Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?
Unblocking a clogged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these chemicals are commonly found in cleaning closets, but are they really safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore a few 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 clogs. They appeal to homeowners because they’re quick 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 hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and simple solution to tackle persistent clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
How Do Drain Cleaners Work?
The specific reaction that occurs within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are several examples:
- Acidic drain cleaners include sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very 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, which release oxygen when dumped in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears obstructions from the pipes while destroying bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down substances like food.
- Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates heat to break down and break up materials in the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
- Enzyme drain cleaners do not have chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material utilizing bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a preventative measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning solution.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
While chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key issues to consider:
- Chemical drain cleaner is not good for pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack in the long run. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or burst.
- Chemical drain cleaner can harm people. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with great care.
- Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the environment. Dumping chemicals into 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
Fortunately, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are a number of safer methods to consider:
- Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a sluggish 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 strategy may call for a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique pushes blockages from the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help generate a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make powerful, continuous plunging motions until the water drains away.
- Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this device involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstacles. This method is very 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, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting remedy for even the most difficult clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick fix for small 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 attempts prove fruitless, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning for professional drain cleaning services in Longmont. We’ll get your drains clear once again and recommend tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!