Will using baking soda and vinegar hurt my pipes?

I have a chronic problem with slow drains and very hard water. I am planning to get a plumber in to snake everything but since I need every drain done this would be expensive. (4 bathrooms x average 2+ drains per bathroom[sinks and showers] x $300 per drain = a lot of money). I don’t want to use a chemical like Drano since I know that it can damage pipes as well as be dangerous if it sits in the pipe. The only way I have gotten my shower to drain is by using a wire hanger to chisel through the rock-like concretions in the drain and then used a zip-it which brought up what looked like chunks of plaster along with some hair clumps. The drain is still slow and I can still see standing water but at least I can take a shower without building up 3 inches of water that then takes over an hour to drain.

People have suggested a combination of baking soda and vinegar would help for hard water deposits inside pipes but even though I know that each alone is fairly benign, I don’t know what harm mixing the two can go (see for example, bleach and ammonia). Also every instruction I have read says to rinse afterward with boiling water. Is there a reason that the water has to be boiling hot? It’s really a pain to boil water and then carry a kettle up to the third floor. Would regular hot water do?

Mixing bleach and ammonia produces toxic gasses. Baking soda (a base) and vinegar (an acid) mixed together produces a chemical reaction, resulting in a lot of bubbles, as the acid gets neutralized: perfectly harmless to people. It’s a good cleaner. Boiling water afterwards helps with the removal of some debris. The hardware store has certain tools to help with plugged drains, certain types of augurs, and those definitely should be tried.

Aren’t you going to clean out the pipes going to the taps and shower-heads too? Do you have a hot water tank?

For doing it yourself, could you remove the waste pipes to make them easier to clean manually? Can you not buy yourself a plumber’s snake? They’re not expensive: Screwfix sell a 7.5m snake for £20. You might also consider a Power plunger for £30.

I had a tub that drained horrifically slow. I tried everything listed above with no improvement. Then one day I stuck the end of my wet/dry vac in the drain, stuck a plunger over the overflow drain, and turned that sucker on. A few seconds later I pulled out the culprit: a shampoo bottle cap.

Not that that’s necessarily going to help you, but it may be worth a try.

DCnDC, I had a slow drain issue in my tub in a new house. I eventually noticed that the drain plug wasn’t seating properly, so I took it apart one weekend…turns out that someone had stuffed a small hex key and what appeared to be the plastic-wrapped remains of the installation guide for the faucet into the drain. I’d love to know the thought process that went into that…

For the OP, the baking soda/vinegar combo is also great when you have a sink drain that’s smelling less than fresh. Unfortunately, in my experience, the hair still has to be removed by hand periodically.

I’ll but they stuck them in the overflow pipe not thinking or not knowing that they’d eventually end up in the drain.

I’ve made it a habit to jack out all my drains with a plunger once every month or two, whether they need it or not. It seems to be very helpful – drains that have begun to get a little bit slow become noticeably freer-flowing.

The theory is that stuff accumulates in the trap. The plunger creates a lot of turbulence in the water, stirring up all that glop, and a lot of it will go all the way through the trap and be gone if it just stays enturbulated in the water for just a long-enough moment.

Mixing vinegar and baking soda (acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate gives you carbon dioxide gas, water and sodium acetate, none of which are particularly harmful to pipes.

I use organic drain cleaners once a week. They are expensive and hard to find. I once found them at Lowe’s but they did not have them the last time, so I ordered some through a catalog. No doubt you can find them on a web search.

Thanks all. I have already done the plunger thing repeatedly. I am considering getting a water softener and I definitely periodically have to clean my taps. I need a plumber anyway but I just wanted to make sure that I don’t do any permanent damage by trying this first. Any answers about whether I need boiling water?

Why not just move the kettle first and fill from a nearby tap? Presumably it just plugs in to an ordinary power socket.

I don’t think psychobunny is talking about an electric kettle, but rather a teapot or stove top kettle.

The hot water just flushes/dilutes the crud dislodged or dissolved in the pipes more effectively; especially when there’s a soap/skin film covering everything. When I rinse my razor in cold running water the soapy skin scum lodged between the blades basically congeles and won’t come out. If I rinse it the same way with hot water, the crud gets thin and washes out easily. It’s kind of like the difference between washing a greasy pan in the sink with hot vs cold water.

So, the water doesn’t actually have to be boiling… but the hotter the better. You might want to rig up a short length of hose with a fitting that will attach to a nearby sink faucet, crank your water heater as hot as it will go, and just use that water. The extra volume you’ll have will more than make up for a lower temperature. Flushing your line with 20 gallons of 50ºC water will do more good than 1 gallon of 98ºC water.

I work in copper so i know how to clean the stuff… mixing baking soda with vinegar is an odd thing to d when your trying to dissolve a chalky substance as the soda is reducing the acidity of the mix. Personal I’d use straight vinegar and let it sit as long as possible. I have soaked copper re-used from pipes over night with no ill effects. In my experience adding a handful of salt increases the acidity.

In another thread, it’s mentioned that hydrochloric acid is the thing to use.

Would a plumber really charge $300 per drain for all 8 drains? That seems excessive. Even if he charges $100 / hr and he’s out there for a few hours, you should come in well below that…

At the institution, we had a toilet that nothing worked on. The plumbers put a snake right through it, both ways, and it was still coompletely blocked. They had to disassamble it to replace it – and this was the old style with the caulked ceramic joints, not a rubber seal on a plastic neck.

It was the swinging top of a plastic water pitcher. The rim was firmly wedged/sealed into the pipe join, and the cover swung free to admit the snake, and swung shut when you tried to run water through it.


I’ve never used boiling water when cleaning my drains, mainly out of laziness (the kitchen is on the first floor). I’ve gotten great results from just hot tap water though.

When I had my bathroom sink snaked last year, I asked the plumber what I could use to help keep it clear. He recommend using bleach. Two months, the shower backed up. After it drained, I added bleach, waited 30 minutes and it’s been working since. However, bleach and baking soda/vinegar might not work on a laundry sink. I have to resort to commercial drain de-cloggers and a plunger for those.

Also, that price does seem excessive. Most plumbers charge $85/hr and have pipe clearing specials for $50 with the large companies being at $90.

When clearing a drain with vinegar and baking soda, isn’t plugging the drain a key step in the process? Ditto with the overflow hole, if the sink has one. You want the pressure from the buildup of carbon dioxide to loosen the clog, so you need to block any other routes that the gas could escape from.

That may be something that goes without saying, but I thought that someone should.