Unclog a Drain Naturally Without Bleach or Drano

I’ve mentioned before that our house has a lot of character.  (I have to say it that way just in case my house is listening and so that it won’t get its feelings hurt.)

Our house is over a hundred years old, and while we love our house and feel completely blessed to live in such a nice, large house…it does have some crazy weird issues.  (Sounds like the lady of the house too, doesn’t it?  Crazy weird issues indeed.)

One of the biggest issues in our house involves the plumbing.  You don’t want to know the details, but let’s just say…  No.  Let’s not.  You don’t want to know the details.

What I will tell you is that keeping our sinks and bathtubs draining nicely feels next to impossible.  And as you know, we’d like to keep our house free from harmful chemicals like bleach and drano.

A good friend of ours was over recently and told us a nice tip for unclogging the bathtubs and sinks naturally using the ever wonderful baking soda and vinegar.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Take out your sink or bathtub stopper.
  2. Use an wet washrag to clean out around the drain hole.
  3. Pour 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain.
  4. Pour 1 cup white distilled vinegar down the drain.
  5. Stop the volcano from bubbling up out of the drain by placing a wash rag over the drain hole.  You want the action to take place down where stuff is clogged, not all over your bathtub or sink.
  6. After thirty minutes, pour a big pot of boiling water down the drain.

And there you go.

I love that we can work on our drain issues using natural ingredients…thus avoiding an asthma attack and whatever other icky things we’re avoiding when we skip using bleach and other harmful chemicals in our home.  And, as a side benefit…this method saves a lot of money.  Do you know how expensive drano is?!

What other great uses have you found for baking soda and vinegar?

I wonder if they would help with the…  Oh wait.  We weren’t going to talk about that.

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Comments

  1. says

    What a great tip! Though our house is only about 20 years old, we’ve got some major plumbing issues as well. With as frequently as I need to unclog drains around here, I’m really glad that you’ve shared this natural method.

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  2. Melinda M says

    When baking soda and vinegar don’t work (when there’s a tough clog), you can try a snake. But my go-to thing is a balloon-type device that goes on the end of the hose and is snaked down the pipe. When you turn on the water, the balloon fills to conform to the pipe, then water shoots out the tip and breaks up the clog. It has worked wonderfully on 2 clogs we had that nothing else could touch. I highly recommend having one on hand.

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    kkathy Reply:

    Where can I get a snake like that? I have a clog now and so far nothing has worked.

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    Melinda M Reply:

    I bought mine at a local hardware store. It should be with plumbing stuff.

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  3. says

    i store baking soda and vinegar under my sink as my go-to cleaning tool for a LOT of stuff… first two things that come to mind:
    >> getting rid of calcium build up on faucet aerator: pour some vinegar in a glass, dilute some with water, pop the aerator off the faucet and let sit for a bit = calcium build up eliminated!
    >> removing minor carpet stains: mix up a baking soda/vinegar paste, rub into carpet fibers with toothbrush, let dry, vacuum up = stain eliminated!

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  4. says

    I use a half and half vinegar/water solution for cleaning just about everythng. It is my ‘all purpose’ cleaner. I love baking soda for cleaning out my tubs and toilets!

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  5. Geri says

    This totally works! I just did it to 2 of my drains. One was stopped up totally, the other was just a slow mover. They are great now!

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  6. says

    I’ve had great success with that combo plus the addition of 1/4-1/2 c salt (the cheapy white stuff! Not the expensive sea salt!) The sat acts as an abrasive that scrapes out some of the tougher gunk that’s stuck. Pour the salt in first, so that the chemical reaction between the vinegar and baking soda pushes it down along the sides.

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  7. says

    When I have a bad sink clog, I usually start out with a good plunger workout. Then, I like to follow it with the baking soda/vinegar combo to get the last of the gunk outta there.

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  8. Amber Courreges says

    Do you think that it would work on a kitchen sink with maybe a disposal, I just wondered! Thanks for the awesome info!

