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Using Vinegar and Baking Soda to Unclog a Drain

by | Mar 22, 2024

A sink that is backed up or clogged

If I were a betting man, I’d say there’s a 90% chance you have baking soda and vinegar in your pantry or under the sink. These two products are staples in homes and in the janitor’s closet of commercial buildings.

Baking soda is used in recipes, as a remedy for heartburn, itchy skin, and teeth whitening. Additionally, it is cleaner, effectively tackling grimy surfaces while eliminating unpleasant odors. Vinegar adds a delicious flavor to foods and is an effective degreaser and cleaner.

You may have seen on TikTok or YouTube the life hack of using vinegar and baking soda to unclog a drain, but does it really work? 

What happens when you mix baking powder and vinegar?

Let’s dive into a lesson on chemistry and explore why the combination of baking soda and vinegar triggers a reaction. Vinegar, being acidic with a pH level ranging from 2.4 to 3.4, meets its counterpart in baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, which is alkaline with a pH of 8.3.

When these two substances come together, they create carbonic acid, quickly changing into carbon dioxide. This is the fizzing eruption often seen in science demonstrations, such as simulating a volcano. The resulting acid can be handy in clearing drain clogs; however, its effectiveness wanes once the fizzing subsides. 

Is vinegar and baking soda dangerous?

Mixing vinegar and baking soda together creates carbon dioxide gas (CO2), the same gas we breathe out when exhaling. CO2 is needed in the human body to help regulate blood pH levels. However, too much CO2 is harmful as it displaces oxygen and can prevent it from reaching vital organs. One cup of Baking Soda and One cup of vinegar produce less than 1,000 ppm of CO2.

CO2 levels between 1,000-5,000 ppm will cause the following:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness

CO2 levels above 5,000 ppm could cause:

  • Disorientation
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness

CO2 is a natural part of our environment, In fact, plants love it. However, too much is harmful.

Is Vinegar Harmful?

Undiluted vinegar can be corrosive and cause skin or eye irritation. When diluted, however, it’s considered harmless, although long exposure to it can cause your skin to react.

Mixing vinegar with products such as bleach or ammonia is dangerous. Doing so can create gases much more harmful than CO2.

Is Baking soda Harmful?

Baking soda is considered safe; you can even brush your teeth with it. However, it is abrasive and can scratch surfaces if you use it to clean.

Safety when mixing baking soda and vinegar

When combining baking soda and vinegar, Be Aware that there will be a reaction. The mixture will immediately fizz up, creating carbon dioxide. This reaction is not hazardous, but it’s a good idea to be cautious.

  • Don’t mix large amounts (1 cup is plenty)
  • Avoid working in a confined space
  • Have good ventilation or open a window
  • Avoid contact with the eyes

Can baking soda and vinegar damage pipes?

People share this drain hack on social media without fully understanding the potential risks. Vinegar is acidic and, therefore, corrosive, especially to metals. When this DIY hack is used, if only done occasionally, will most likely not damage the pipes. Thoroughly flush the pipes with hot water so the pipes aren’t exposed to the vinegar longer than necessary. The bubbles it creates might even make the drain smell a little better.

Those with copper or aluminum pipes should avoid this hack, as these piping materials are especially sensitive.    

Vinegar And Baking Soda As Drain Cleaners

Is it possible using vinegar and baking Soda will unclog a drain or effectively clean it? The answer is no. The best way to clean and unclog pipes is to remove the clog physically. However, with that being said, the fizzing bubbles might move things around just enough to let the water through. It isn’t, however, a long-term solution.

Vinegar and baking soda are good cleaners. However, when they are combined, their effectiveness degrades once the bubbles fizz away. This is because vinegar and baking soda neutralize each other. Therefore, you’d have better results using one at a time rather than mixing them.

Although, the bubbles do make it fun to watch!

There are many reasons a clog develops. The location of the drain and what it’s used for will give you a better idea of what is clogging your drain, sink, showers, and toilet.

Baking soda and vinegar to unclog the sink

Food scraps and grease are the most likely culprits for a clog in the kitchen. While soap scum, toothpaste, and hair are the most likely reason for a clog in a bathroom sink or shower drain. The DIY hack states baking soda and vinegar will unclog your drain. Instead of a volcano, a better science experiment is to see what effects, if any, a baking soda and vinegar mixture has on these items. 

Baking soda and vinegar have little to no effect on removing food particles, soap scum, hair, and more. Therefore, it is not an effective solution to unclog a sink.   

Using baking soda and vinegar to unclog a toilet

Human waste, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, and kids’ toys are the usual causes of toilet backups and clogs. Using baking soda and vinegar on a clogged toilet not only does not affect the clog but, due to the chemical reaction, could cause the toilet to overflow and create a potentially unsanitary environment. This method is not recommended.

The best way to remove a clog from a toilet is to dislodge or remove the clog. The suggested recommendation is to use a plunger to see if the clog can be dislodged.

Why Choose Professional Plumbing Services For Clogged Drains?

DIY plumbing is a cost and time-saving measure, and this is the way to go for many projects. However, doing things yourself for complicated projects could lead to trouble. This is why many plumbers use the slogan “We repair what your husband fixed”

Selecting a licensed plumbing service is a good choice for drains prone to constant backups and clogs.

When you hire professional plumbers, you get:

Proper Diagnosis

Professional plumbers see these problems daily and have the expertise and experience to fix the issue quickly and effectively.

Most plumbing issues lie within the pipes. The visible signs within your home, such as unpleasant odors, toilets making strange noises, or slow-draining sinks, are merely the consequences of these underlying problems. However, using appropriate diagnostic tools allows plumbers to identify the cause and ensure swift and effective resolution.

Effective Methods

Plumbers undergo training and stay current on new technologies and practices. We have the experience to address plumbing issues effectively and avoid complications. Our knowledge and skills enable us to complete the job quickly and effectively.

Safety

Plumbing may expose you and your loved ones to potential safety hazards such as harmful viruses, bacteria, and chemicals. To prioritize your family’s well-being, it is recommended to let a professional do any potentially risky work.

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Alma Bradshaw

About The Author

Hello, My name is Alma Bradshaw. I'm a licensed plumber with over 20 years of experience in the industry. It's important to stay informed and up-to-date on the latest plumbing techniques, innovations, codes, and regulations. Learn more about plumbing here and feel free to comment below with any questions.

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