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 sludge. Bottles of these products are frequently found in cleaning cabinets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine some safer alternatives for removing debris from clogged drains without having to use chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing blockages. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re quick, straightforward 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 obstructing the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and simple solution to tackle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

The exact reaction that happens 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 create 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 get the job done.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when dumped down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears blockages from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. Because of this, 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 in the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not have chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material utilizing bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a preventative measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning solution.

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 not good for pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack eventually. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or break.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can harm your family members. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with extreme care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the earth. Putting chemicals in the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental consequences.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only option for clearing blocked drains. Here are several safer alternatives to consider:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away slight blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This tactic may call for a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique forces blockages down the the pipe without harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help make a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make strong, continuous plunging motions until the water drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this instrument involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and blockages. This method is extremely effective against persistent clogs without damaging the pipes or causing any health risks.
  • Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and obstructions, providing a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccuring. 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 remedy for small clogs, they present too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes prove fruitless, 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 recommend tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!

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