Cleaning With Chemistry





Introduction: Cleaning With Chemistry

Wouldn't you like to use simple cleansers that cost less?  Here's how to make heavy-duty cleansers with common household ingredients.  Let's use the magic of chemistry!

Step 1: Foaming Drain Cleanser

If you've got gunk lodged in your drain, you can combine vinegar and baking soda to get a foaming cleanser.  Place the mixture of vinegar and baking soda in a bottle and invert to get a good foam going, then pour it into your drain.  Chase it with hot water.  This is best for dislodging softer clogs by foaming them apart.  

1 C baking soda
3 C hot water
1 C vinegar

For a really heavy clog, use a funnel to pour the cup of baking soda onto the clog.  Follow with 1 cup of vinegar and let them react for 10 minutes.  Flush the whole thing with hot water.

What's happening?  
The vinegar and baking soda are reacting to form carbonic acid, which then instantly breaks down into carbon dioxide and water.  The carbon dioxide bubbles out and creates the foam that forces your clogs apart.

Step 2: Silver Polish

I don't like abrasive polishes because they rub away fine details over time.  Here's an heirloom bowl that's been in the family a while.  It's already really thin, so I'm using a non-abrasive method to avoid losing any silver.  

Caution: this chemical reaction will release the smelly and toxic gas hydrogen sulfide, so ventilate the area really well or do this outside.

Line a bowl with aluminum foil.  Ensure it's aluminum to get the right chemical reaction!

Fill the bowl with warm water and dissolve equal parts of baking soda and table salt (about 2 tablespoons of each)

Place the silver items in the bowl, making sure they all have a point of physical contact with the foil.

The tarnish will transfer from the silver items to the foil, leaving the silver behind!  Continue checking until you get the desired polish or patina, then remove your shiny silver.

What's happening?

The aluminum is oxidizing (tarnishing) in place of the silver.  Look closely and you'll see new tarnish spots on the aluminum foil.  The silver releases its sulfur tarnish to form the gas hydrogen sulfide.  The baking soda then reacts with the toxic hydrogen sulfide to produce sodium hydrosulfide, which makes the reaction somewhat safer than if baking soda weren't used.

Spring Cleaning Contest

Finalist in the
Spring Cleaning Contest



    • Stick It! Contest

      Stick It! Contest
    • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

      Colors of the Rainbow Contest
    • Make it Move Contest

      Make it Move Contest

    We have a be nice policy.
    Please be positive and constructive.




    Hey thanks for this instructable! As a professional housecleaner I use this mix ALL the time. I guarantee it works like a dream and 'sweetens' the drains too.

    I use bicarbonate or Baking Soda as it's known to clean a ton of stuff. Experiment a little, save a ton of money and you'll be quite amazed.

    What is the acetic acid cartoon about? You've not mentioned ammonia in the text.


    5 replies

    Those were examples of vinegar having acid-base reactions with household chemicals, but I see how that could throw readers off. Changed it to a cartoon of acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate.

    Yes, unfortunately you picked the wrong image for bicarb' - there should be 2 Na+ and two -ve oxygens. This is about chemistry so we should get it right.


    That's sodium carbonate you're talking about (Na2CO3). This is sodium bicarbonate (CHNaO3), so my image is correct.

    Count the atoms: you're missing an H then.


    Cripes! That'll teach me to be more careful in Photoshop. Thanks for pointing that out.