Unblocking a clogged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these products are often found in cleaning closets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, discover how they actually clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, take a look at some safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains without having to use chemicals.
Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing blockages. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re practical, 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 debris hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and convenient solution to tackle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
The exact reaction that occurs within the pipes varies depending on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:
• Acidic drain cleaners have sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very 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 release oxygen when dumped in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears obstructions from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. Because of this, 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 dissolve materials inside the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
• Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a precautionary measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning remedy.
Even though chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do pose 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 harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack with time. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more prone to leak or rupture.
• Chemical drain cleaner can harm people. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can result in respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be utilized with extreme care.
• Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the environment. Putting chemicals down the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental effects.
Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only option for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer methods 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 works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This tactic may call for a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
• Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method forces blockages out of the pipe without 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 forceful, regular plunging motions until the water drains away.
• Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this tool features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and obstacles. This method is extremely effective against tenacious clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or creating 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 from happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting remedy for even the toughest clogs.
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick fix for minor clogs, they create too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY efforts 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 draining again and suggest tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!
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