How to Make Your Own Homemade Drain Cleaner

Water bubbling in a sink
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Chemical drain cleaners are dangerous to use, highly poisonous and so caustic that they can cause skin burns. Worse, they are not all that effective most of the time, and over time they can damage your pipes. Most chemical cleaners include ingredients such as sodium hydroxide (lye), sodium nitrate and sodium chloride (salt).There is nothing worse than pouring a chemical drain cleaner into a sink of standing water, only to have it do.

. . nothing. Then you are left with a sink-full of chemically polluted water that you have to try and bail out and dispose of. And chemical drain cleaners are notoriously bad for the environment. 

An alternative to these questionable chemicals is to use homemade drain cleaner to clear a slow drain. Whether you are weary of the harsh chemicals or the cost of store-bought drain cleaners, making your own is a good alternative, and it is very easy to do.

A drain can be effectively cleaned using two common and inexpensive household items: baking soda and vinegar. The reaction caused by combining these two products can help clean the buildup in your household drains. You can make your own homemade drain cleaner in just a few minutes. By combining ordinary baking soda (a base substance called sodium bicarbonate ) and vinegar (a mild ​acetic acid), a reaction occurs that may well dislodge a drain clog.


Tools & Materials You Will Need

  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Household baking soda
  • White vinegar

Clearing Clogs With a Homemade Drain Cleaner

  1. Bail out as much of the water as you can, using a sponge and bucket. It's fine to leave a small amount of water down in the drain opening itself, but the sink should be mostly dry in order to concentrate the baking soda and vinegar where it is needed--down in the drain. 
  1. Start by removing the sink pop-up or tub stopper so you can have access to the drain. If your drain has a pop-up stopper, this will require you to pull out the drain linkage temporarily to open up the drain. 
  2. Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into the drain.
  3. Follow this by pouring ½ cup of vinegar into the drain.
  4. The two household substances will now create a mild chemical reaction as the sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) combines with the acetic acid (vinegar) to form sodium acetate--a reaction that releases carbon dioxide in a noticeable fizzing action.  Allow the fizzing action to do its work and dislodge the clog.
  5. When the fizzing has stopped, carefully pour boiling water into the drain.
  6. Flush the drain with hot water from the tap. This will flush any remaining debris down the drain. 

If this action does not dislodge the clog, it's time to consider disassembling the drain trap to get at the clog. This is one of the advantages of the baking soda/ vinegar method: if you have to go on to disassembling the drain, the trap will not be full of chemicals that can burn you when the water pours out. 

Did You Know?

For the science buffs in the family, the chemical reaction in the baking soda/ vinegar reaction can be written as CH3COOH + NaHCO3 = CH3COONa + CO2 + H2O.

Science teachers often use this interesting chemical reaction in demonstrations to students, creating rockets propelled by baking soda/ vinegar fuel, or "volcanos" the erupt when vinegar is poured down into a crater containing baking soda.