Tips For Clogged Sinks & Homemade Drain Cleaner Recipe

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Here’s a tip sheet listing a few methods to clearing out drains in the kitchen sink (plugged bathtubs can benefit from these too). At the bottom you’ll find a suggestion for monthly maintenance and a homemade recipe to keep them as trouble free as possible.

SuppliesMethods

  • Baking Soda: Remove as much of the liquid that’s backed up as you can. Toss 1 cup of baking soda into the drain then pour a large pot or kettle of boiling hot water over top. If it empties completely, pour down another kettle to give it another hot flush and then let cool water run from the tap for a couple minutes.
  • Vinegar: Tried and true method: Remove as much liquid as you can. Toss in 1 cup of baking soda, then pour down a cup of household vinegar, plug with the stopper then let sit for half an hour. After about 30 minutes, unplug and pour a kettle full of hot water on top. See this page from thegoodhuman.com and this this one from treehugger.com for more details. This is the method I’ve grown up with and it works even if there’s still liquid backed up (although it works faster without water). Just double the baking soda & vinegar amount, give it about an hour and things have fully emptied, dump more fresh batches of boiling water 2 or 3 times to completely clear out the gunk.
  • Plunging: Use a small plunger to try forcing things to clear. You’ll need a few inches of liquid in the sink to help make a vacuum seal for the plunger and a few forceful plunges to make this work. You can buy a plunger that’s about a 1/3 of the size of a regular toilet plunger. These are only a couple bucks, need very little room and they’re great to keep just in case trouble rears. You can use a full sized one if you can’t find a small one.
  • Poking & Taking Apart: Remove the trap or clean-out plug underneath the sink to try clearing the blockage. Use a plumber’s snake or a wire coat hanger to poke down and break apart the mass. You’ll need an empty bucket on hand to catch all the liquid as well as eye goggles firmly in place.
  • Desperate Situation & Water Won’t Empty: Chances are if you do a treatment with baking soda and vinegar, have the stopper removed, and leave the backed up mess overnight, you’ll find the liquid should have emptied by the morning. The vinegar and baking soda should have worked some of the buildup free on its way down. Do a hot water flush first thing and if the liquid empties as quickly as it normally would, you should be ok–do a couple hot water dumps though just to make sure. However, if the liquid empties slowly, you might want to check the trap to make sure there’s no mass blocking it. If there isn’t, try a couple more treatments of the Flush throughout the day. You just might get away with not having to call in the plumber.
  • Sluggish or Slow: If you notice that things are emptying slower than usual but it’s not completely clogged or backed up yet, do the “Flush” technique right away to prevent a full blockage. Make sure to finish off with a few more hot water dumps.

If you’re dealing with is a double sink, make sure to insert the stopper on one side, then work on the other side.

Caution:

Be careful if using chemical commercial products, wear eye goggles since the liquid can splash back up at you. If you’ve used a commercial product and it didn’t clear out the clog, call a plumber. You don’t want to add anything to the backed up liquid that might react badly to the chemicals in the cleaner. Also don’t try removing the trap since the chemical water can splash into your eyes and face. A professional is better equipped to handle this situation.

Video

If it’s a bathroom sink that’s slow to empty or plugged with hair and ickies, here’s a good video showing you step-by-step how to fix that up…



Easy Maintenance

Once a month clear things out with baking soda and hot water or the vinegar, baking soda and hot water flush. Here’s a recipe you can mix up in big batches and use monthly too:

1 part baking soda
1 part salt
1/4 part cream of tartar

Directions:

  • Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of this mixture into the drain and dump a kettle full of boiling water. Run hot water from the tap for a couple minutes, then turn to cool and run for another couple minutes. Do this monthly to clear out any fat, grease and nasties buildup that may be beginning to form.

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Published: February 11, 2008

What Readers Are Saying:
49 Comments to “Tips For Clogged Sinks & Homemade Drain Cleaner Recipe”
  1. Sharon Jackson says:

    The vinegar, soda and water drain cleaner works better than anything else on the market.
    I put 1 cup of soda into the drain and chase it with 2 cups “hot” vinegar, after about 10 min. I pour a huge pot of “boiling water” down the drain, this is amazing. I also use this in the toilets with the water in them, I have actually heard the toilet and drains gulp and immediately drain. I do this to every drain in my house once a month, no more yearly plumber call. We have very hard water.

