you out, so we hope to hear from you soon.