DIY (do-it-yourself) Projects It happens to all of us. At some point, the kitchen or bathroom drain clogs and water backs up. At times horribly unpleasant odors are unleashed. While standard practice calls for lye-based drain cleaners, these toxic products can damage the pipes as well as your lungs. If preventative measures have failed to keep your drains clear, there is a natural solution. Instead of reaching for that bottle of caustic drain cleaner under the sink, try earth-friendly, homemade drain cleaner.

Published on July 17th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans


Homemade Drain Cleaner

It happens to all of us.  At some point, the kitchen or bathroom drain clogs and water backs up. At times horribly unpleasant odors are unleashed. While standard practice calls for lye-based drain cleaners, these toxic products can damage the pipes as well as your lungs. If preventative measures have failed to keep your drains clear, there is a natural, homemade, drain cleaner solution.

Instead of reaching for that bottle of caustic drain cleaner under the sink, keep our water clean by whipping up your own!

Clear your drain naturally

A Simple Recipe for Homemade Drain Cleaner

You Will Need:

2 cups baking soda
4 cups boiling water
1 cup vinegar

Directions for Homemade Drain Cleaner:

  1. Remove all water from the sink or tub and pour about 1 cup of baking soda down the drain. Make sure that baking soda makes it down the drain.
  2. Next, pour about  2 Cups of boiling water down the drain. The baking soda mixed with boiling water dissolves the sludge and gunk in the pipe, even if you don’t see it happening. Wait a few minutes.
  3. Now, pour another cup baking soda down the drain then add 1 cup of white vinegar and plug the drain immediately. If you’re unclogging a double sink, plug both drains. You’ll hear sizzling coming up from the drain and see bubbles foaming up.
  4. When the bubbles have died down, add the remaining boiling water down the drain.
  5. Repeat this process if necessary. This can be used as a monthly treatment to help prevent future clogs too; simply pour a cup of baking soda down the drains followed by boiling water.

If the Drain Remains Clogged:

If the the drain remains clogged after using the homemade cleaner, you might need to use a small plunger for sinks. The baking soda and vinegar loosens the clogging material, freeing the gunk that should start moving around with the plunger’s pressure.

Click here for a tutorial on using a sink plunger, complete with a video about how this awesome trick works!

  1. Fill the sink with enough water  to seal the plunger around the bottom against the sink.
  2. Push down fully and pull up quickly. Repeat if necessary.

How Does Natural Drain Cleaner Work?

Baking soda is a base and when combined with vinegar, an acid, reacts to form carbon dioxide and sodium acetate (remember the volcano you built in science class back in school- same concept! This also works as a magic combination for vegan baked goods!). In drains, it works to create scrubby bubbles on the drain’s insides. Instead of rising up and out, as with the volcano, it is sent down into the drain dissolving the gunk. These natural, non-toxic ingredients get flushed further down ensuring a clog-free drain. Baking soda and vinegar are common, non-toxic ingredients posing no health dangers when used as discussed. They are natural ingredients preferable to the sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, found in most drain cleaners. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, sodium hydroxide can burn skin. If swallowed, it can cause chest and abdominal pain, and has the potential to lead to death if it severely damages the lungs, tissue, or causes a loss of pulse or shock. Ewww.

Here’s more information about why we should look into greener house cleaning products, and check out the following posts for specific types of products:

Natural household cleaners
Natural ways to eliminate ants
More cleaners using lemon, orange, and hydrogen peroxide
Homemade body care products (lip balm, foot spray, body scrub)
Natural ways to deodorize a fridge
More awesome cleaning products:

It happens to all of us. At some point, the kitchen or bathroom drain clogs and water backs up. At times horribly unpleasant odors are unleashed. While standard practice calls for lye-based drain cleaners, these toxic products can damage the pipes as well as your lungs. If preventative measures have failed to keep your drains clear, there is a natural solution. Instead of reaching for that bottle of caustic drain cleaner under the sink, try earth-friendly, homemade drain cleaner.

{drain photo via  j. botter , supplies image via Shutterstock}

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  • Vinegar is such a versatile product and can be used for so many things from cooking to cleaning your home or car. I use vinegar for almost all of my household cleaning and i like to add a touch of lemon juice for that citrus scent. a lot can be learned if people will look to their pantry instead of the cleaning supply isle for their cleaning and other huose hold needs. Here is a websire with 101 uses for vinegar that you might find useful.

  • Eliza

    This really worked! I was surprised at all the filmy gunk that came up out of my sink drain. A big hair ball floated up and got caught on the stopper lever. I loosened the cap on the back of the drain and pulled the hair ball out with a crochet hook. Now the water drains fine! I already had plenty of baking soda and white vinegar on hand for laundry use.

