A clogged drain can be unpleasant to deal with. It is smelly and it stops your sink from working the way that it should. For a completely clogged drain, you may need to call in a professional to help get things moving, but before you do it is worth trying to unclog it yourself. Using a homemade drain cleaner of vinegar and baking soda, you can tackle many of these clogs yourself, and it only takes 10 minutes!
There are plenty of chemical drain cleaners on the market but some of the chemicals in the drain cleaner, like lye, can be harmful and the cleaners can be expensive. A homemade drain cleaner made from vinegar and baking soda can often be all that you need to clear clogged drains, and it’s environmentally friendly too. Let’s take a look at how.
What causes a clogged drain
One of the most common causes of a clogged kitchen sink is food waste and materials. In particular, fats, oils, and grease (FOG) can cause havoc in your drain pipes. This is because while they are liquid when they are hot, they solidify as they cool down. Over time, this can build up and cause a clog. When you add in other food particles, the clog can eventually reach a point where your drain stops working properly.
In the bathroom, the most common culprit is hair mixed with soap scum. This causes similar clumps for the same reasons, and they can also build up over time to cause a clogged drain.
Signs of a clogged drain
- An unpleasant smell from the drain
- A slow-moving drain
- Water coming back up through the drain
- A gurgling sound when the drain is emptying
How to unclog a drain using baking soda and vinegar
Before reaching for the harsh chemical drain cleaners or calling in a drain unblocking specialist, you can often unclog a drain using items that you already have in your home. And it is simple too!
Baking soda is made of sodium bicarbonate, which is a base. Vinegar, on the other hand, is water and acetic acid, which is an acid. When these are combined, they cause a chemical bubbling reaction which gives off carbon dioxide. It is this reaction that can help you in unclogging drains.
This is because it breaks down the drain clog into smaller pieces that will then flush down the drain easily.
When you add boiling water or hot water, you are also creating pressure to the water system, which can help to push the materials further through the system. In the case of FOG, the hot water will also help by turning the grease back into a liquid, which will move through the rest of the system.
How it’s done
The first step is to carefully pour boiling water or hot water down the drain. Boiling water is often the best bet but hot tap water can also be used and will give similar results. The hot water will warm up the pipes and also creates pressure in the drainage system.
The next step is to pour your drain cleaning solution down the plughole. You should use 1/2 cup of baking soda mixed with 1 cup of vinegar. If you don’t have any vinegar to hand, you could also use another acid such as lemon juice. It can also be useful to include some dish soap as this is designed to break down grease.
Once you have poured the baking soda and vinegar drain cleaner solution down the drain, you need to cover it with the drain plug. Then wait for 5-10 minutes. You might even be able to hear the solution fizzing away while you wait.
The final step is to flush the drains with some more boiling water from your electric kettle or hot tap water.
If this hasn’t cleared your clogged drain, you may need to repeat the steps multiple times.
When to call in a professional
If you have tried vinegar and baking soda drain cleaner multiple times and seen no effect, it might be time to call in a professional to deal with the issue.
A blocked drain isn’t always caused by an obvious problem with the sink drain itself. Sometimes it can be a sign that something has gone wrong further down the drainage system. But there is often no way to tell if this is the case from the outside.
One common issue that can cause a blocked drain that won’t be shifted with vinegar and baking soda is limescale, and this is especially likely if you live in a hard water area. Hard water contains mineral deposits such as calcium and magnesium. When the hard water evaporates, these deposits are left behind and can eventually form a thick enough layer that stops the drain from working properly.
The chemical reaction from mixing baking soda and vinegar will not be strong enough to break down the limescale because it is so hard, and chemical drain cleaners won’t be able to touch it either. What you will need in this case is a professional with electromechanical cutting tools.
A clogged drain could also mean that there is serious damage somewhere along the drainage system, including tree roots growing into the drain pipes. A drainage expert will be able to feed a CCTV camera down the pipes and spot any damage that needs to be fixed.
The bottom line
Clogged drains aren’t very nice but you can often tackle a simple clogged drain yourself using a homemade drain cleaner consisting of baking soda and vinegar, mixed with boiling water and maybe some dish soap. It is a quick, inexpensive, safe, and environmentally friendly solution that only takes around 10 minutes to work. If it doesn’t, and your clogged drain isn’t getting any better, it may be time to call in a drainage expert who can diagnose the problem and who has extra strength equipment to fix and clean drains.