Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?
Unblocking a clogged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are frequently found in cleaning aisles, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, take a look at a few of the 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 obstructions. They appeal 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 substances hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often advertised as an easy and convenient 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 varies depending on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are several examples:
- Acidic drain cleaners have sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to make heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are particularly efficient 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, all of which release oxygen when put into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are the best against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
- Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates heat to break down and dissolve materials clogging the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
- Enzyme drain cleaners don’t use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material utilizing bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a maintenance measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning solution.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
Even though chemical drain cleaners are fairly effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key concerns:
- Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack in the long run. Frequent use of these cleaners can result in costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or break.
- Chemical drain cleaner can harm your family members. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, significant burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with extreme care.
- Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the planet. Dumping chemicals down the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental effects.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are several safer alternatives to attempt:
- Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away slight blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This strategy may necessitate a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique forces blockages from 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 forceful, continuous plunging motions until the water goes away.
- Drain snake: Also called 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 removes obstacles. This method is extremely effective against difficult 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, providing a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccurring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting option for even the toughest clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners present a quick cure for little clogs, they create too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY fixes don't work, turn to Neal Harris Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Kansas City. We’ll get your drains draining again and suggest tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!