    • isobel cameron says:

      earlier today tried the bi-carb and vinegar with boiling water ,in slow draining kitchen sink,worked a treat ! thank you …..

  2. karen says:

    oh my goodness!! the baking soda and hot water flush absolutely works, im sooo amazed!!…thanks so much for the tip

  3. Frances Perkins says:

    This recipie works for more than just unclogging drains. I use it with great success to clean a metal cooking or baking pan with burned-on food. Not that I need it that often! But if you sprinkle a little baking soda over the bottom of the pan and then pour in a little vinegar and let it set overnight, the next morning all you have to do is just wipe out the pan with a paper towel.

    One strange thing happened to an aluminum pan of mine; it was discolored when I washed it in the morning and put it away. Next time I reached for it, the original finish looked new, not discolored anymore.

  4. Terry says:

    I had a slow drain I use the baking soda vineger 1 cup b.s 2 cups vin hot water after 10 min its been a day and a half water will not go down at all now b.s set up like thick past. This is just an old wives tell and will not work try it your self.

    • TipNut says:

      It does work and I’ve used it successfully myself several times over the past couple decades. However, it can’t dislodge objects (say toys) or repair major issues with municipal water and sewer lines. You may have a serious blockage (for example tree roots) that only a plumber can repair.

    • CeeCee says:

      it might be an old wives tale, but it has work for me very reliably. The one exception was when it turned out that there was a toy race car down in the drain and the cap to some mouthwash. That takes manual maneuvering. I never knew to add the hot water flush after waiting with the vinegar and baking soda. Thanks for that tip. Another great old wives tale. Stopped up stubborn toilet. Boil water, dump it in the boil with a squirt of dish soap, or even shampoo and flush. It works like magic.

  5. Merry Smith says:

    The Homemade Drain Cleaner Recipe calls for cream of tartar and I wondered why?

    (Found this page clicking through some other articles from your newsletter.
    And, by the way, since I found this site, I’ve spent more time here than elsewhere. Great info and nice layout. Keep up the good work!)

    • TipNut says:

      Hi Merry, glad you enjoy the site! :)

      Cream of tartar is a mild acid and helps remove rust/stains so it’s useful in this case to help flush crud out of drains.

  6. Kathy says:

    I had heard of using BS for clogged drains…so I looked it up on tipnut.com it said 1 c vinegar 1 c Baking Soda..wow..it actually worked I did have to do it twice cause I didn’t read it all the way thru the first time . I had a double sink n didn’t plug the other side. I did put in the stopped and did it all again and it worked in less than 5 mins. Try it !

  7. jonalyn says:

    heloo evryone especially to the people create this very succesfull tips,i reall have hard times in my sink coz of clogged for two days,i do evrything i can do but still not works.when i decide to look some hepls an tips how to drain clogged sink here i find the answer,thanks guys it such wonderfull you create this kind of tips.its very helpfull to those have have problem,thank you so much an i really appreciate this help.may god bless you all……………….

  8. Tony says:

    Hi,

    I had a bad clog which I just fixed. The clog was so bad that filling up 1 bathtub, or running the washing machine/dish washer, made the shower, toilets and tub back up and overflow. Needless to say, this was a dire situation.

    I bought Liquid Plumber (2 different kinds) and that didn’t work. I tried this baking soda and vinegar solution and that didn’t work either. My problem was that the valve outside was blocked with paper towels. I don’t know if this is universal or not, but here in Miami, the valve is usually located in front of the house in the ground. It’s lid has a big square/cube that you use a wrench to turn.

    Once I got that open, I was able to clear the crap out of it and now everything is running like it should. I know that my situation is probably a little worse than the average person’s who comes to this site for solutions. But, this is what worked for me. Thanks for having these tips up and helping out others. If your problem sounds like mine, try finding that valve.

