Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a blocked drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these products are often found in cleaning closets, but are they really safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore a few safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing blockages. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick, straightforward 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 materials obstructing the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and simple 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 takes place within the pipes will depend 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 especially effective against hair clogs but must often be used repeatedly or in high concentrations to do the job.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which release oxygen when put down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes 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 creates heat to break down and dissolve materials clogging the drain. The caustic traits 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 require more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a preventative measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning solution.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Although chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do have risks. Here are a few key concerns:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack eventually. Regular use of these cleaners can cause costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or break.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure your family members. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive problems if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with a lot of care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the earth. Putting chemicals in 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

The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only choice for clearing blocked drains. Here are several safer methods to attempt:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This method may call for a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method sends blockages down the the pipe with no harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help create a tight seal over the drain opening. Then, make powerful, consistent plunging motions until the water goes away.
  • Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this device uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and gets rid of obstacles. This method is highly effective against persistent 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 gunk, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccuring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting remedy for even the most challenging clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners present a quick cure for slight clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY fixes prove fruitless, turn to Stevenson Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Columbus. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly again and recommend tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

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