Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a blocked drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners turn to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are often found in cleaning cabinets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, learn how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, take a look at some safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains without having to use chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re fast and straight forward to use and offer successful results, at least at first. These cleaners are available in liquid, gel, or powder form and break down hair, grease, food and other substances hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and effortless solution to handle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

The precise reaction that occurs within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some 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 efficient against hair clogs but must often be used over and over or in high concentrations to work.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when poured in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears blockages from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. Because of this, 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 in 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 contain chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material utilizing bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a maintenance measure rather than a rapid 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 produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack over time. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or burst.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure people. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can cause 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 a lot of care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the planet. Dumping chemicals in the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental consequences.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only solution94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are several safer alternatives to attempt:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away slight blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This method may call for several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach pushes blockages out of the pipe with no 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 drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this instrument features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and gets rid of blockages. This method is extremely effective against tenacious clogs without damaging the pipes or posing 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 happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting answer for even the most difficult clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners present a quick remedy for minor clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY efforts don't do the job, turn to Stevenson Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Columbus. We’ll get your drains clear once again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

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