Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
These days there is so much information floating around the internet that simply is not true. Its often very difficult to know what is truth and what is an internet myth. Sometimes I’m fooled about things and accept them right along with everyone. When something doesn’t quite seem logical I do experiments. Remember the soda bottle air conditioner that made its way around the internet? free air conditioner I wanted to experiment and see for myself if it worked. After I did my experiment I understood this was not something worth doing.
I realize this post is going to bring angry comments from the firm believers that baking soda and vinegar is an alternative drain cleaner. I hope to prove to you that it is a myth. A myth that could eventually cause major plumbing issues. I spent quite a long time contemplating how I could prove or disprove the drain cleaning power of baking soda and vinegar. What are the bubbles supposed to do? They have no strength for pushing or lifting anything. Every bubble of every type I’ve ever seen do nothing but pop when encountering a solid object.
Here is the experiment I did. Its here for you to judge and/or experiment for yourself. I don’t have a way of taking photos of the inside of my drains so I have two bowls to represent the drain U trap of sinks. Into each I put 1 tablespoon of butter to represent the fat and grease buildup of the drain. I put it right in the middle to see which way it would move from the bubbles. IF it does.
Into one bowl I put half a cup of baking soda and half a cup of vinegar. I did this slowly because it REALLY bubbles up fast.
In the second bowl I put one tablespoon dish soap followed by one cup of hot but not boiling water. Now wait to see what happens.
This is after 5 minutes. The butter on the left is dissolved and floating but the butter on the right is still buried in baking soda. The vinegar is floating above the baking soda.
All the instructions I could find say to wait ten minutes. So I did. Next I emptied the bowls. I poured the liquid off the baking soda. It took some doing to get the remaining baking soda goo out of that bowl with a spatula. I was careful to put it into the trash instead of the drain. The hot water bowl I emptied down the drain.
Maybe I should have mixed the dish soap with the hot water before putting into its bowl. Maybe I used too much baking soda.
To be fair with the experiment I did the baking soda bowl over again with only two tablespoons baking soda with half a cup of vinegar and waited another ten minutes. Nope, still a baking soda goo left and so was the butter.
If you regularly use the baking soda and vinegar to clean your drains what do you think is being left inside your sink U trap? Ok, the instructions do say to follow with boiling water don’t they? Well, let’s think about that. The bowl on the left showed us hot water works to loosen fats and grease while the dish soap carries it away. So why waste the baking soda and vinegar if hot water works?
Now do you see why I say the baking soda and vinegar to unclog a drain is a myth? The reason the trick does not work is because the baking soda is a base and the vinegar is an acid. (remembering my daughter’s school chemistry here) Combining the two creates liquid with a tiny bit of salt in it but not a grease destroying drain cleaner. The combination does not produce a surfacant for carrying grease and oil away the same way dish detergent does. If you will notice, every place that promotes using baking soda and vinegar as a drain cleaner recommends following with boiling water. Its the boiling water that does all the work. Baking soda is heavier than water which means water will not do a good job of carrying it away. Over time that baking soda could combine with grease and oil to form a major clog in the U trap.
Hmm, if baking soda and vinegar were actually good at degreasing then why has it never been promoted as an alternative to dish washing liquid? Baking soda is a great substitute for scouring powder. Vinegar is a good disinfectant when used as a substitute for bleach. I would say its better to use them in that way but not as a drain cleaner.
A couple more cautions for you. Be very careful about mixing different things. Some combinations can be very dangerous. There is another baking soda myth found all over the internet. People are saying you can make washing soda by simply cooking baking soda in the oven. Don’t believe it. If baking soda is turned into washing soda by the oven then there are a lot of bakers out there making lethal cakes and pies.
Baking soda in the wash is not good either. Baking soda does not float so it could be landing and staying in the washer drain or the tub of your washer. If you use vinegar as a water softener along with laundry soap when washing clothes you are making your clothes greasy. Laundry soap is a base and vinegar is an acid. When you mix the two together it turns the soap back into its original form of oil which gets left on your clothes and in your washer drain. The more pure the soap the greater the change. Its better to use the soap in the wash followed by vinegar in the rinse so the two do not combine.
UPDATE: Donna asked me a good question in the comments that had me scratching my head. I wanted an answer so I did an experiment with cheap laundry liquid, cheap dish liquid, and Dawn. I really thought it would clot up but none of them did. I wanted to know why before I answered her question. I did some research into how soap is made commercially. Apparently soap is made with many chemicals that keep the soap from forming into clots and remain biodegradable in streams or oceans. I was wrong about the manufactured soap and vinegar in your washer. Maybe only homemade should not be mixed with vinegar because it doesn’t contain the chemicals? Hard soaps like Castile or Ivory are said to be 99% pure so maybe those should not be mixed with vinegar? I don’t have an answer.