Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a plugged drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are often found in cleaning closets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they actually clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore some safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains without having to use chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing obstructions. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re quick, straightforward to use and offer good 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 handle persistent 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 depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are several 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 successful against hair clogs but must often be used more than once or in high concentrations to work.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which are substances that release oxygen when poured down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans blockages from the pipes while destroying bacteria. Consequently, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which produces heat to break down and break up materials inside the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners don’t have chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material utilizing bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a precautionary measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning remedy.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

While chemical drain cleaners are fairly effective, they do have risks. Here are a few key considerations:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is not good for pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack with time. Regular use of these cleaners can result in pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or break.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure your family members. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with great care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the environment. Pouring chemicals down the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental impacts.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only choice for clearing stopped up drains. Here are a few safer possibilities to attempt:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away slight blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This tactic may require a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method pushes blockages out of the pipe with no harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help create a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make powerful, continuous plunging motions until the water drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this device features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and gets rid of blockages. This method is highly effective against tenacious clogs and doesn’t damage the pipes or posing health risks.
  • Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and buildup, delivering 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 answer for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick remedy for little clogs, they present too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY efforts prove fruitless, turn to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing for professional drain cleaning services in the U.S.. We’ll get your drains draining again and offer you tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

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