Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a blocked drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners turn to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are commonly found in cleaning closets, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, learn how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, take a look at 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 fast and easy 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 obstructing the drain. They are often advertised as an easy and convenient 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 occurs within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners contain 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 do the job.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which are substances that release oxygen when poured into 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 substances like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and dissolve materials in the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners do not contain chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a preventative measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning remedy.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

  • Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack with time. Frequent use of these cleaners can result in expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or break.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can hurt humans. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, significant 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 planet. Putting chemicals down the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental impacts.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only solution94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer methods to try:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This tactic may necessitate several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique sends blockages out of the pipe with no harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help produce a tight seal over the drain opening. Then, make forceful, continuous plunging motions until the water goes away.
  • Drain snake: Also known as 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 obstacles. This method is very effective against tenacious clogs without damaging the pipes or causing any health risks.
  • Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and gunk, delivering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccurring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting solution for even the most difficult clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners present a quick cure for minor clogs, they present too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY fixes don't do the job, turn to Fras-Air/General Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Hillsborough. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

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