Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a clogged drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these cleaners are frequently found in cleaning closets, but are they really safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore some safer alternatives for clearing 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 attractive to homeowners because they’re quick, simple 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 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 precise reaction that takes place within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some 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 do the job.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which are substances that release oxygen when dumped into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears clogs from the pipes while killing bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners are most effective against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which produces heat to break down and clear up materials in the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not use chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material utilizing bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a precautionary measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning remedy.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

While chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do present risks. Here are a few key issues to consider:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is not good for pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack over time. Repeated use of these cleaners can lead to expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can harm people. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can result in respiratory issues if inhaled, significant burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with great care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the earth. Pouring chemicals in the drain transfers 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 option for clearing blocked drains. Here are a few safer possibilities to try:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This method may necessitate a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique 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 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 device involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and gets rid of obstacles. This method is very effective against difficult clogs without damaging the pipes or posing health risks.
  • Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and buildup, providing a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccuring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most effective, long-lasting solution for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners present a quick fix for little clogs, they pose too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY efforts don’t work, turn to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing for professional drain cleaning services in the U.S.. We’ll get your drains clear once again and suggest tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!

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