How to Clean a Clogged Drain With Baking Soda

pouring baking soda down a drain

The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 

Overview
  • Working Time: 20 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 20 mins - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $1 to $5

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.

Safety Considerations

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.

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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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pot
  • Funnel

Materials

  • Boiling water
  • Dish soap
  • Baking soda
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Salt

Instructions

ingredients for unclogging a bathroom drain
The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 

How to Clean a Drain with Baking Soda and Vinegar

  1. Heat Boiling Water

    Heat boiling water in a tea kettle on the stovetop or in a large pourable measuring cup in the microwave.

    kettle boiling water
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 
  2. 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.

    squeezing dish soap into the drain
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson  
  3. 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.

    pouring baking soda down the drain with a funnel
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 
  4. 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.

    pouring vinegar down the drain
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 
  5. 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.

    boiling water a second time
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 
    pouring hot water down the drain
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson  
illustration of how to use baking soda to unclog a drain

The Spruce / Theresa Chiechi

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.

  1. Pour Baking Soda Into the Drain

    Pour one cup of baking soda into the clogged drain.

    pouring baking soda down the drain
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson  
  2. 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.

    pouring salt down the drain
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 
  3. Flush With Boiling Water

    In the morning, heat two cups of water to a boil, then pour this hot water into the drain.

    pouring boiling water and dish soap down the drain
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson  
  4. 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.

    flushing the sink with warm tap water
    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson 

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.