Heloise's baking soda & vinegar drain cleaner

trekkerNovember 29, 2008

Recently Heloise (Heloise.com) included a recipe for a drain cleaner in her newspaper column: put 1/2 C baking soda mixed with 1/4 C salt into drain, followed by 1/2 C vinegar. Wait 15-20 minutes, run hot water for 1 minute followed by cold water for 1 minute.

I assume this will do no harm, but will it do any good?

Thanks!

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bus_driver

No harm, very limited benefit.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 5:47PM
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rjoh878646

I have never tried salt with the baking soda, but I have used the baking soda and vinegar to clean out drains. I recently had a sink that plugged up with hair,toothpaste residue and soap scum. I packed the drain full of baking soda and dumped vinegar on top of it. It loosened up the clog and cleaned off the sides of the pipe. I repeated it 2 or 3 times to clean everything out. Then I ran hot water and used a plunger to get rid of the rest. It will not hurt the pipes. It is a lot more enviromentaly friendly than chemicals and won't rot out the pipes.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 5:47PM
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jakethewonderdog

I'm with Bus Driver. Not much benefit.

Here's the deal. Baking soda is alkaline. It will help to cut through grease if left in contact for a while. Mixing with vinegar (acid) makes it foam and thus provides some agitation but they neutralize each other

On a kitchen sink I would run hot water to warm up the pipes, pour in the baking soda and let it set for a while (15-20 minutes). Then I would dump in the vinegar. Again, the real answer is that it doesn't do much but foam.

Flushing the drain with a sink load of warm sudsy water would probably do as much good in the kitchen.

BTW: I'm always amused when people say something to the effect of "it's safer than chemicals". Baking soda and vinegar are chemicals.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 6:13PM
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bus_driver

Washing soda is a stronger "base", the term for alkaline substances. Do not use vinegar with the washing soda. Use hot water, then washing soda and let it sit 15- 20 minutes, then hot water again. HOT water!

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 7:25PM
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trekker

Thanks. I suspected as much. I'm very leery of things like Draino and other caustic drain cleaners, since if they don't do the job you then have pipes full of dangerous stuff.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2008 at 11:00PM
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fixizin

BTW: I'm always amused when people say something to the effect of "it's safer than chemicals". Baking soda and vinegar are chemicals.

Indeed, I've used plain old distilled white vinegar to micro-etch galvanized roof flashing before priming and painting. It WORKS, providing approx. 4x better adhesion, even in Cat. 2 hurricanes!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 1:58AM
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maxmom96

I tried the vinegar/baking soda/boiling water method 2 or 3 times when my bathroom sink was clogged. (The safety issue of carting pots of boiling water from the kitchen to the bathroom without tripping over the dog was another issue!) Anyway, it didn't work.

Then I undid the pipes below and although I did get some gunk out, the sink was still not draining properly. (Rememer, if you're a gal over 70 with bad knees, put your cell phone in your pocket just in case.) At that point I gave up, but several weeks later I was at a home store and saw Zip-it. For the low cost, about $2.50 it was worth a try. It consists of a flexible plastic strip with "teeth" along the edge easily able to fit in my sink drain that will dredge up lots of gunk. It was the answer to my prayers! It brought up stuff that, when taking apart the pipes, I couldn't reach, and the other stuff had no effect on.

In a thread several months ago someone said these were no good and didn't work, but it sure was what I had been looking for. I've sung it's praises ever since.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2008 at 12:42PM
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monijo2

Umm.... Just in case you guys missed the original post, it includes SALT, which assists the process. The salt increases the efficiency of the chemical reaction. That way, when you add the vinegar, the two don't completely cancel each other out, and the baking soda with the salt can loosen up a lot more.

I've used a similar method several times on my daughter's drain, we have dogs that get bathed in that tub, plus her hair, and other stuff. It has worked every time I've used it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ehow - How to Unclog a Sink without a Plunger

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 11:39AM
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homebound

My remedy was to finally remove the entire pop-up drain assembly, discover and scoop out a fair amount of smelly crud from the overflow with my finger, spray with clorox cleaner, and reinstall everything. Seemed to be the cause, but I'm awaiting a call tomorrow to see if the problem returns.

This was for a very problematic "mystery" sewage odor that continued after 1) another plumber reseated the toilet, and suggested it might be a clogged vent, but was doubtful himself) 2) I snaked and rinsed the tub overflow due to some smell emanating from there from hairy crud that was caught in the drain.) 3) the overflows were rinsed with clorox....to little avail after a couple days.

