Unblocking a clogged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners resort to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these products are frequently 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 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 are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick and straight forward to use and offer good 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 effortless solution to fix 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 varies depending on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:
- Acidic drain cleaners contain sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to produce 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 get the job done.
- Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which release oxygen when put down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes 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 in the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.
- Enzyme drain cleaners don’t have chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to work than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a preventative measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
While chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key concerns:
- Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack eventually. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or rupture.
- Chemical drain cleaner can hurt humans. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with great care.
- Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the environment. Dumping chemicals down the drain transfers toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental consequences.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer possibilities to attempt:
- Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This tactic may require several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique pushes blockages from the pipe without harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help generate a tight seal over the drain opening. Then, make powerful, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.
- Drain snake: Also known as 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 obstructions. This method is extremely effective against persistent clogs without damaging the pipes or causing any health risks.
- Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and gunk, offering 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 challenging clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick cure for little clogs, they pose too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes don't work, turn to McElroy Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Grand Island. We’ll get your drains clear once again and recommend tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!