Unblocking a clogged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners turn to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these chemicals are often found in cleaning closets, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore a few safer alternatives for removing debris from clogged drains without chemicals.
Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing clogs. They appeal to homeowners because they’re practical, 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 materials obstructing the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and convenient solution to handle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
The exact reaction that occurs within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are a few 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 especially successful against hair clogs but must often be used over and over or in high concentrations to do the job.
• Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which release oxygen when poured in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes blockages from the pipes while killing bacteria. Consequently, oxidizing cleaners are most effective 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 in the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
• Enzyme drain cleaners don’t have chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a preventative measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning remedy.
Although chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key concerns:
• 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 result in pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or burst.
• Chemical drain cleaner can hurt humans. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, severe 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 harmful to the environment. Pouring chemicals down the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental effects.
Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only option for clearing blocked drains. Here are several safer alternatives to attempt:
• Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This method may necessitate several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
• Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method sends blockages from the pipe without 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 forceful, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.
• Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this tool uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstacles. This method is highly effective against stubborn clogs without damaging the pipes or posing health risks.
• Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and obstructions, providing a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs at bay. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting solution for even the toughest clogs.
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick cure for minor clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY attempts don’t work, turn to Calverley Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Fort Worth. We’ll get your drains draining again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!
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