I hope I got it this time. If not, vent snaking from the roof will be next, though I doubt that's the cause.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2009 at 4:09PM
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jim_seamuspress_com

Folks, drano doesn't work in every instance either. The suggestion that this doesn't work is laughable. I've used it over the years and it works much of the time. But like most things, it depends on the reason for the clog.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2010 at 9:31AM
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grundrakkon_hotmail_com

I see people saying "all it does is foam", well, that is part of the reason why it works. The reaction causes the release of carbon dioxide gas, by plugging the drain after adding the vinegar the building pressure helps push the crud down the drain. When doing bathroom sink/tub make you sure you plug the overflow as well. Works like a champ.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 10:26AM
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ionized_gw

"...it includes SALT, which assists the process. The salt increases the efficiency of the chemical reaction. That way, when you add the vinegar, the two don't completely cancel each other out, and the baking soda with the salt can loosen up a lot more."

How does that work? Will you provide a balanced chemical equation for the reaction including the salt so we can see how it differs from the reaction of the bicarbonate with the acid?

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 1:52PM
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ampmjohnson_live_com

I used this today on a tough drain with wonderful results. After two times the drain seemed almost perfect, but I did it once more for good measure. Fast, cheap and easy!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 4:39PM
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cparkerlpn_comcast_net

Yes. I used it, and it works quite well. The thing is to remember that these things are called drain cleaners, not drain uncloggers. In theory, they should be used occasionally to prevent clogs, although most only use them to remove clogs. I never used drano as prevention, because of the harshness of the chemicals in it. After using the baking soda/vinegar method years ago to remove a nasty clog from a drain, I decided to maintain my drains by using this method once every few months. Inexpensive and I've not had a clog since. I do omit the salt and hot water when there is no clog.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2011 at 5:45PM
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loca65

I was about to give up on trying to figure out whether it worked or not, glad i stuck it out to the bottom of the thread. I'm giving it a shot as originally prescribed, with salt. Not sure what the debate was about it makes sense to me that the combo gives more time for raw agitation between soda/vinegar.

I have a tough bathtub clog--I'll let u know how it works out. And, great advice to use just vinegar and soda once a week or so to prevent this from happening again. Eco-friendly and cheap, not bad; I've had worse.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 2:13PM
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graywings123

Loca 65, welcome to GardenWeb. I hope the Heloise recipe works for you. I prefer the zip-it stick. It is cheap and easy. You slip it down the drain and pull it back up. I believe they sell them at Home Depot. If that doesn't work, it's time to call a plumber.

Here is a link that might be useful: Zip it

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 10:56AM
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Muntil

the best thing I've ever found is a device called a 'clog cannon', found on www.flylady.net (I make NO money from this endorsement, I'm just a huge fan!); it's amazing - no chemicals, has unclogged blocked drains, as well as ones that have been slow-draining for ever and it's just wonderful - I highly recommend it

Here is a link that might be useful: Flylady

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 5:31PM
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brickeyee

"The reaction causes the release of carbon dioxide gas, by plugging the drain after adding the vinegar the building pressure helps push the crud down the drain."

Depending on whre the clog is there may be no pressure created at all.

It is a DWV, Drain, Waste, VENT system.
The vents (and even sink overflow) can prevent the buildup of any significant pressure.

Boiling water and washing soda is liable to be just as effective.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 1:15PM
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rsuddath3

A quick little search on google will tell you that reacting 1/2 c of baking soda and 1/2 c of vinegar will not produce a neutral solution. There is way more baking soda present than needed to neutralize that amount of vinegar. That's what the white grainy stuff that's still there is. The foaming doesn't create a ton of pressure to push the clog down the pipe it just coats the whole interior of the pipe with the excess baking soda. Just like Draino foaming pipe snake. Washing soda will have the same reaction with vinegar and may leave a more affective residue.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 11:05AM
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myrc60

I had a drain that was almost 100% clogged. I could have gotten under the sink and disconnected the drain plug from its apparatus but I choose to use baking soda and vinegar instead. I did not use salt as directed above. Because the drain plug is securely fastened to the underside of the pipes, I have a very narrow space to get the baking soda down the drain so I just dumped it and then poured vinegar on top. When the vinegar level wasn't going down I used a toothpick to poke holes in the mixture which helped it move down into the drain. I then let it sit for about 15 mins. and followed with hot water. This pipe was near 100% clogged with hair and soap residue; no unusual foreign objects were blocking the water flow. While it did take a few applications to get the drain to open up, it is draining much better now. I had to stop because I used all the vinegar I had in the house! Don't knock something unless you've tried it!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2013 at 10:22PM
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