Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a plugged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners resort to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these chemicals are frequently found in cleaning aisles, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine some safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains without having to use chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing obstructions. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re practical, 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 debris hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and convenient 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 happens within the pipes varies depending on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are a few examples:

• Acidic drain cleaners include sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are especially 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, which release oxygen when dumped in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are most effective against easy-to-break-down substances like food.

• Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates 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 don’t use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a maintenance 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 issues to consider:

• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack eventually. Regular use of these cleaners can cause expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or burst.

• Chemical drain cleaner can injure humans. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can trigger 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 planet. Pouring chemicals down the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging effects.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Fortunately, chemicals aren’t the only option for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer alternatives to consider:

Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This method may call for a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.

Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method 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 powerful, consistent plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.

Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this tool uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes blockages. This method is highly effective against difficult clogs and doesn’t damage the pipes or causing 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 at bay. 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 provide a quick fix for small clogs, they present too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY attempts don’t do the job, 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 eager to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!

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