Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a clogged drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these cleaners are frequently found in cleaning closets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, learn how they clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore a few safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing clogs. They appeal to homeowners because they’re fast and simple to use and offer effective results, at least at first. These cleaners are available in liquid, gel, or powder form and break down hair, grease, food and other stuff hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often advertised as an easy and effortless solution to handle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

The exact reaction that takes place within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners include sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are especially effective against hair clogs but must often be used more than once or in high concentrations to get the job done.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when put into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears clogs 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 creates heat to break down and clear up materials inside the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a maintenance measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning solution.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Although chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do present risks. Here are a few key issues to consider:

  • 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 in the long run. Repeated use of these cleaners can cause pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more prone to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can hurt people. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with a lot of care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the earth. Pouring chemicals into the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging impacts.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are a few safer possibilities to consider:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away simple blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This tactic may necessitate a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach sends blockages from the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help generate a tight seal over the drain opening. Then, make powerful, consistent plunging motions until the water goes away.
  • Drain snake: Also referred to 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 obstructions. This method is very effective against persistent 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 gunk, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting solution for even the most difficult clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick cure for little clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes prove fruitless, turn to Aramendia Plumbing, Heating and Air for professional drain cleaning services in San Antonio. We’ll get your drains clear once again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!