Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a clogged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these cleaners are frequently found in cleaning cabinets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, take a look at a few safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing blockages. 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 debris blocking the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and convenient solution to handle 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 a few examples:

• Acidic drain cleaners include sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are particularly effective against hair clogs but must often be used repeatedly or in high concentrations to do the job.

• Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which release oxygen when dumped into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes blockages from the pipes while killing bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down materials like food.

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

• Enzyme drain cleaners do not have chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a maintenance measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

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

• Chemical drain cleaner can harm your family members. The highly toxic chemicals 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 used with great care.

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

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only solution for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer methods to try:

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 works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This tactic may necessitate a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.

Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method pushes blockages out of 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, continuous plunging motions until the water goes away.

Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this instrument uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and obstacles. This method is highly effective against stubborn clogs without damaging the pipes or posing health risks.

Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and buildup, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccuring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting option for even the most challenging 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 choices to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY attempts 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 clear once again and suggest tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

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