Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a clogged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners resort to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these chemicals are often found in cleaning aisles, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they actually clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few of the safer alternatives for removing debris from clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick, easy 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 blocking the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and effortless solution to fix stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

The precise reaction that takes place within the pipes varies depending on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are a few examples:

• Acidic drain cleaners include sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are particularly successful 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 poured in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. Consequently, oxidizing cleaners are most effective 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 characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.

• Enzyme drain cleaners don’t use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material utilizing bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to work than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a maintenance measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack with time. Repeated use of these cleaners can cause pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or rupture.

• Chemical drain cleaner can harm 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 problems if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with great care.

• Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the earth. Pouring chemicals in 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

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only choice for clearing clogged drains. Here are a number of safer possibilities to consider:

Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away simple blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This method may call for several 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 generate a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make strong, continuous plunging motions until the water drains away.

Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this tool uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and blockages. This method is highly effective against persistent 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 effective, long-lasting solution for even the most challenging clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick remedy for slight clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY fixes don’t work, turn to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing for professional drain cleaning services in the U.S.. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly again and offer you tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!

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