Easy Ways to Freshen and Unclog a Drain With Baking Soda

Shower drain
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Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is normally a kitchen baking supply, but it also has other uses around the house. Baking soda might not be the first thing you think of when you think of drain cleaner, but it can actually baking soda can work wonders on smelly and clogged drains.

Chemical drain cleaners have drawbacks. They are far from guaranteed to dissolve clogs, and the caustic chemicals can be extremely hazardous to skin, causing serious burns.

Professional plumbers usually caution against the use of these products, and some apartment buildings expressly forbid the use of chemicals in fixture pipes. Before reaching for a caustic chemical cleaner, give baking soda a try.  

The Chemistry of Baking Soda

Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is a naturally occurring mineral compound. It can be made through chemical processes or refined from soda ash extracted from mineral ore. It is a slightly alkaline powder with demonstrated abilities to dissolve mineral deposits and organic materials such grease, which are slightly acidic in composition. It has the ability to neutralize both acidic and alkaline substances. Baking soda also has slight disinfectant properties that can combat odor-causing bacteria and fungi. 

Using Baking Soda to Unclog a Drain

Option #1
Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain followed by 1 cup of vinegar. You can try heating the vinegar in the microwave for a few seconds before adding it to 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, and the fizzing action you hear is the reaction that will often dislodge clogs in your drain.


After the fizzing subsides, wait 5 minutes before flushing the drain with two quarts of hot water. You can repeat this process several times if it is necessary. If this is the first time you have cleaned your drain in a long time it may be necessary to repeat the baking soda flush at least twice. You can also use this a regular maintenance method for your drains. For example, if you keep a box of open baking soda in your refrigerator to absorb odors, when it comes time to change the box, use the old baking soda to flush your kitchen drain. 

Option #2
Try pouring 1 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of salt down the drain. Let this mixture sit in the drain for several hours—overnight is best—before flushing the drain with 2 cups of boiling water. This works best if you do it right before bedtime since the drain won't be used until morning.

Tips for Using Baking Soda

  • Both the baking-soda-and vinegar and the baking-soda-and-salt methods can be used to clean and freshen your garbage disposal. You may be able to cut the required amounts of baking soda, water, vinegar, and salt in half for use in your disposal. Such cleaning will remove the odors that sometimes linker in garbage disposals. 
  • Try putting baking soda down the drain without rinsing when you are going away vacation or even just for a weekend trip. It will help reduce odors that may develop while you are gone. There's not much worse than coming home to a smelly drain. When you return, just flush the baking soda out of the drain with hot water or hot vinegar followed by hot water.

    Benefits of Baking Soda and Drains

    • Using baking soda to clean your drains and garbage disposal is an environmentally friendly solution that eliminates harsh chemicals that may leave odors and residue in your sinks.
    • By eliminating the use of chemicals, you eliminate the risks associated with storing them in your house. This can be a great advantage to a family with children or members with sensitivities to chemicals. Baking soda has no such risks.
    • Using baking soda for these jobs can be friendly to your wallet too, especially if you recycle the boxes you use in the freezer or refrigerator when they are no longer as fresh. You can buy boxes of baking soda in bulk since it has so many uses around the house. For example, baking soda is a multi-purpose assistant in the laundry