    • Max says:

      Thanks Tony, same thing happened in my old house and flooded the whole basement. We found out it was baby wipes we had been flushing down the toilet, didn’t know you are not to flush those things, could have cost us tens of thousands of dollars, instead it cost the neighbor about that because our baby wipes affected his basement (semi detached) and his plumbers found and cleared out the baby wipes and redid the whole basement pipes at the same time which was not nescessary but neighbor got it done anyways. All because of flushing baby wipes down drain.

      DO NOT FLUSH BABY WIPES OR PAPER TOWELS DOWN ANY DRAIN!!!!!!!!!!!

    • kerrie o's says:

      thanks i will try to find that valve because i bought 3 different kinds of drain opener (1 was 80 fl. oz. & money back guaranteed) i also tried the baking soda & vinegar several times even plunging, removing the trap nothing has worked.

  9. doggydan says:

    Well, I’ll hogtied!

    Bless this internet thingee.

    I’m a pretty fair handyman, and can fix most everything around the house … and most of my neighbors houses too; but I never heard of this combination before.

    But, I wanna tell ya … this unclogged the laundry sink in 5 minutes after I had been tinkering for more than an hour. So I tried it on a slow toilet. POOF, it runs like it did originally, maybe better.

    Thank you whomever.

  10. Kathy says:

    Didn’t work. Looks like I’ll have to use a neighbor’s toilet. I’ve been battling this thing for 24 hours. Must be serious.

    • Brandy says:

      I feel for you. I remember when I was a kid our toilet was hopelessly clogged. Daddy tried everything. He finally had to remove the entire toilet. Whatever was causing the clog became dislodged because he couldn’t find any obstruction and after he re-installed the toilet it worked! The poor thing worked on it all day. You may have to go that route, too. Sorry I couldn’t help.

      On the sink drain video tutorial, it worked like a charm. I couldn’t believe everything that came out of that sink. Yuk! Saved me a lot of money, though. Thanks a bunch.

      • Barbara says:

        Something I learned from an aunt of mine for clogged toilets, dish soap. Our waste contain fats and that’s the main purpose of most dish soaps to break down the fats on our dishes. I keep a bottle of Dawn Power clean in the bathroom just for this problem. Squirt it in the standing water and wait 15 minutes, should be drained by that time. Flush, there will be bubbles, and see if it’s cleared the problem.

  11. Les says:

    My family has used this recipe for many, many years and it has done wonders for clearing our drains out. I do have a concern now though. I own a cabin that has septic rather than sewage. So I am curious to find out if this recipe will also work in septic tanks without the dangerous build up of fumes or gases in them….since most everything leaches out.
    Please help me quickly with this question as I do have a bathroom drain that is extremely slow to drain.

    • Marc says:

      Hi Les
      I clean and repair septic tanks and this will be just fine for it…much better then the stuff you get from the store. It will not kill off the good bacteria that live in your tank. On another note…have your septic tank pumped at least every 3 years weather you think it needs it or not…your pumper should be able to tell you if you can go longer or get it done sooner. Around hear 3yrs is the law.

  12. Jacki says:

    I did the baking soda and vinegar over and over and NO-LUCK!!!! So I’m going to try the dirty way(unscrewing pipes) to see whats going on. I need to do Dishes!!!!! this is stressful!!!

  13. Joe says:

    I will try this baking soda, vineager idea. So far I have used liquid plummber, unscrewed the trap, cleaned the pipes (they appear empty) and so far no success. Wish me luck!

  14. Ginny says:

    Thanks for the great video on unclogging drains. Worked like a charm. So nice to be able to do this stuff myself…

  15. Diana says:

    Sometimes it may be that your pipe vent is clogged. You should have a vent on top of your house that vents your pipes, so that air can go through. A bird may have built a nest in it, or it may be full of leaves. I would do this as a last resort before calling a plumber, because climbing on top of a house is very dangerous. I found out this because Rotor-Rueter told me that is what had happened at my house. Sometimes you just have to use a coat hanger to pull the debrie from the pipe ( it should have a vent hood on it) other times you might have to call the plumber to use an electric snake to route out the debrie if it is too far down the pipe.

