The use of vinegar and baking soda has been advisable for a long time in cleaning drains. Many of these product companies even include it as part of the functions performed.
However, there have been several controversies about the effectiveness of using baking soda and vinegar in the cleaning of drains.
The argument arises based on the science behind this reaction, and previous trials and experiments.
On to the main question, are baking soda and vinegar safe drain cleaners? The answer is indefinite, that is yes and no.
It depends on the type of stain you intend to clean from your drain.
A Safety Precaution
Never use vinegar in a drain or any cleaning scenario combined with harsh chemicals or cleaning agents as it creates poisonous fumes.
- 1 How to Clean Drains With Vinegar and Baking Soda
- 2 Advantages of Using Baking Soda and Vinegar:
How to Clean Drains With Vinegar and Baking Soda
Vinegar and baking soda are effective in cleaning slow drains. Ensure there is no water standing as it may reduce the effectiveness of the cleaning reaction.
Pour half a cup of baking soda into the drain. Add one cup of vinegar to combine with the baking soda.
Let the solution settle for around 15-20 minutes. Pour hot water to flush the mixture. The fizzing reaction detaches the clogs from the walls of the drain.
How It Works
The combination of vinegar and baking soda breaks down scum, acid, and soap remains.
In a science experiment, if you can recall, baking soda and vinegar in an inflatable container produce gas build up in the container.
The same way in a drain with a tight drain cover, the gas build-up causes pressure that pushes the clog down from the edges.
Adding hot water also aids in pushing the clogs down the drain.
On hard or stubborn stains, it may require you to repeat the treatment process a few times to clear the clogs.
But do not use the combination in the presence of other commercial cleaning agents.
The Science behind the Process
Baking soda, which is sodium bicarbonate, is a base. Vinegar comprises of water and acetic acid, making it an acidic compound.
During the reaction, there is a release of water and carbon dioxide. When water bubbles through the clog, it makes it lose, and further pressure from the carbon dioxide pushes the clog downwards.
Moreover, pressure and steam from the hot water help remove clogs and unwanted stains and materials from the drainage pipe.
Advantages of Using Baking Soda and Vinegar:
After some time, baking soda and vinegar becomes a natural cleaner on weaker drain stains.
If you regularly clean your drain with these two components, it maintains your drain clean and free from stains.
When Baking Soda and Vinegar Are Not the Preferred Drain Cleaners
For tough stains, grease or hair, baking soda and vinegar may not be the perfect cleaning agents; instead, opt for enzyme drain cleaners or stronger cleaning agents.
An Experiment on the Removal of Greasy Stains
In two different bowls, apply butter to represent grease stains. Apply baking soda and vinegar in one bowl, cover it up and let it settle for a few minutes.
On the other bowl, use hot water and detergent or even a stronger cleaning agent and let it settle likewise.
Observe the differences after a few minutes.
In the first bowl with baking soda and vinegar, the oil remains unaltered only that it combines with the two components.
In the second bowl, the grease melted and softened, making it easier to flush away.
The reaction between baking soda and vinegar is insufficient to remove greasy stains. This is because the reaction produces salt and water, which is not a grease stain remover.
In addition, the compound is not a detergent; hence they cannot clean greasy stains, unlike other detergents.
It is safer to say the hot water solution does a better job compared to baking soda and vinegar.
If you want to clean a greasy drain, opt for other stronger cleaning agents other than baking soda and vinegar.
The Question on Pressure
The majority of people may be curious to understand the role of pressure in the removal of greasy and tougher stains.
The reaction of baking soda and vinegar produces carbon dioxide, which causes pressure build-up in closed containers. This pressure plays an important role in clearing clogs from the drains.
In the pressure build-up experiment, the container used is completely sealed such that the carbon dioxide has no way to escape.
However, most plumbing systems do not have an enclosed system. Air can escape from the holes on the drain or from the drain cover, which may not be tight, or even the plumbing vent system.
Furthermore, from the kitchen drain to the sewer pipes, it has a larger surface area and volume. Hence they need a lot of carbon dioxide to fill in space to create pressure unlike in bottles and balloons.
In such cases, pressure may not really be effective in cleaning the clogs from the pipe.
If you are keen enough, you will notice that most companies recommend using baking soda and vinegar with hot water.
Hot water is the real deal as it melts the grease stains and creates pressure to drain the clog away.
Safety Measures When Handling Baking Soda and Vinegar
Baking soda or Sodium bicarbonate is not considered a hazardous chemical.
However, exposure to large amounts of it or the resultant reaction with vinegar can lead to serious respiratory and health complications.
These are inclusive of;
- Gastrointestinal irritation
- Sneezing and Coughing
- Eye redness, slight irritation or even mild pain
- Skin irritation
How to Prevent Such Health Hazards:
- Cover the drains during the reaction with vinegar to avoid the escape of any harmful product.
- You can also wear a mask when handling such chemicals to prevent inhaling them.
- Put on gloves and other protective gear to prevent contact with skin.
- Use chemicals or safety goggles and also avoid touching your face during the process.
- For eye contact, rinse with a lot of water.
- For the skin, wash with soap and a lot of water.
- For inhalation, evacuate the victim to a place of fresh air.
- For ingestion, consume plenty of water.