The Scottish Plumber

Does vinegar and baking soda unclog a drain?

We’ve heard of a lot of people attempting to use a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to unclog a slow drain, but unfortunately, we haven’t heard of much success using this method.  And as the expert drain cleaners we are, many people have asked us for our opinion on this mixture.bubbles

From a scientific standpoint, it really doesn’t make any sense that a mixture of vinegar and baking soda would unclog a drain.  When you mix the two, the acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the sodium bicarbonate in baking soda, and this acid-meets-base combination creates the sudden surge of bubbles to form that we’re all familiar with (remember your 6th grade science experiment of making the volcano?).

The reaction is known as a “double replacement” reaction.  The acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate form carbonic acid, which is a very weak acid and sometimes used in soft drinks.  But the carbonic acid is unstable, and immediately falls apart into carbon dioxide and water in a decomposition reaction.  The bubbles that form in the reaction come from the carbon dioxide being created- and if you’ve ever mixed vinegar and baking soda together, you’ve noticed how quickly the bubbles form… so the carbonic acid doesn’t last very long and is too weak to break down any materials in a clog such as hair or soap.

Some of the leftover baking soda is usually left in the pipe, which can actually make an existing clog worse if the reaction turns it into a sludge that doesn’t rinse away easily.  The Scottish Plumber usually recommends Bio-Clean to most homeowners who are looking for an environmentally friendly and safe way to clean their drains.  Bio-Clean uses natural bacteria and enzymes that break down organic material like hair and soap.  Contact The Scottish Plumber for more information on how to get Bio-Clean, or visit the Bio-Clean page on our site.


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