  16. Sandra says:

    I must say, I am incredibly impressed. I have been having trouble with my toilet and the bathtub would gurgle when I flushed the toilet. At first I thought it was the toilet but after I retrieved a large amount of hair from the tub drain it stopped gurgling as badly and the toilet flushed better, but neither was perfect. I just used the drain flush on the tub, and the tub and the toilet are now working perfectly. Must have still been a plug of hair farther down than I could see. I am so relieved because I was getting ready to call a plumber. By the way, I had to use balsamic vinegar with the baking soda. It works fine!

  17. Denis M Bishton says:

    All my daughters (5) + their spare girlfriends who came to live with us temporarily,clogged our tub drain, and what I did was remove the stopper handle, only 2 screws, BTW, and pulled handle and stopper out. (Please note the position of the drain handle and plug rod, so it’s not a hassle re installing ).Then with a straightened clothes hanger, except on the very end make a small loop. Push into opening where handle came out, gently until you hit the drain, about 12 to 18inches. Now twist the hanger around at least 360 degrees, you should now have caught the the hair ball. Pull it gently out the hole. Put plug and handle back in and re screw face plate. Flush some water down drain while opening and closing drain plug. Everything ought to be clean. Sorry Old people are long winded.

  18. yvonne language says:

    have used this recipe for many many years, and it always works for me,you call it baking soda???? i use bicabonate of soda and vinegar, is bicarb the same as baking soda?

    • Nancy says:

      Yes, bicarbonate of soda and baking soda are the same thing.

      And this works, I’ve been using this for years and if you do it every month you will never have clogs.

      And the dish soap in the toilet works too, I do that once a month too.

      Good luck.

  19. NancyDavis says:

    IT WORKED !!!! had visitors for 3 days, they seemed to go thru the toilet paper extremely fast….. Had plugged toilet that backed up into shower!!!!!
    A MESS TO SAY THE LEASTED………Tried a number of things, this seems to have worked!!!?? We`ll see, will keep all imformed…….

  20. Ashton says:

    I tried this, my drain wasnt completely clogged, just wasnt draining like normal. i could wash three dishes and i would have to wait 10-15 min for it to drain so i could wash the rest.
    i tried this and it clogged me sink completely…it wont drain at all…

    not happy.

  21. Hane says:

    I think this recipe may not work in some cases because of what may be clogging the drain. I think my bathtub drain is clogged with a mortar of hair, soap, and exfoliant granules, which this recipe can only partially break up, and can’t dissolve.

    It’s worked on other drains that don’t get the hair and exfoliant clogs, though.

    • Nancy says:

      Hane; when you get that nasty drain unclogged, try using the formula once a month to prevent clogs. And the dish liquid down the toilet too.

      An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – Ben Franklin

    • diane says:

      try pouring a cup of bleach in the drain at night, leave for the night and in the morning flush with a bucket of hot water should clear it out, any thing where there is hair in the clog.

  22. Charles Johnson says:

    For Yvonne Language and All Others, Yes bicarbonate of soda and baking soda are the same thing. NaHCO3 is the chemical formula for bicarbonate of soda, which, for a chemist, indicates an atom of sodium, an atom of hydrogen, and a molecule of carbonate which consists of an atom of carbon and 3 atoms of oxygen. So now one can see why the shorthand of chemical formulas was developed by scientists to talk about chemistry.

  23. CIndy says:

    I wonder if this would work for a washer drain? I would have to figure out how to plug it but nothing duct tape can’t handle

  24. donna says:

    i use this baking soda and vinegar in my sink in my beauty shop, it really works well

  25. Missy says:

    IT WORKS!!! (VASELINE-BAKING SODA-VINEGAR-BOILING WATER) I spent $870.00 in the last two months for a Plumber. My toilet works for a few days, then BAM! clogged again! I was SO upset, didn’t know what to do… I put a thick layer of Vaseline around my plunger, shut the water valve off, flushed and plunged. I put baking soda, and vinegar in, let stand 30 minutes (1 CUP BAKING SODA – 1 CUP VINEGAR, clog was BAD!) After 30min – 1hr flush with Large amount of boiling water… TRY IT! IT DOES WORK…… UNLESS you have a major root or broken pipe problem.
    Thank you! Wish I had seen this site, and saved myself $870 bucks!
    Missy

  26. Patricia says:

    This TOTALLY works!!! Clogged dual kitchen sink did not respond to Liquid Plumber, but the baking soda and vinegar WORKED! I am so amazed. Just have to be sure to close up the drain on one side of the sink while you work on the other side, and vice versa.

