Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a plugged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners turn to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these chemicals are frequently found in cleaning cabinets, but are they completely 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 cleaning clogged drains without chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing clogs. They appeal to homeowners because they’re quick and 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 blocking the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and effortless solution to tackle persistent clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

The exact 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 especially successful 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 are substances that release oxygen when dumped into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans blockages from the pipes while killing bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are most effective against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates heat to break down and clear up materials clogging the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not contain chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a precautionary measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

While chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do present 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 inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack in the long run. Regular use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure humans. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be utilized with great care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the environment. Dumping chemicals down the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging consequences.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Fortunately, chemicals aren’t the only choice94 for clearing clogged drains. Here are a few safer possibilities to attempt:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap acts 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 down the 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 on top of the drain opening. Then, make forceful, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this instrument involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes blockages. This method is extremely effective against persistent 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 buildup, providing a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccurring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting option for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick remedy for small clogs, they present too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY fixes don't do the job, turn to Freschi Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Concord. We’ll get your drains draining again and recommend tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!

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