How to Make Your Own Homemade Drain Cleaner

cleaning clogs with a diy drain cleaner illustration

Illustration: The Spruce / Bailey Mariner

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 5 - 10 mins
  • Total Time: 15 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10 to $15

Avoid the disruption of a clogged sink, tub, or shower drain with an eco-friendly DIY drain cleaner. Safer and less expensive than chemical cleaners, this simple solution is made from a few basic pantry items. A homemade drain cleaner may take a few tries to completely clear a really tough clog, but give this DIY solution a try before resorting to caustic and toxic commercial drain cleaners.

What Does Homemade Drain Cleaner Do?

You don't always need the strength of a chemical drain cleaner. A slow drain often can be cleared with a homemade drain cleaner concoction consisting of boiling water and a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar. Baking soda (a base substance called sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (a mild acetic acid) react together to create a fizzy, bubbly action that releases carbon dioxide, which can loosen up clogs so they can be washed down the drain. Chase the mixture with boiling water, which helps to wash out any clogs or debris, and you've got a reliable recipe for fighting clogs.

Follow these specific steps to make a DIY drain cleaner that will unclog your sink, tub, or shower drain.


Safe Homemade Drain Cleaner Recipe

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cup
  • Bucket
  • Drain stopper


  • Boiling water
  • 1/2 cup Baking soda
  • 1/2 cup White distilled vinegar


  1. Clear Any Standing Water

    If your sink (or tub or shower) is full of backed-up water, bail out as much of the water as you can by using a cup and dumping the water into a bucket. It's fine to leave a small amount of water down in the drain opening itself, but the sink, shower, or tub should be mostly empty so your drain cleaner can get as close as possible to the clog.

    Standing water in a bathroom sink

    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

  2. Pour in Boiling Water

    If you're working on a sink or tub drain, first remove the sink pop-up stopper or the tub stopper to gain better access to the drain. Pour a small pot full of boiling water into the drain.

    Pouring boiling water down the drain



    Be cautious while pouring the boiling water, as it may splash or splatter.

  3. Add Baking Soda

    Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain.

    person pouring baking soda down a sink drain

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  4. Add Vinegar

    Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar into the drain.

    person pouring vinegar down a drain

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  5. Cover the Drain

    Cover the drain with a stopper, if available, and let the mixture work for 10 minutes. The baking soda and vinegar will fizz and bubble a lot; covering the drain forces the reaction downward instead of up and out of the drain, but it's not critical that you cover the drain.

    person covering the drain with a stopper

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

  6. Add More Boiling Water

    Pour another pot of boiling water into the drain. This will help wash away any clogs that the baking soda and vinegar loosened up.

    Pouring boiling water down the drain again

    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

  7. Clear the Drain

    Flush the drain with hot water from the tap to help remove any remaining debris from the drain pipe.

    Flushing the sink with water from the tap

    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson

  8. Repeat as Needed

    If you notice some improvement after the first attempt, try the drain cleaner again. If the drain is still slow after multiple attempts, you may need to try a more extreme solution.

    Repeating the process to eliminate a clogged drain

    The Spruce / Lacey Johnson


    Once your drain is clear, make a habit of flushing it out semi-regularly by pouring boiling water down the drain. This regular maintenance can help wash away or break up debris before they form clogs.

If this remedy doesn't clear the clog, it's time to consider disassembling the drain trap, if possible, and/or snaking the drain with a drain snake. Place a bucket under the trap before removing it to catch water (and crud). The nice thing about using a homemade drain cleaner is that you don't have to worry about nasty chemicals pouring out along with the water. If no amount or type of drain cleaner works, it may be time to call in a plumber.

  • How do you keep your drains from clogging?

    Keep your sinks, showers, and tubs clean by removing any hair, debris, or food. Rinse drains thoroughly with hot water, and if they're running slow, use a drain cleaner.

  • What causes clogged drains?

    Drains get clogged by everything from food particles, hair, animal fur, small objects, minerals buildup, dirt, and more. The debris clumps together and becomes lodged in the drain pipe.

  • What helps keep drains from clogging?

    The use of a strainer can help keep drains clean and free of unwanted debris or objects.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
    1. Abdullah Said Al-Busaidi et alCutaneous drain opener burns: Report from a tertiary care burns unitBurns Open, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 39-41, 2019. doi:10.1016/j.burnso.2019.03.002