Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

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

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing blockages. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re quick, easy 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 debris blocking the drain. They are often marketed 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 the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some 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 especially efficient against hair clogs but must often be used over and over or in high concentrations to do the job.

• 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 removes clogs from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners are the best 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 items.

• Enzyme drain cleaners do not use chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a precautionary measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

• 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 eventually. Frequent use of these cleaners can result in expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or break.

• Chemical drain cleaner can hurt people. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, significant 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 bad for the environment. Pouring chemicals in the drain transfers toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging effects.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only option for clearing stopped up drains. Here are a number of safer methods to consider:

Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This strategy may call for a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.

Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method pushes blockages down the the pipe without harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help produce a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make powerful, consistent plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.

Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this device involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and blockages. This method is highly effective against stubborn clogs and doesn’t damage 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 at bay. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting remedy for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners present a quick cure for small clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY attempts prove fruitless, 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 call a Service Experts office near you today!

Savings For You

See All Offers Here >
parts and labor icon

5% off Active Military & Veteran's Discount

  • Get 5% off the price off any equipment install
  • We value our military community and are proud to offer discounts to eligible military personnel
ductwork and insulation icon

10% OFF Attic Insulation

  • Free Estimates
  • Save Energy and Money
  • Keep Your Home Comfortable

© 2023 Service Experts, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, and the Service Experts logo and design are registered trademarks of Service Experts LLC and used under license by SE Canada Inc. All Rights Reserved. *Not applicable to the Advantage Program. See your signed Advantage Program Agreement for full details and exclusions. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is subject to certain restrictions and limitations as set forth in the applicable Terms and Conditions.