How to diffuse Vinegar Before Adding Bleach
October 30, 2020 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I have a sink drain that routinely has vinegar poured down it. Today I noticed a lot of black gunk around the drain stopper that I'm concerned may be mold (or just general toothpaste and shaving crud). I'd like to hit it with some bleach, but I don't want to gas myself to death. How long do you need to wait or how much water do you need to use to diffuse/dissipate vinegar before adding bleach to something? Or, is there something I should use instead of bleach in this situation?
posted by willnot to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
You will be fine, but if you are that concerned, run the water for a few seconds. The sink has a trap (p-trap) that is specifically designed to trap gas.

However, unless you are using industrial quantities of bleach and vinegar in a seriously confined space or you have serious lung issues or health concerns, you will be fine. I use diluted vinegar spray and diluted bleach to clean the bathroom every week. If I spray too much in too short a time, I notice the gas and it makes me sneeze. It's nothing more than that.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:31 AM on October 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

Run the water for five or ten seconds just to make sure there's nothing left over in the trap, that u-bend in every sink drain, and you'll be fine. [Edit: Jinx]
posted by mhoye at 8:32 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Trace vinegar (i.e, what's left after a flush or two with water) should be fine. It's using bleach in immediate conjunction, or worse yet a mixture with other reactive chemicals, that produces chlorine gas. The quantity of product is ultimately limited by the quantity of one or the other reactant present, and "barely any vinegar" means "barely any chlorine gas". Maybe open a window or run a vent fan, but that's frankly a good idea using cleaning chemicals regardless of the mixtures present.
posted by jackbishop at 8:37 AM on October 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

Is this on stainless steel or ceramic? I would trying scrubbing with a paste of baking soda first (just think this might be more effective).
posted by pinochiette at 8:41 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I've done this (vinegar then bleach) many times, days apart. Assuming you've used the sink to wish your hands and so forth, it's fine.
posted by holborne at 8:42 AM on October 30, 2020

I get that black gunk and it's likely more the toothpaste etc buildup than mold, and I find it's more of a disgusting manual process of removal/wiping off that gets rid of it. Just pouring something past it won't do anything - you have to remove the drain stopper and just wipe/scrub that stuff off. No bleach necessary although I will use some bathroom cleaner to do a final wipe down.
posted by misskaz at 9:47 AM on October 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

FYI, I pour down boiling water and that seems to help.
posted by Melismata at 9:48 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

Flush the vinegar with hot water for a full minute, and you're good. If you can see mold, it's time to break out your old toothbrush (or buy a new one and demote your current toothbrush to the job of cleaner) and do a little mechanical disruption of that mold. I take a sharpie and draw warning stripes on my "cleaning" toothbrush to distinguish it from my active toothbrush.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:51 AM on October 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

I periodically clean my drains with baking soda poured in the drain, followed by vinegar. It bubbles and foams, and the gunk gets dislodged. Then I flush it with plenty of water. Very satisfying and cheap.
posted by XtineHutch at 10:18 AM on October 30, 2020

+1 to baking soda and vinegar first, before you move on to bleach. Something needs to dislodge the gunk and the bubbles usually do the trick.
posted by assenav at 3:12 PM on October 30, 2020

I find a little barkeep's friend or other semi-abrasive cleaner works a lot better than bleach for this sort of thing, but this is also not something you need to worry about unless you are directly pouring bleach right after the vinegar.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:54 PM on October 30, 2020

The black crud is soap and detergent and skin oils. I also do the baking soda and vinegar, let it sit, then use very hot water. The bubbling seems to be useful. Most of all, esp. if anyone in the household has hair, use a Zip-It or one of its many knockoffs. Some packages suggest it should be disposable; mine last several years.
posted by theora55 at 8:46 AM on October 31, 2020

I use the Zip-Its as well, and I don't throw one out until the idea of keeping it in my cleaning-closet, after some dark excursion down my sink drain, makes me feel dirty. That is when it's disposable.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:08 PM on October 31, 2020

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