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  9. says

    i do this all the time because my kids forget to run the garbage disposal and it clogs up our double kitchen sink – the trick with that is that you have to work at it for awhile sometimes – plug one side (usually the disposal side), on the other side pour in the baking soda/vinegar/boiling water, let it sit, then use a plunger and/or snake – but it works! i love that there is no harsh chemical smell and it’s super-cheap and easy!

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  10. says

    I just did this to my bathtub drain the other day. I’ve found it works better for me if the vinegar is hot. It really does work!

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  11. says

    …oh man, I had totally skipped the washcloth step to keep the action happening in the pipe… [cough] oops.

    I use baking soda and vinegar to wash my hair. A good scrub with the baking soda and then a quick rinse with vinegar before washing it all out. It works pretty well and, while my wife shakes her head at me, I find the “science experiment on my head” to be fun [smile].

    ~Luke

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  12. Crystal says

    I love this combo! I’m a natural house cleaner so I don’t use chemicals and this works greast for ovens when you have the baked on gunk. Works like a charm and a whole lot safer that those canned fumes you buy at the store!

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  13. Pam says

    I absolutely LOVE cleaning with the 1/2 vinegar & 1/2 water solution. I use it for just about everything!

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  14. Sheltie_Momma says

    This is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone else list bleach as an asthma trigger – it totally sets me off too. I was once hospitalized for asthma and they ran out of space and put me in the diabetic section. Woke up gasping for air with all the monitors going off – why, because they were mopping the hall outside my room with what else? Bleach. I complained and was told that bleach doesn’t trigger asthma. Um, yeah – it does! Anyhoo.

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    Danielle Reply:

    Sets me off too… in LARGE quantities. I can still use it when washing my whites or whatever, but if I use too much… I’m in trouble! I’ve gone to the store before and have had to leave because they used too much cleaning stuff while cleaning up a spill.

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    Melody Joy Reply:

    Oh yes, bleach is definitely an asthma trigger. I’ve recently encountered
    some folks who were unaware of that, too; but it seems that when I was
    younger it was common knowledge that even our doctor backed up.

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  15. says

    Love this tip! We’re slowly trying to rid our house of chemicals, although I doubt I will ever be able to get rid of my bleach. I know it’s very harmful and dangerous, we’re just too close of friends. :)

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  16. says

    I have used that method for years, and LOVE how it works. From the sounds of it, your wonderful old home would probably benefit from you using the method EVERY Wed. and Saturday, in every drain in the house, for the next two months. That would then work past any current problems and actually start working on accumulated build up in the drain pipes themselves.

    Thankfully, neither baking soda nor white vinegar are all that expensive.

    ‘Amber’ asked about it working in garbage disposals. Yes, it will. Another very effective method of cleaning garbage disposals is to put (a LARGE scoop of)ice in it, then turn it on, run until the sound of breaking ice stops and turn the machine off, without ever having turned the water on. Then pour a large pot of boiling water down both sides of the sink (if it’s a double sink). Do this nightly until which time you stop having garbage disposal problems on a regular basis. Then you can switch to doing it once a week, and just flushing it with cold water from your tap. Another bonus is that this method somehow magicaly helps get rid of oders that garbage disposals often emit.

    I stopped by to visit via your link last Tuesday in Tammy’s Recipes/Kitchen.

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  17. says

    Oh gosh, this tip was fantastic!! I actually use Vinegar to clean my house ( mixed with 50% water of course). I make my own laundry detergent too…I’m very opposed to buying the stuff w/ chemicals. If I do get soft scrub and stuff on sale for free it goes to the family across the street, or my in-laws, but never in my house! Great tip, thank you…I have been using that big stick from Home Depot with the claws to suck stuff up…but it does not always get everything!

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  18. Becca says

    You should consider getting your pipes blown out. Basically, it’s compressed air or high-pressure water (depending on the plumber) that blows the clogs out. It is more long lasting that just unblocking the clog, because you end up with almost new, clean pipes. This is something we are considering for our 50 year old house. We have slow drains, though luckily not too many clogs. But last time our washing machine backed up, that’s what the plumber suggested. He snaked it, but said that we would probably have to keep snaking it to keep it clear, because there was so much build up. I didn’t even know they did that kind of thing, so I thought I would share the suggestion.

