Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?
Unblocking a plugged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these cleaners are often found in cleaning cabinets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, take a look at some safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains with no chemicals.
What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?
Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing obstructions. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick 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 advertised as an easy and effortless solution to fix 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 varies depending 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 especially 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, which release oxygen when put down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans blockages from the pipes while destroying bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are most effective 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 inside the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.
- Enzyme drain cleaners don’t contain chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a preventative measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning remedy.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
Even though chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do have risks. Here are a few key concerns:
- Chemical drain cleaner is not good for pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack with time. Repeated use of these cleaners can cause expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or rupture.
- Chemical drain cleaner can harm your family members. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, significant burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be utilized with great care.
- Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the environment. Pouring chemicals down the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful effects.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only choice94 for clearing clogged drains. Here are a few safer alternatives to attempt:
- Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This tactic may necessitate a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method forces blockages down the the pipe with no harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help produce a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make powerful, continuous plunging motions until the water goes away.
- Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this instrument features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstacles. This method is very 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 buildup, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs at bay. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting remedy for even the most difficult clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick cure for small clogs, they create too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY efforts don't work, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning for professional drain cleaning services in North America. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly again and suggest tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!