How to Successfully Unclog a Drain Using Baking Soda, Vinegar, and a Little Know-How


May 20 2021, Published 10:47 a.m. ET

How to unclog a drain with baking soda
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Minor plumbing issues such as clogged drains can cost hundreds of dollars if you choose to involve professionals. And while you might still have to involve a plumber for more complicated, deep-seated clogs, you can save yourself quite a few bucks by learning how to unclog a drain with baking soda. Luckily, we’re here to tell you just how to do that. 

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Arm & Hammer baking soda
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How to unclog a drain with baking soda:

On its own, baking soda has a number of household uses; but combine it with vinegar, and you’ve got an eco-friendly chemical reaction that can take out even the most stubborn messes. When people discuss unclogging a drain with baking soda, they usually mean baking soda and vinegar. The fizzing, bubbling reaction is perfect for forcing out stubborn clogs.

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This method below is adapted from YouTuber Pan the Organizer’s instructions on how to unclog a drain with baking soda and vinegar.

Source: Pan the Organizer / YouTube
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Step 1: Pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. You can heat this water on the stove or in an electric kettle, but it must still be boiling when it hits that drain. 

Step 2: Next, pour one cup of baking soda directly down the drain and let that sit for 5 to 10 minutes. You do not need to combine this with water or vinegar yet, just the baking soda itself will do.

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Step 3: Next, pour one cup of white vinegar down the drain as well. The 1:1 ratio is important to achieve the proper chemical reaction. You should see a lot of foaming bubbling up and around the drain — this indicates the chemicals are doing their job. 

Step 4: If you have a drain cover, cover or plug the drain and wait another 5 to 10 minutes for the chemicals to do their work. Then, pour another pot of boiling water down the drain. This will loosen up all the fizzy gunk you’ve created.

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Step 5: Run the hot tap water for 5 minutes to make sure you have a clear path and the drain is unclogged.

A running faucet
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How does baking soda unclog a drain?

According to Liquid-Plumr, the combination of baking soda and vinegar unclogs a drain by way of a chemical reaction. Baking soda, otherwise known as sodium bicarbonate, is a base. Vinegar, which is mostly water and acetic acid, is an acid. When the two meet and molecules get exchanged, carbon dioxide is created.

When the CO2 mixes with the surrounding water, it sends bubbles through the clog to break up and loosen the tightly-packed material. The addition of boiling water on unpressurized pipes creates a flush, which pushes the material down. The addition of gravity also helps loosen whatever sloppy goop is gumming up the works.

Is using baking soda to unclog a drain environmentally-friendly?

The best part about using baking soda and vinegar to unclog drains is that they are both eco-friendly products. These chemicals are easily diluted by water, so they shouldn’t do any sort of damage to ecosystems as they head through water treatment. The only downside is that larger, tougher clogs might require stronger chemicals or plumber intervention. If you attempt to clear a clog using baking soda and vinegar and it doesn’t work, you may need to call a professional.

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