  • safiweb

    worked like a gem!

  • Jeanne M.

    Thanks very much I’d forgotten all about this solution, will try it out today for my clogged sink. God bless you and more folks need to know about this ‘natural and safe’ solution.

  • B Tesler

    I just tried this and am surprised to say it actually worked! It is simple to do, I had the ingredients in the house, and it worked the first time. Thank you so much.

  • I have always known about vinegar’s wonderful cleaning powers, but I just cannot get over the scent it leaves behind (although I know it is supposed to dissipate after a few hours, I can always still smell a lingering scent) and my boyfriend freaks out whenever I use it. Any way to get around this? I tried the trick of putting orange peels in it for awhile and that made it worse. I love to use natural household products but just can’t do it with this one. Any tips?

    • Put essentail oils in it. It helps a lot!

    • try a touch of lemon juice for the citrus sent.

    • Valaree

      Try using apple cider vinegar… it starts off with a slightly sweeter smell… i’m sensitive to the smell too but the apple cider vinegar bothers me LESS, it obviously still smells like vinegar just less pungent : )

    • Lai-Lai

      Try using raspberry-blackberry vinegar or peach vinegar. There’s recipes on how to make them online if you don’t want to buy the pricey stuff.

    • Jo

      I used a few drops of eucalyptus oil before I tipped the last bit of boiled water down – works really well 😉

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  • jan

    What is the ratio of baking soda and vinegar to keep clean drains running…is it 1:1 ratio?

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  • Didn’t work – nice idea…

    • This formula works on most clogged drains but I’m sure there are many factors that might affect its efficacy…like the degree of how clogged the drain is, how hot the boiling water is and even how old vinegar is. A fresh, full strength, vinegar works best. If it doesn’t work the first time, repeating the procedure also helps. And if it still fails, then follow up with a “clean” plunger that’s made for sinks drains (a slightly smaller version for kitchen.) And with baking soda and vinegar solution loosening up the clogged drain, using the plunger afterwards will easily dislodge any stubborn debris. Good Luck!

      • Steph

        I agree! The plunger was what did it for me. Thanks for the idea 🙂

    • it works for me. i am also using the baking soda and vinegar to to burn the hair in the drain. it is safe method too

  • Kristen B.

    I was usually think of the pumps and commercial products to be used in the drain cleaning. It seems nice that there is a natural version, which is combined of vinegar and baking soda, to replace the standard drain cleaner under the sink. I wonder what kind of essential oils to be used just in case the vinegar smell would linger for hours. Maybe I will suggest it the next time I encountered clogging sink.

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    • Jo

      I used eucalyptus oil – with the boiling water it clears the sinuses too! LOL!

  • mj23wizards

    didn’t work. tried it several times.

    • bendgo

      Yup. I tried it too. No luck. It’s not caustic enough to burn through the hair and gunk in drains.

      • I posted an updated procedure for more stubborn clogged drain. Please read the procedure again. Thanks! (Updated 12, 2911)

    • Jo

      I think the trick is to do it when you notice the drain running a bit slower than usual – it worked brilliantly for me & I’m one for using nourishing cocoa & shea butters in my bathing rituals… they’re pretty clogging when they cool in the pipes… but oh so great for moisturizing the skin!!!

  • Amanda

    May I point out that vinegar is actually not an acid, but an alkaline. Therefore it will not burn through clogs. Lemon juice is. Try adding that for the dissolving agent.

    • vinegar is acetic acid.

    • Jo

      Yes, vinegar is DEFINITELY *ACIDIC* – not alkaline.

    • Bill

      vinegar aka acetic acid or aka glacial acetic acid (actually a solid in full strength at room temperature, but not diluted with water). Please remember lye (basically ashes which can either be sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) is what you use to make soap (yes normal soap) in a process called saponification. In other words, if you don´t want to use the store bought lye, just put some ashes in from the fireplace and they are very alkaline. The alkaline ashes react with the grease lining the drain pipes and convert the grease to soap! Now the water easily dissolves the soap instead of the grease – that is how the lye drain cleaner works (it just changes stubborn grease into soap).

  • espice

    Tried it today- it took a couple of cycles, but it worked! thank you so much!

    • Cool! Glad it worked. It beats those caustic chemicals, doesn’t it?

      • Bill

        Karen when you wash your hands with soap, it is made from those nasty chemicals sodium hydroxide and any fat source such as oils, lard or grease. Talk to anyone you know who makes home-made soaps and ask them about nasty chemicals 😉

  • Nikhil

    If you dont have a Pumper You can use a Plastic 500 Ml Pet Bottle of pepsi, coke or any soft drink which can be go into it. PUT SOME HOT WATER IN CLOGGED DRAIN AND THEN USE THE BOTTLE BY PUSHING IT INSIDE OUT THE FILLED DRAIN.

