Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a clogged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners resort to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these products are commonly found in cleaning cabinets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, learn how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore a few safer alternatives for removing debris from clogged drains without chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick and simple to use and offer good results, at least at first. These cleaners are available in liquid, gel, or powder form and break down hair, grease, food and other substances blocking the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and convenient 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 happens within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are a few examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners contain 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 repeatedly or in high concentrations to work.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which release oxygen when dumped into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans clogs from the pipes while destroying bacteria. Consequently, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which produces heat to break down and dissolve materials clogging the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners do not contain chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a maintenance measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Although chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key considerations:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack over time. Repeated use of these cleaners can lead to costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or burst.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can hurt your family members. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with great care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the environment. Putting chemicals into the drain transfers toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental impacts.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Fortunately, chemicals aren’t the only option94 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 simple blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This strategy may require a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method sends blockages from the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help make a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make strong, consistent plunging motions until the water goes away.
  • Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this tool features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and obstructions. This method is very effective against stubborn 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, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccurring. 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 offer a quick cure for little clogs, they present too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY attempts prove fruitless, turn to Knochelmann Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Sharonville. We’ll get your drains draining again and recommend tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!

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