Baking soda is a kitchen staple that can work wonders to clean smelly and clogged drains. In kitchen drains, the most common clogs are from fat, oil, and grease. For bathroom drains, clogs most often form from hair and scum from personal products. Before using chemical drain cleaners or disassembling the drain trap, it's worth trying baking soda to see if it does the trick.
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a naturally occurring mineral compound. A slightly alkaline powder, it can dissolve mineral deposits and organic materials such as grease, which is slightly acidic in composition. Additionally, baking soda has slight disinfectant properties that can combat odor-causing bacteria and fungi. And regular cleaning with baking soda may prevent clogs from ever gaining a foothold.
If you're not up to disassembling the drain trap to clear a clog, baking soda is always preferable to using a chemical drain cleaner. Chemical cleaners are by no means guaranteed to dissolve clogs, and the caustic chemicals can be extremely hazardous to skin and can even cause serious burns. Professional plumbers usually caution against the use of these products, and some apartment buildings expressly forbid chemical cleaners. Before reaching for a caustic chemical product to unclog a drain, give one of these easy homemade baking soda techniques a try.
Also, use caution when heating water on the stove and pouring boiling water down the drain.
Save Money, Unclog Your Drain With Baking Soda
How Often to Clean Your Drains
Weekly, flush drains with boiling water mixed with liquid grease-fighting dish soap, such as Dawn. Clean your drain with baking soda as soon as you notice the water is draining slowly. You can also use this process as a regular maintenance method for your drains. For example, if you keep a box of open baking soda in your refrigerator to absorb odors, use the old baking soda to flush your kitchen drain when it comes time to change the box.
Equipment / Tools
- Boiling water
- Dish soap
- Baking soda
- Distilled white vinegar
How to Clean a Drain with Baking Soda and Vinegar
Heat Boiling Water
Heat boiling water in a tea kettle on the stovetop or in a large pourable measuring cup in the microwave.
Pour Boiling Water and Dish Soap Into Drain
Squirt a bit of grease-fighting dish soap into the drain and carefully pour the boiling water down the drain. The dish soap will help dissolve greasy clogs.
Pour Baking Soda Into the Drain
Pour one cup of baking soda into the drain. You can use a measuring cup to do this or use a funnel if you have a smaller drain that makes it hard to pour directly into the drain opening.
Follow With Vinegar
Pour one cup of distilled white vinegar into the drain. Don't be surprised by the audible reaction that occurs. Baking soda is an alkaline substance and vinegar is a mild acetic acid. When the two are mixed, they react somewhat dramatically to neutralize one another; the fizzing action you hear is the reaction that will often dislodge clogs in your drain.
Flush With More Hot Water
After the fizzing subsides, wait five minutes. Use this time to heat two cups of water to boiling. Flush the drain with this additional boiling water.
If the drain is now flowing, run hot tap water to flush all debris down the drain. If it is not draining, repeat the previous steps. If you haven't cleaned your drain recently, it may be necessary to repeat the baking soda flush at least twice.
If a drain clog does clear after two or more attempts, the baking soda and salt method described below.
How to Clean a Clogged Drain With Salt and Baking Soda
If the baking soda and vinegar method doesn't unclog the drain, use the salt and baking soda method next. This works best if you do it right before bedtime since the drain won't be used until morning.
Pour Baking Soda Into the Drain
Pour one cup of baking soda into the clogged drain.
Pour Salt Into the Drain
Follow the baking soda with 1/2 cup of salt poured into the drain. Let this mixture sit in the drain for several hours—overnight is best.
Flush With Boiling Water
In the morning, heat two cups of water to a boil, then pour this hot water into the drain.
Flush With Tap Water
If the drain begins to drain, continue to flush with hot tap water. If not, you may need to repeat the process or try the baking soda and vinegar method.
If neither baking soda method opens the drain, it is likely you'll need to disassemble the drain trap to clear the clog.
Tips for Keeping Your Drains Clean
- Always use strainer baskets on your drains to keep hair and food particles from going down the drain.
- Never pour oil or grease down the drain. When cooking greasy or oily foods, wipe the cookware with a paper towel before washing so less grease, oil, and fat go down the drain to form a clog.
- Regularly add boiling water with a grease-fighting dish soap down the drain to prevent the buildup of greasy clogs.
- Both the baking-soda-and-vinegar and the baking-soda-and-salt methods can be used to clean and freshen your garbage disposal. To remove odors in a garbage disposal, reduce the required amounts of baking soda, water, vinegar, and salt by half and follow the directions above.
How do you know if your drains are clogged?
If the water is draining slowly from your sink, shower, bathtub, or toilet, the drain in that vessel is clogged or starting to get clogged up.
How often should you clean your drains?
You can clean drains once a week using boiling water and Dawn. If you notice that the water is not going down the drain quickly, use baking soda to help clear it. You can also use baking soda for monthly maintenance.
How can you keep drains from clogging?
A strainer can help keep unwanted items from washing down the drain. Don't put food or grease down the kitchen drains. In the bathroom(s), a strainer will catch the hair in its basket, preventing it from going down the drain.