Unblocking a clogged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these chemicals are often found in cleaning closets, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, learn how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine some safer alternatives for removing debris from 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 practical 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 materials blocking the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and simple solution to handle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
How Do Drain Cleaners Work?
The exact reaction that occurs within the pipes will depend on 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 produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very efficient 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 in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans obstructions from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are the best against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.
- Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and break up materials in the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
- Enzyme drain cleaners do not use chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a precautionary measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning solution.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
Although chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key considerations:
- Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack eventually. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or burst.
- Chemical drain cleaner can harm your family members. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, significant 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 earth. Pouring chemicals down the drain transfers toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful consequences.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
Fortunately, chemicals aren’t the only option94 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 simple blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This tactic may necessitate a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach forces blockages from 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 around the drain opening. Then, make forceful, consistent plunging motions until the water goes 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 obstructions. This method is extremely 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 buildup, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs at bay. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most effective, long-lasting remedy for even the most challenging clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners present a quick fix for small clogs, they create too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY attempts prove fruitless, turn to Strand Brothers Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Austin. We’ll get your drains clear once again and recommend tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!