Unblocking a blocked drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners resort to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these chemicals are often found in cleaning cabinets, 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 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 primarily used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re fast and 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 materials obstructing the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and convenient solution to handle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
How Do Drain Cleaners Work?
The precise reaction that takes place within the pipes depends 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 create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very successful against hair clogs but must often be used more than once or in high concentrations to get the job done.
- Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when poured down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans clogs from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are most effective against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
- Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and clear up materials clogging the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
- Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a precautionary measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
Although chemical drain cleaners are fairly effective, they do have 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 inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack with time. Regular use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more prone to leak or burst.
- Chemical drain cleaner can hurt people. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, significant 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 bad for the environment. Dumping chemicals in the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental effects.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only solution94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are a few safer alternatives to attempt:
- Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This method may necessitate several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method sends blockages out of the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help create a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make strong, continuous plunging motions until the water goes away.
- Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this instrument features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and obstacles. This method is highly 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 obstructions, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccurring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting option for even the most challenging clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick remedy for small clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY fixes prove fruitless, turn to Sunbeam Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Buffalo. We’ll get your drains draining again and offer you tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!