Unblocking a clogged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these chemicals are frequently found in cleaning closets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out 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 mainly used for clearing plumbing blockages. They appeal to homeowners because they’re fast 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 stuff hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often advertised as an easy and convenient solution to fix persistent clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
How Do Drain Cleaners Work?
The specific reaction that happens within the pipes varies depending on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are several examples:
- Acidic drain cleaners include sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are particularly efficient against hair clogs but must often be used more than once or in high concentrations to work.
- Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when dumped into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans clogs from the pipes while killing bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down substances 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 materials.
- Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not use chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a maintenance measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning fix.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
While chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do present risks. Here are a few key considerations:
- Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack with time. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more prone to leak or burst.
- Chemical drain cleaner can injure people. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can trigger 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 handled with great care.
- Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the planet. Putting chemicals down the drain transfers toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging impacts.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer alternatives to attempt:
- Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This method may call for several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method forces blockages from the pipe with no harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help create a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make strong, regular plunging motions until the water goes away.
- Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this tool features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and obstructions. This method is highly 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 gunk, providing a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccurring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most effective, long-lasting option for even the most difficult clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick fix for little clogs, they pose too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY attempts prove fruitless, turn to Midland Air Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Columbia. We’ll get your drains clear once again and recommend tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!