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 sludge. Bottles of these products are often found in cleaning aisles, 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 some 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 clogs. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re quick, easy 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 hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often promoted 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 exact reaction that takes place within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are a few examples:

• Acidic drain cleaners have sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very 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 release oxygen when dumped into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans clogs from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. Consequently, 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 dissolve materials inside the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.

• Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not have chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a precautionary measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

While chemical drain cleaners are fairly effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key considerations:

• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack over time. Frequent use of these cleaners can cause pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or break.

• Chemical drain cleaner can hurt your family members. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can result in 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 extreme care.

• Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the earth. Putting chemicals into 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 solution for clearing clogged drains. Here are a few safer possibilities to consider:

Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away slight blockages. The soap acts 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 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 over the drain opening. Then, make forceful, continuous plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.

Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this device uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstructions. This method is highly effective against tenacious 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, delivering 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 solution for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick fix for small clogs, they pose too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free solutions 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 flowing smoothly again and recommend tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!

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