Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a clogged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are commonly found in cleaning cabinets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, learn how they clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine some safer alternatives for removing debris from clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing obstructions. They appeal to homeowners because they’re practical 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 precise reaction that takes place within the pipes will depend on on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are several examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners contain sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are particularly effective against hair clogs but must often be used repeatedly or in high concentrations to get the job done.
  • 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 blockages from the pipes while killing bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down substances like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates heat to break down and dissolve materials inside the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners don’t have chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a precautionary measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning solution.

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 damaging to pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack with time. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can hurt your family members. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, significant burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with a lot of care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the environment. Dumping chemicals into the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental consequences.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer methods to try:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away simple blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This strategy may call for a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique sends blockages from the pipe without harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help generate a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make powerful, regular plunging motions until the water goes away.
  • Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this tool uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and gets rid of obstacles. This method is extremely effective against difficult clogs without damaging the pipes or creating 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 at bay. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most effective, long-lasting option for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners present a quick fix for minor clogs, they present too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes don't work, turn to Donelson Air Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Nashville. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly again and suggest tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

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