  • Kristi

    Wow to my surprise this actually worked. Thank you.

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    • Lori

      can you use the baking soda, water and vinegar on septic system without causing damage

      • Danny

        I used it on my tub and it worked great!! It is septic system safe.

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  • Debra

    Dang! I didn’t even need the vinegar. I was concerned at first because not even the whole cup of baking soda would go down the drain and my sink backed up and didn’t move. I waited several minutes, and a couple of times used the end of an old toothbrush to move things around. After about about 8 minutes and 2 or 3 pokes, all the water and baking soda just went down the drain! Cool!

  • katie

    OMG!!!! just tried this on my bathroom sink. Now that it’s summer i tend to shed a lot of my crazy thick hair, and i noticed that the bathroom sink was starting to slow down a bit from all the hair that i’m sure got washed down there and wanted to nip the problem in the butt before it became a full on clogged drain. i saw this blog and decided to try it out before i went for the heavy duty stuff we keep under the sink. And WOW!!! this works great!!! almost better than the commercial cleaners and way faster! as an added bonus, my fixtures have never shined brighter!

  • Lori

    Can you use this on drains that go to septic tanks without any problems happening???

    • Catherine

      Yes baking soda and vinegar are safe for septic systems.

      In fact, the grocery store near our cottage sells vinegar that is concentrated (10% acetic acid vs 5%). Much easier to carry home (lighter) and great for shining up the fixtures with hard water stains.

  • Very nice procedure for clearing drain. If anyone interested on reliable company to get heating & air conditioning service and repair, or electrical service, Plumbing Services in Raleigh, Durham, Apex, Cary, Morrisville, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Garner, Chapel Hill, Wake Forest and Clayton, then here you go….

  • Laura

    I used baking soda and white vinegar and it worked great. I did NOT put boiling water and baking soda down first. In fact, I let both sides of the sink (double kitchen sink) completely dry out first. I split about a half box of baking soda between the two sides, then about a half bottle of vinegar in each side and blocked the drains. That part is VERY important. Just be ready. The foaming action will push the stoppers out if you do not have them weighed down. I waited a couple of hours. I boiled a gallon and a half of water in a stew pot and poured it down the two sides. The sink cleared immediately and has remained clear. I have a septic system. Baking soda and vinegar are safe for septic systems.

  • I just tried this, I didn’t quite have enough vinegar or baking soda, so I just used what amounts I had…worked very well!!!

  • Terry

    I use vinegar, backing soda , and salt. The grit of the salt helps clean the gunk off the inside of the pipes. Works Great !!!

  • This actually worked. My tub was backed up seriously. I used the baking soda 1st than some boiling hot water…. I gave it a chance to do it thing (I waited awhile ) Than I put some more baking soda than the vinegar. I saw the chemical reaction instantly as it began to work. Than I put some more boiling water…. Drain was clean… This seriously works.. I would say tho don’t follow it to a T use your best judgement but this is the correct foundation to getting things started!

  • Amie

    Help! I tried this tonight & now my bathroom sink is backed up! Any suggestions? I followed the instructions & even bought the little sink plunger. The sink has been half full of dirty water for about 2 hours. It wasn’t even backed up before — it would just randomly clog. I thought this would help clear the drain out for good. Other than calling a plumber – I don’t know what to do.

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  • June Scott

    I tried this about three times and it didn’t work either === plus there was too much baking soda in the pipes and it went hard and took 3 days to get the drain opened, plus alot of hard work. No more baking soda for me, or a whole lot less of it. BE CAREFUL !!!!!!!!

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  • What’s up, just wanted to say, I liked this post. It was practical. Keep on posting!

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  • Matt the Drain Cleaner Guy

    Soda and vinegar mix is a great natural way to clean your clogged drain. I would just be a little careful about using boiling water as it might damage certain sealants in your drain. Using hot water should be sufficient.

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  • Marilyn

    I tried this today and it worked great! My sink was really clogged and I kept putting it off because I did not want to use chemicals. I keep hearing about vinegar and baking soda and use it for the laundry so figured there could possibly be a way to use it to clean the drain. I googled and yeah!

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  • Thanks for the recipe. Always nice to be able to use natural products at home rather then buying harsh chemicals.

  • Would I use the same procedure for a clogged shower drain? I don’t have a stopper to seal it off after adding baking soda and vinegar, it is a big grid type of drain in the middle of the shower.

    • Hi Kelly- Yep, you can use the same procedure. You can also use a plate or bowl, just something to keep it covered and remind you not to run the water. I used to do this once/week in my old house with slow drains!

