If you ask half a dozen people how to clean out a clogged or smelly drain more then half seem to come up with the idea that baking soda and vinegar is the best way to get it clean. So what is the truth about this old wives tale will this solution clean your drain or are you just dumping money down the drain and hoping it will help..
The first thing to look at is what chemicals are in commercial drain cleaners. Most commercial drain cleaners use a strong alkaline solution with its main component being lye. The reason a alkaline solution is used is because it will eat the organic material and leave the metal and plastic parts in your plumbing system undamaged. Lye that is used in many soaps and even in food production is relatively safe and although it can cause damage if left sitting for a long time.
Baking Soda is also an alkaline but it is much weaker then lye. I guess the comparison between the strength of lye and baking soda would be the difference between using a sandblaster on high and a wad of toilet paper to strip paint off the bottom of a boat. Sure if you keep on rubbing that toilet paper something is going to come off but its not going to be very much.
Now people say that you should add vinegar to the baking soda to make it work. Any child over 7 has seen the reaction between baking soda and vinegar. It looks like a pretty strong reaction but what is really happening? The baking soda is neutralizing the vinegar. And the resulting liquid mixture of baking soda and vinegar is about as strong as plain water which is in the center of the acid / alkaline scale…
Basically if the Baking Soda could have done any work cleaning the pipes you just killed that by neutralizing it with vinegar.
So can baking soda and vinegar clean out a clogged drain?
Probably not very well but if you want to give it a try then don’t take the bite out of it by dumping vinegar on it. Just mix it with water and let it sit for a while.
The best thing baking soda can do is make your sink smell fresher. But for better results you may want to dump a cup of household bleach in your drain for about 20 minutes. This will kill the bacteria that causes the smell then you can rinse the sink clean.