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  19. says

    I stopped by to let you know that I included this posting in my ‘hopefully useful tip’ today.

    I also read Becca’s comment about having your pipes blown free and wanted to offer a word of caution. VERY often homes that are around a hundred yers old still have their original clay or cast iron pipes. And very often these pipes have accumulated hair line crackes in them over the years. Not big enough to leak per say, but there non the less. And while the combination of vinegar and baking soda working it’s way through them MIGHT affect these cracks, it seldom does. However, the pressure that air blowing puts through pipes is far more likely too!
    just for what it’s worth.

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  20. Fred Renfrow says

    Great tip…I can’t wait til I have a clogged drain (or can I?) to test this no-nonsense, safe tip!!! Thanks!

    Fred

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  21. theTiGor says

    In some cases, I end up resorting to hydropneumatic clearing of a main drain line.

    Once the clog is determined to NOT be in the water closet or in a sink trap, I check to see if it’s in the main drain line. Usually, that’s where it’s going to be.

    I plunge and snake until I determine it to be futile. At that point, I do the best to determine where in the line the clog likely is. Then I start plugging branches. First, I unhook any sinks or water closets, and insert polymer ‘test caps’ into the pipe. If they’re not nice and tight, I use a few wraps of Vinyl electrical tape to make them a snug press-fit into the pipe openings and/or toilet flanges. In fact, I usually work from a toilet flange. (Yes, this means removing a toilet!) I have a test plug with a small hole drilled through it which is a nice snug fit for a barbed nosepiece for a handheld blow gun.

    While I have the air compressor building pressure in the tank, I fill the drain with water. If it doesn’t hold water, it’s not plugged! The more water it takes, you can determine two things. If it drains, but slowly, it’s a partial blockage. If it hardly goes anywhere, it’s really plugged. How much water it takes before you start to see the drain ‘fill’ tells you how far down the line the blockage is. The more water you’ve got to pour in before you see your drain line approach full, the farther away it is.

    Make sure all other test caps are in very tightly, save for maybe a floor drain if you’ve got one nearby you can see. This is something you could watch to monitor your progress.

    The trick with this is that air will compress to high pressure. Liquids do not compress. This is how hydraulics can be used to lift a car in a mechanic’s garage. You’re ‘dumping’ high pressure air into the small air space between the water you’ve poured in to fill the drain line and the bottom of the cap with the hole through which you insert to blowgun nosepiece. The pressure of the air is fairly high, and it pushes the water. The pressure of the water isn’t so high, as it does not compress, but it’s going to exert pressure all the same. It does not take much to open most blockages.

    If you have a floor drain, it’ll probably back up. Let off the air and withdraw the nozzle when the floor drain is about to overflow. Let it recede, and try again. I have best luck plugging the floor drain with a tight fitting plug with a small hole in it. It may take half a dozen tries, but I have yet for this technique to fail. If it ever does, then the next step would be renting a power auger, and barring that, breaking the concrete to replace the drain line…

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  22. Jackie says

    The mix of baking soda and vinegar is also an excellent way to clean the smell out of a washing machine after the kids leave a load in there. I run it all hot with the lowest water setting and add in a couple cups of each. Takes them smell right out!

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  23. Marie says

    PLEASE BE CAREFUL if you have a ceramic sink! This worked great to unclog the drain, but I heard a little “clink” when I dumped the boiling water down the drain. I didn’t notice anything right away but a few days later I thought a hair was in my sink but lo and behold, it is a crack right through the middle. The sink is only 2 years old :(

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  24. Joyce says

    It took several tries and a test of my patience, but the baking soda and vinegar unclogged the sink drain. Thank you so much for the great advice.

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  25. Rash says

    If it really works, what is the scientific explanation?

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    George Reply:

    Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid) react and “turn into” sodium acetate (dissociated as sodium ions and acetate ions), water, and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide (gas) is what makes up the bubbles and what creates pressure in the drain to push the clog (and break it apart). It’s safer than using compressed air because the total amount of carbon dioxide is fairly low. Moreover, since you’re using a wet towel to “seal” it, the pressure cannot rise to dangerous levels the same way as it might when the system is sealed with rubber and sealant.

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