Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a plugged drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners turn to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these cleaners are commonly found in cleaning closets, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, discover how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few of the safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re practical, simple 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 simple solution to fix stubborn 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 varies depending 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 create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very effective against hair clogs but must often be used repeatedly or in high concentrations to work.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which are substances that release oxygen when put into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners are most effective against easy-to-break-down substances like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates 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 materials.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners do not contain chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to dissolve clogs 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 precautionary measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning remedy.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

  • Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack over time. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or break.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can hurt humans. 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 utilized with a lot of care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the earth. Pouring chemicals down the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful effects.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Fortunately, chemicals aren’t the only choice for clearing stopped up drains. Here are a number of safer alternatives 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 acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This strategy may require a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique forces blockages down the 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 over the drain opening. Then, make strong, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also called 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 removes blockages. This method is very effective against difficult 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, providing 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 toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick fix for slight clogs, they pose too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes don’t do the job, turn to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing for professional drain cleaning services in the U.S.. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!

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