Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

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

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re practical and 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 stuff blocking the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and simple solution to fix persistent clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

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

  • Acidic drain cleaners contain sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are particularly efficient against hair clogs but must often be used more than once or in high concentrations to work.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which release oxygen when poured in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears clogs from the pipes while killing bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners are the best against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which produces heat to break down and break up materials clogging the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners do not use chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a precautionary measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning solution.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Even though chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key considerations:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack with time. Regular use of these cleaners can lead to costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more prone to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can hurt your family members. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive problems if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with extreme care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the earth. Dumping chemicals into the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful impacts.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only solution94 for clearing clogged drains. Here are a few safer possibilities to attempt:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This strategy may require a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique sends 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 around the drain opening. Then, make forceful, consistent plunging motions until the water goes away.
  • Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this device features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and gets rid of blockages. This method is highly effective against stubborn 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, delivering 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 remedy for even the most difficult clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick remedy for minor clogs, they present too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY efforts prove fruitless, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning for professional drain cleaning services in Raleigh. We’ll get your drains clear once again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!

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