Cleaning Drains With Baking Soda & Vinegar: 4 Things You Need To Know

Sewer Service
May 9, 2023

by David Balkan

cleaning drains with baking soda and vinegar

When it comes to common drain issues, cleaning drains with baking soda and vinegar is often recommended as a DIY homemade drain cleaner solution to unclog a drain. The idea behind this method is that when you mix baking soda and vinegar, a chemical reaction occurs. This chemical reaction creates both a fizzy foam and a gas that can help break up clogs and clear your drain.

However, despite the popularity of this method, there is very little evidence to support the claim that you can unclog a drain with baking soda and vinegar. It is a hot debate as to whether vinegar and baking are effective drain clog cleaners. In some cases using these two ingredients together can sometimes do more harm than good.

Everyone seems to have their own passionate and differing opinion on the subject of baking soda and vinegar as a drain cleaner. If you are an avid DIY person, you might want to take advantage of looking over a library of over 350 plumbing videos.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why cleaning drains with baking soda and vinegar is not a good idea in many cases. First and foremost, before we get into the “negative”, you should realize that the basic premise is that baking soda and vinegar when combined create a gas.

Gas in an enclosed environment creates pressure. Therefore, in ideal circumstances, baking soda and vinegar can push out simple drain clogs in smaller pipes, such as sink drains. If that’s the route you’re looking to take, read this complete step-by-step guide to using baking soda and vinegar to clean drains.

An Alternative To Cleaning Drains With Baking Soda And Vinegar

In most cases involving a drain clog under a plumbing fixture, it is typically a trap stoppage. By typical code standards, all plumbing fixtures are supposed to have their own individual drain trap. A sewer or drain trap is a U-shaped fitting that deliberately holds water to prevent sewer gasses from entering your home.

A sink trap also tends to retain articles not meant to enter your drain system. Therefore, a drain trap is likewise a typical place for fat, oil, grease, or debris to accumulate and form a clog. In many cases, by far the easiest way to clear a simple clog is to remove the trap itself.

Physically cleaning out a small trap is easy, and is a 100% cure for the vast majority of clogs affecting plumbing fixtures such as sinks, area drains, tubs, and showers. Here’s a link to a quick tutorial on how to clean or change a drain trap.

picture and description of a sink P trap

Cleaning Drains With Baking Soda And Vinegar: 4 Points To Consider

    1. The chemical reaction is not powerful enough to dissolve clogs

    One of the main reasons why cleaning drains with baking soda and vinegar are not effective is that the chemical reaction between the two ingredients is simply not meant to dissolve tough clogs. The fizzing reaction and gas created may help loosen some small blockages. However, it is not typically strong enough to break down larger clogs or remove hard-to-reach debris.

    As a result of the above facts, if you have a serious drain clog, using baking soda and vinegar is unlikely to be effective.

      2. The reaction of cleaning drains with baking soda and vinegar can damage pipes

      Another issue with using baking soda and vinegar to clean drains is that the chemical reaction between the two ingredients can cause damage to your pipes. When you mix baking soda and vinegar, the resulting chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide gas. This gas can build up inside your pipes, causing pressure to build up and potentially leading to cracks or leaks in older pipes.

      In addition to the potential issue of the pressure of the gas, the high acidity of vinegar can also damage certain types of pipes over time, particularly older pipes made from copper or brass.

        3. Baking soda and vinegar can create a messy clean-up

        Using baking soda and vinegar to clean drains can also create a mess that can be difficult to clean up. As the ingredients react with each other, they can create a foamy, bubbling mess that can overflow from the drain and onto your sink or countertop. This can be particularly problematic if you are using a lot of baking soda or vinegar, as the reaction can quickly get out of control and cause a big mess.

          4. There are more effective and safer alternatives available

          Fortunately, there are many other effective and safer alternatives available for cleaning drains. For example, you can use a plunger or a drain snake to break up clogs and remove debris.

          Additionally, there are many commercial drain cleaning products available that are specifically designed to dissolve tough clogs and clear your pipes. These products often contain powerful chemicals that can break down hair, grease, and other debris that may be clogging your drain. However, it’s important to read the instructions carefully and use these products safely, as they can be harmful if misused.

          Lastly, in some cases, a professional drain cleaner might have to be contacted. In some extremely rare cases, such as basement sink backing up, the actual clog could be from a main house sewer line issue, but it is essentially never indicative of a situation calling for a house sewer repair.

          diagrams of different types of sink traps
          Removing a trap is often quicker than cleaning drains with baking soda and vinegar

          Closing Comments About Cleaning Drains With Baking Soda And Vinegar

          In conclusion, while baking soda and vinegar may seem like a simple and easy solution for cleaning drains, they are not very effective in most cases. In some cases, baking soda and vinegar can even cause damage to your pipes. Instead, it’s best to use other methods such as a plunger or drain snake, or to remove your trap to empty the probable blockage.

          You can also consider using a commercial drain cleaner that is specifically designed for tough clogs. Remember, just because you hear that reassuring fizzing and bubbling sound, you’re not necessarily cleaning your drains with baking soda and vinegar. By using the right tools and taking the necessary precautions, you can keep your drains clean and running smoothly for years to come.

          Baking soda being used to try to clean a drain line.

          When Specialty Drain Cleaning Tools and Skills Are Needed

          As even the most passionate DIY person knows, in certain cases specialty cleaning tools and skills are needed to clear drain and sewer clogs. Some of these cases can even include seemingly simple sink drain clogs when a professional plumber can provide a permanent solution as opposed to recurring homemade remedies.

          When a professional sewer, water main, or drain service is needed with a great reputation based upon integrity and trustworthiness, reach out to Team Balkan. An additional benefit of calling an experienced professional is that you then gain access to a source of great sewer, drain, water line, and plumbing tips and tricks.

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          David Balkan

          David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

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