    Thank you!

  27. Elaine says:

    I am going to try the baking soda/vinegar flush again. First time it the flush mixture went down great but now the sink has backed up again. One more time before i tear my hair out.

  28. Donna says:

    Also for a clogged toilet I have used Dawn dish soap as it eats the grease………….let it sit for awhile after you flush it down…………worked for me!

  29. LadyMichigan says:

    Just a heads up if you have a front loading washing machine and use those color catcher sheets be careful they can go into the drain and stop the machine from emptying Had a plumber out my machine has a sort of drain thing under the front panel he opened it and low and behold a color catcher he says that this is a fairly common problem with front loaders I callaed the company that makes color catcher and t rep. said oh yeah we know that said it is on the box somewhere, yup there it is (had to use magnifying glass) but says if using in a front loader put in a mesh bag it is on the back way at the bottom next to the “he”

  30. Dante says:

    Thank You!!!

  31. laurie says:

    we cant figure out why our sink wont drain. we tried baking soda and vinegar..the industrial stuff three times and still the kitchen sink is clogged. its septic. the house is on a lake. where else could the clog be. nothing else is clogged

  32. toilet says:

    FOR A BACKED-UP TOILET: Start by filling a bucket with water (I use hot water from the shower). Dump it in. Wait for it to drain enough to repeat, if necessary. After a bucketful – or perhaps several – you should hear that glorious gurgle and see the toilet’s contents flush.

    The pressure of a bucket of water is often all it takes to unclog a toilet. (Mom, you’re a genius.)

  33. Karen says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for your receipe for clogged drains. I have been battling a kitchen clogged drain for the past week with Drano and it didn’t work. I found your website last night and decided to try the baking soday and hot water this morning. What a great surprise and only took a few seconds for the drain to unclog. On top was my birthday today so it was a great gift.

    Thanks

  34. Joan Smith says:

    My kitchen sink has basically stopped draining. I tried liquid plumber and it will drain very slowly over 5-10 minutes. At least it drains a little! This was on 7/3. I looked up this baking soda/vinegar trick and it cautions to not do it if chemicals have been poured down the sink. How long must I wait before trying your method? I read the posting about Dawn dish soap eating away grease and fat. I will try a bottle of this overnight and hot water tomorrow morning. If still not working (Heaven help us!), then can I try the baking soda/vinegar?

    Thank you!

  35. Kery says:

    I can NOT believe I was able to unclog my sink!!! This really, really works!! I have a yearly kitchen sink clog that usually requires the plumber and major $$$. I was so determined to do it this time myself. Here is what I have learned… It is important to limit the plumbing. I have a double sink with a disposal in one of the sinks. I capped off the sink that doesn’t run directly to the out take line. I had tried to use the baking soda/vinegar solution multiple times with no success. After I capped off that sink I was really able to hold down the drain with a stopper so no air from the baking soda/vinegar solution reaction couldn’t escape and the pressure could build. I did have to do it twice after capping off that one sink. The first time the clog moved down the line and then included our bar sink on the other side of the kitchen which had been free and running. I plunged the bar sink and was able to free it and then did another baking soda/vinegar solution in the main sink. VOILA!!!!!! Water is running now!!!! I am one VERY happy person!!! And feel loads richer not having to pay for the plumber!!!! Yippee!!!! The best part is the solution isn’t some horribly toxic mess. Unbelievable!!!!!

  36. So frustrated says:

    So i tried this recipe…twice…did not work. Last night i poured in some drano to speed up the flow but rather than speeding up, the drain slowed even more!! After reading how bad drano is for the environment and the pipes, i thought i should use a safer remedy so i turned to this recipe. Besides this, I’ve tried snaking and even that’s not working! I’ve been at it for about 24 hours now. Did I mention i want to SCREAM and pull my hair?!?!?


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