When it comes to plumbing, one of the most common — and most annoying — issues people encounter in their homes is clogged drains. While fishing the clogs out with strings, hooks, and coat hangers is a common and practical option, using baking soda and vinegar is often an easier, and cleaner solution.

Here’s how you can unclog a drain with baking soda and vinegar in 8 easy steps:

  1. Identify the clog and its location
  2. Boil two cups of water and pour it down the drain
  3. Pour two bottle caps of dish soap down the drain
  4. Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain
  5. Pour one cup of vinegar down the drain
  6. Allow the drain to sit for five minutes
  7. Pour two cups of boiling water down the drain
  8. Repeat as necessary

Using baking soda and vinegar is an easy, affordable, and safe way to unclog a drain. In this article, we will take a deeper look at each of the above steps. Keep reading to discover exactly how to go about unclogging your drain.

1. Identify the Clog and Its Location

Clogs in drains are often a rather easy problem to solve, but identifying the issue can sometimes be difficult. Whether it is a shower, bath, or sink, there is often a lot of piping and materials that go through the pipes that make your drains.

Finding exactly which pipe contains the clog and where in the pipe the clog is located can be extremely difficult. Yet, it is crucial to ensuring that you can actually fix the clog.

The easiest way to identify a clogged pipe and where the clog is situated is by finding the “symptoms” of a clog. If you find that your drains are gurgling, the liquid is “backing up”, or your drains are draining very slowly, you most likely have a clog somewhere in your plumbing.

If the clog is high enough such that you can scoop it out, do that. Otherwise, you’ll need to use baking soda and vinegar to clear it.

2. Boil Two Cups of Water and Pour It Down the Drain

Once you have identified where the clog is located and in which drain, boil two cups of water and pour it down the drain. Do not add cold water to the hot water as you would normally do when pouring hot water down the drain. This is because too much water will make the drain back up, reducing the effectiveness of the baking soda and vinegar. Therefore, stick to two cups of hot water and allow it to drain.

The boiling water poured down the drain will help wash away any of the clogs that can be washed off and thus “loosen up” the clog. For example, hair in a shower or bath can be loosened by the boiling water. Also, dirt in a sink might become uncaked, thereby washing away excess materials. This will also make sure that no other fluids get to interfere with the baking soda and vinegar.

3. Pour Two Bottle Caps of Dish Soap Down the Drain

While boiling water will clear many clogs, adding dish soap can help to further loosen up clogs. Many clogs in sinks, especially kitchen sinks, are brought about by a build-up of grease and oil.

A combination of the boiling water and, ideally, grease-fighting dish soap will help to either eliminate the clog outright or reduce its size. This makes it easier to get rid of the clogs in your drain completely with the vinegar and baking soda.

Be sure, however, that you only add two bottle caps of dish soap to the drain. If you add more than this amount, there will be too much soap. Soap suds will actually add to the clogging.

The best way to eliminate soap suds is with water, but if you have a clog, these suds will not be able to drain. Hence, it is crucial that you only add two bottle caps of dish soap and no more.

4. Pour One Cup of Baking Soda Down the Drain

After pouring the hot water and dish soap down the drain, add one cup of baking soda to the drain. Be sure to pour the baking soda into the drain first because the clog will suspend it higher in the drain than if you were to pour in the vinegar first.  Placing baking soda in the drain first also allows you to maximize the reaction that occurs.

However, if you were to pour in the vinegar first, some of it would drain off, such that not all the baking soda would react. This would only expand the clog further.

Allow the baking soda to sit for 30 seconds. This way, it will settle fully around the clog. It will also help to trap warm water and dish soap in the proximity of the clog.

5. Pour One Cup of Vinegar Down the Drain

After adding the baking soda to the drain, pour a cup of vinegar down the drain. The type of vinegar is not important, though red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar can help dissipate any smell that might be associated with the clog in your drain.

The combination of the baking soda and vinegar will create a chemical reaction in which carbon dioxide gas is released. This makes the baking soda and vinegar turn into a bumbling foam. Once this chemical reaction occurs, it begins to break down many of the constituent particles.

When used on stains, baking soda and vinegar remove the stain-causing element from the stained substance by slowly breaking down the dirt and grime that connects the two. Similarly, when used on a drain clog, it will begin to break down the materials that are causing the clog.

6. Allow the Drain to Sit for Five Minutes

Once the baking soda and vinegar get combined inside the drain, they will immediately begin to break down the clog. Leaving the drain to sit helps assist the breakdown of the clog.

As the clog gets smaller and more absorbent, more of the baking soda and vinegar solution seeps into the clog. Not only does this break down the clog from the outside, but it also begins to break down the clog from the inside.

Furthermore, allowing the solution to sit in the drain allows it to destroy any other debris that might be inside the drain but not contributing to the clog. Simply cleaning out excess materials — even without completely eliminating the clog —  can help the drain work better.

7. Pour Two Cups of Boiling Water Down the Drain

Once the baking soda and vinegar have stopped reacting, pour hot water down the drain. Doing so will wash out the excess baking soda and vinegar that might contribute to a future clog. But not only that, it will most likely also wash away any remaining clog that might exist.

At this point, any grease, dirt, or other clogging materials should be loose enough such that warm hot water will be enough to dislodge them from the drain. The hot water will also break up the clog, allowing the drain to function correctly.

In this step, pouring more than two cups of boiling water is acceptable since it will ensure that the drain gets completely flushed. If you find that the boiling water is backing up the drain, then know that the clog has not been completely destroyed. As such, you will need to undergo another round of baking soda and vinegar combination to unclog the drain fully.

8. Repeat As Necessary

If at this point you find that:

  • Your drain is not draining quickly or completely
  • The drain is gurgling
  • The drain is flushing drained materials backward

Then it means that the clog is yet to get dislodged. In this case, follow the steps outlined above three more times.

If after three rounds of using baking soda and vinegar your drain is still clogged, try fishing out the cause of the clog again. By now, you might be able to dislodge it manually. However, if trying to dislodge the clog manually fails, then you will need to find another way to unclog your drain.

There are many drain cleaners available at most local stores, as well as specialized tools designed for cleaning drains. Consider investing in one of these products if the baking soda and vinegar technique fails to work.

Final Thoughts

It’s usually possible to unclog a drain without much of a hassle using baking soda, vinegar, hot water, and dish soap. These items are able to break down clogs caused by any combination of materials and provide an easy, clean, and cheap way of improving your drain’s functionality.

Of course, these materials might not manage to eliminate every clog. In some cases, you may need to find a professional to help you unclog your drains. Alternatively, you may need to replace the drain in its entirety.

See also: Can You Unclog a Drain With Salt?

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