Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a plugged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these products are frequently found in cleaning cabinets, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore some 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 often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick and straight forward 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 substances obstructing the drain. They are often advertised as an easy and simple solution to tackle persistent clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

The specific reaction that takes place within the pipes will depend on on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are several examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners have sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to make heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very efficient against hair clogs but must often be used repeatedly or in high concentrations to get the job done.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which release oxygen when poured in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears blockages from the pipes while destroying bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are the best 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 inside the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners don’t use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a preventative measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning remedy.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

  • Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack eventually. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can hurt your family members. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can cause 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 used with extreme care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the environment. Pouring 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

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only choice94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are several safer methods to try:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This method may require several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach pushes blockages down the the pipe without harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help generate a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make strong, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this device involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and obstructions. This method is extremely effective against persistent clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or creating 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 efficient, long-lasting solution for even the most challenging clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick fix for small clogs, they present too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY efforts don't work, turn to Parker Pearce Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Gaithersburg. We’ll get your drains draining again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!

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