Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a blocked drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners resort to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are commonly found in cleaning cabinets, but are they really safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they actually clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few of the 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 obstructions. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re fast, straightforward 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 marketed 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 takes place within the pipes varies depending on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are a few examples:

• Acidic drain cleaners have sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very 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 release oxygen when poured in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. Consequently, oxidizing cleaners are the best against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.

• Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and dissolve materials clogging the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.

• Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not have chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a precautionary measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning solution.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Even though chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do present risks. Here are a few key considerations:

• Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack with time. Regular use of these cleaners can result in costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or break.

• Chemical drain cleaner can hurt your family members. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can result in respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive problems if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with great care.

• Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the earth. Pouring chemicals down the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging effects.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only choice for clearing clogged drains. Here are a number of safer methods to attempt:

Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away slight blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This tactic may call for a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.

Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique sends blockages from the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help produce a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make powerful, continuous plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.

Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this tool features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes blockages. This method is extremely effective against difficult clogs and doesn’t damage the pipes or creating 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 at bay. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting option for even the most difficult clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners present a quick remedy for minor clogs, they present too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY efforts prove fruitless, 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 recommend tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

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