How to Clean Scale From Drain Pipes

Updated February 21, 2017

Certain chemicals and minerals in water often form hard and crusty, chalklike deposits, or "scale," on surfaces such as the openings and interiors of drain pipes. The amount of cleaning required to remove scale depends on the amount of mineral and other particles in the water and the amount of drain pipe cleaning you perform on a regular basis. Cleaning drain pipes of scale, requires that you treat the pipes at least once monthly with a homemade cleaning solution or commercial drain pipe scale removal product that contains ingredients that break up or dissolve deposits.

Boil 4 cups of water in a pot or dipper.

Put on a pair of gloves and remove any debris such as food or hair from the drain pipe opening.

Pour the first pot/dipper of boiled water down the drain and wait 10 minutes.

Heat 2 cups of white vinegar in a pot.

Sprinkle 1 cup of baking soda into the drain opening, put on a mask and then pour the white vinegar into the opening. Wait 20 to 40 minutes. While waiting, boil another 4 cups of water.

Flush the drain with the boiled water.

Repeat a second time if necessary.


If the hot water, baking soda and vinegar solution doesn't dislodge the scale after two attempts, pour a commercial drain pipe scale remover into the drain opening. Wait 20 minutes, or as directed on the product packaging, and flush with cool tap water. If a commercial product doesn't remove the scale, hire a plumber. To reduce the amount of cleaning needed to remove scale from the pipes in the future, consider installation of a water softener system that can break down the minerals in the water before use.


Always wear safety gear when cleaning drain pipes---whether using homemade or commercial solutions---as cleaning the pipes can release hazardous fumes from interactions between the cleaners and/or hot water and grease, food, microorganisms or other debris. Flushing pipes with hot rather than cool water when using a commercial scale remover can also release toxic fumes. Never use any method outlined in this article if attempting to clean a kitchen drain pipe that has a garbage disposal in the drain opening without first consulting the garbage disposal manufacturer as any chemicals or boiled water may cause permanent damage to the disposal. Always consult with your doctor before installing a water softener system if you have a sodium restricted diet as softened water can contain high levels of sodium.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Pots or dippers
  • Gloves
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Mask
  • Commercial drain pipe scale remover
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About the Author

Based in Southern Pennsylvania, Irene A. Blake has been writing on a wide range of topics for over a decade. Her work has appeared in projects by The National Network for Artist Placement, the-phone-book Limited and GateHouse Media. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University.