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 products are commonly found in cleaning cabinets, but are they truly 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 cleaning clogged drains without having to use chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing blockages. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick and simple 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 substances blocking the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and effortless 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 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 make heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very successful against hair clogs but must often be used more than once or in high concentrations to do the job.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when poured down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which produces heat to break down and break up materials clogging the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not have chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material utilizing bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a precautionary measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning remedy.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

  • Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack with time. Regular use of these cleaners can lead to expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more prone to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can hurt humans. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be utilized with great care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the environment. Dumping chemicals into the drain sends 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 solution94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer alternatives to consider:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This strategy may necessitate a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach forces blockages out of the pipe without harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help produce a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make forceful, regular plunging motions until the water drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this instrument uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes blockages. This method is extremely 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 from happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting answer for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners present a quick remedy for minor clogs, they present too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY efforts prove fruitless, turn to Calverley Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Fort Worth. We’ll get your drains clear once again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!

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