Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a blocked drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these cleaners are commonly found in cleaning aisles, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore some safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains without having to use chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re practical and easy 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 blocking the drain. They are often marketed 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 exact 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 produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are especially efficient 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, all of which release oxygen when poured down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans obstructions 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 generates heat to break down and clear up materials clogging the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not have chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a preventative measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

While chemical drain cleaners are fairly effective, they do have risks. Here are a few key issues to consider:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is not good for pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack in the long run. Regular use of these cleaners can result in costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more prone to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure your family members. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with extreme care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the planet. Pouring chemicals down 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

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only solution94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are several safer possibilities to attempt:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This tactic may require a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique forces blockages out of 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 powerful, regular plunging motions until the water goes away.
  • Drain snake: Also known as 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 blockages. This method is very effective against tenacious clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or posing health risks.
  • Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and gunk, delivering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs at bay. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting answer for even the most difficult clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick fix for little clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes don't work, turn to Orangutan Home Services for professional drain cleaning services in Tempe. 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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