  • If baking soda and vinegar don’t work (like for cat litter, sand, hair balls, etc) a hydro-mechanical drain cleaner like DRAIN-FX is the best bet. These devices are essentially scaled-down versions of the professional water jet cleaners that plumbers use. DRAIN-FX is a personal favorite because it uses only tap water (100% eco-friendly) and it’s inexpensive.

  • Thang Nguyen

    It really works!!

    Mine got clogged after I had mixed vinegar and BnS but I got a small plunger and BAM!! It started to drain like magic!


  • WOW! … this worked fantastically!!

    I use one of those natural cleansing conditioners to cleanse my hair 3 times a week, so you can only imagine the gunk that accumulated in the drain ….

    This natural formula worked beautifully, and I will use this monthly to keep my drains running clear …

    So happy I stumbled on your awesome site – thanks so much!! 🙂

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  • Loren Durand

    Thanks very much for this natural homemade drain cleaner. My kitchen sink was clogged and it worked like magic. Now I am going to buy some extra baking soda and vinegar to keep for future clogs. No more nasty chemicals. Great article! Thank you.

  • Very informative. Easy to understand tips. No more to expensive solutions for drain kitchen sink.

    Mini Clean

  • Ana Buehler

    I just tried this method and it worked perfectly the 1st time! Thank You this is great

  • Maid2Match

    Have tried this a few times and have been impressed the results. Cheap and easy solution. Thank you!


  • Miley Garner

    Thanks very much for this
    natural homemade drain cleaner. My kitchen sink was clogged and it worked like
    magic. Now I am going to buy some extra baking soda and vinegar to keep for
    future clogs. No more nasty chemicals. Great article! Thank you.

    Best regards!
    Norwood Carpet Cleaners Ltd.

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  • Krystina Morgainne

    Worked great – thank you, thank you, thank you! Simple and easy is always the best way to go…

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  • Boemar DrainFX

    DRAIN-FX is by far the
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  • Randy Howe

    Will this harm PVC drains and pipes?

  • angelique fortin

    Hey Stephanie,
    With a few simple precautions, keeping your drains clear is probably easier than you think.
    1. Pour grease into cans rather than into sink.
    2. Avoid food disposal into sink but if you do, flush food particles down the pipe with lots of water.
    3. Pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain once a week.
    4. Frequently clean pop-up stoppers, hair often causes clogs.
    5. Avoid pouring wax substances.
    6. Have a professional inspection for home septic tank in every two to three years.(if you own)

    Hope it will help.

  • Alanna Austring Yousif

    Worst idea EVER! My sink went from draining slowly to not at all! Now I have a nasty sludgy mess in my sink that won’t drain and when I attempted to use regular drain cleaner it bubbled up and foamed everywhere. I wish I’d never tried this.

    • hey Alanna- Sorry to hear that! I’ve honestly done this many times, and sometimes the sludge is not actually buildup but is hair or other physical objects, in which case it needs to be removed before the soda + vinegar can work their magic. I usually use chopsticks and/or a butter knife to physically remove the gunk (it’s totally gross); also, using really hot water is really helpful, and should help move things along. Good luck!

    • Kristin Gracy

      I agree with you. It made a horrible mess in my sink and below my sink as the pipe below the sink broke. I should have known better.

  • Shyam Girish

    Interesting. This looks super cool. I haven’t read it all yet, but I’ll be back to read the rest of it.

  • Arti Samir

    This is a pretty great post. I’ve been thinking of starting a blog on this subject myself. Any tips or anything you would recommend me to avoid?
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  • John simon

    This entire post absolutely ROCKS! Thank you for all the hard work you put into it. It really shows.
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  • Kristin Gracy

    I tried to put the entire one cup of baking soda down the drain but it wouldn’t all go down because our pipe curves and doesn’t let the powder go down like water does. So I added some water thinking it would go down. It didn’t! So I got a small plunger and pushed gently and it went through…the bottom of the sink! It broke the pipe loose and all that mess went into the cabinet below the sink! WHAT A FREAKING MESS! DON’T KNOW HOW THIS IS SUPPOSED TO WORK BUT IT DIDN’T WORK HERE! Guess I’ll resort to the good old caustic drain cleaner since it doesn’t break the pipes. It’s a good theory though. Not happy to have to clean up this mess and spend time doing more work than I did to start with.

  • Jack

    I ordered Drain-FX online after hearing about it on the Gary Sullivan
    radio show and it cleared my drains – no need for chemicals. It’s
    ecofriendly & effective. I highly recommend it.

  • Sherrie Gumm Terrell

    Worked great!

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  • Sal Belleci

    What Would You Recommend To Clean a Bathroom Sink Drain but The Drain has a Cup Type Screen that Can Not be Removed.?

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