Unblocking a plugged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are often found in cleaning cabinets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few safer alternatives for removing debris from clogged drains with no chemicals.
What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?
Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re practical and simple to use and offer successful results, at least at first. These cleaners are available in liquid, gel, or powder form and break down hair, grease, food and other materials hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and convenient solution to tackle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
How Do Drain Cleaners Work?
The specific reaction that takes place within the pipes will depend on on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:
- Acidic drain cleaners have sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to make heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very effective against hair clogs but must often be used over and over or in high concentrations to work.
- Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when dumped into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears clogs from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down substances like food.
- Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which produces heat to break down and clear up materials in the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
- Enzyme drain cleaners do not have chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a maintenance measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning fix.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
Although chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do have risks. Here are a few key considerations:
- Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack with time. Regular use of these cleaners can result in expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more prone to leak or burst.
- Chemical drain cleaner can injure people. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can result in respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be utilized with a lot of care.
- Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the earth. Putting chemicals into the drain transfers toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful impacts.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only choice94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer methods to attempt:
- Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This tactic may require a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique pushes blockages down the the pipe with no harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help make a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make powerful, regular plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.
- Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this instrument uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes blockages. This method is extremely effective against tenacious clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or causing any health risks.
- Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and gunk, providing a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs at bay. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting solution for even the most challenging clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick cure for minor clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY attempts don't work, turn to Chief/Bauer Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Champaign. We’ll get your drains draining again and suggest tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!