Wish to naturally unclog a sink or wash a slow-moving drain? Learn why you should bypass the baking soda and vinegar after cleaning FOG clogged drains and then watch the experiment!
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Hundreds of natural cleaning blog posts, books, and magazine columns recommend cleaning slow kitchen drains by pouring a cup of baking soda down the drain followed with a single cup vinegar. I used this combination for several years then I started to doubt its effectiveness.
I decided to conduct an experiment to compare the drain cleaning abilities of vinegar & baking soda to another popular green cleaning solution -> dish detergent & hot water.
(Want to unclog a drain? Read How to Naturally Clean a Clogged Drain)
THE BAKING SODA AND VINEGAR EXPERIMENT
I ran a simple experiment to compare two hot green cleaners when fighting with a fat, oil, and grease drain clog (or FOG drain clog). FOG is the usual cause of slow drains and backup from house kitchens, find out more about FOG clogs.
Step 1 -- I used a tablespoon of butter to mimic a fatty FOG drain clog.
Want to naturally unclog a sink or clean a slow moving drain? Discover why you need to not use baking soda and vinegar to clean your drains and see the experimentation!
Step 2 -- I poured 1 tbsp of baking soda and spoonful cup of vinegar into a single bowl, and a cup of warm water (nearly boiling) mixed with 1 tablespoon of dish washing detergent into the second bowl.
Wish to obviously unclog a sink or clean a slow moving drain? Discover why you should not use baking soda and vinegar to clean your drains and see the experimentation!
Step 3 -- I watched what happened to the greasy clog for 5 minutes. Here is what the bowls appeared like at 30 minutes.
Want to naturally unclog a sink or wash a slow moving drain? Discover why you need to never use baking soda and vinegar to clean your drains and watch the experimentation!
THE GREEN CLEANING RESULTS
After 5 minutes, the greasy clog in the bowl of warm water and detergent was completely melted and would've easily emptied away. The fatty clog in the bowl of vinegar and baking soda has been unchanged (though it was coated in vinegar and baking soda).
Wish to naturally unclog a sink or wash a slow moving drain? Discover why you need to never use baking soda and vinegar to clean your drains and see the experiment!
Here is what was left of those fatty FOG clogs (butter cubes) following the experiment.
Wish to naturally unclog a sink or clean a slow moving drain? Learn why you need to never use baking soda and vinegar to clean your drains and watch that the experimentation!
It turns out my high school chemistry teacher was correct... the fizzy blend of baking soda & vinegar is INEFFECTIVE when battling dirt clogged drains. Baking soda is a base while vinegar is an acid, their chemical reaction produces water with a tiny amount of salt in it, not a fat ruining drain cleaner. Plus vinegar and baking soda aren't surfactants, therefore they do not help water take oil and dirt the exact same way that detergents can.
The hot water does a better job melting the FOG clog and receives a kick in the degreasing power of the detergent.
Lots of readers inquire about the pressure created during the vinegar/baking soda response and wonder if it is going to induce a drain clog outside. The answer is yes and no.
Yes, when baking soda and vinegar are combined the chemical reaction produces carbon dioxide gas (CO2 ) which generates pressure in a closed container.
Regardless, the baking soda/vinegar reaction generated in a drain/household plumbing system doesn't occur in a closed system so pressure can't build up enough to blast a clog out of their pipes.
You might have seen vinegar/baking soda experiment conducted in a closed container like a balloon or bottle. They're an impressive demonstration of the power of compound reactions. However, it is important to be aware that these experiments occur in a sealed container where the CO2 gas has nowhere to escape.
A home drain system isn't a sealed container. From kitchen drain into sewer your pipes maintain a much larger volume of liquid or gas than a balloon or bottle, therefore it would take a lot more CO2 to fill the pipes into some point where pressure builds up. Additionally, the CO2 being created byt the baking soda/vinegar response can escape although the plumbing vent system, holes on your drain or drain cover, and/or spaces at the clog. It's not air tight!
THE HOT WATER SOLUTION
Allow me to tell you a little trick: questioning the drain cleaning power of baking soda and vinegar is contentious. It makes people mad, really mad. I get emails and comments that aren't suitable to post on a PG site.
I am sorry if you are upset, I really am. I was a baking soda/vinegar devotee for quite a long time. But once I started researching green cleansing ingredients and bad cleaner mixes I realized that the trick was not doing me much good... and that I had been squandering baking soda and soda I could use to wash different things.
WHY IS BAKING SODA AND VINEGAR RECOMMEND AS A DRAIN CLEANER?
Perhaps the fun compound reaction tricks our minds with all of the bubbling, maybe companies like to promote more of the products, or perhaps it is the warm water.
If you look at baking soda + vinegar drain cleaning instructions you'll notice they recommend following the baking soda/vinegar with almost boiling water. As shown in the experiment above, extremely hot water does a great job melting FOG clogs.
Bonus: the weight of the hot water creates pressure on the clog that could help loosen or transfer it (thanks to gravity).
Still have doubts?
Next time you get a clogged or slow drain, consider reaching for hot water . You may find out that it does a Fantastic job cutting through FOG clogs and you can save yourself some money on baking soda and vinegar
THE ENZYME SOLUTION
Have a difficult FOG clog that warm water doesn't fix or even a drain clogged with hair? Try an enzyme drain cleaner such as Earth Enzymes Drain Opener or even Biokleen Drain Gel.
wild tornado eco-friendly drain cleaners contain enzymes and bacteria that consume through the organic substance in the clog to clear your drain. (Green Gobbler Drain Clog Remover is another popular alternative, it uses monosodium sulfate, a non-toxic acid, to remove drain gunk.)
MORE DRAIN CLEANING TIPS
Learn four ways to clean a clogged drain without calling a plumber using nasty substances.