Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a plugged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these chemicals are frequently found in cleaning cabinets, but are they really safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing blockages. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re practical, straightforward 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 hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often advertised 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 happens within the pipes depends 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 very efficient 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 dumped into the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes obstructions from the pipes while destroying 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 use chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a precautionary measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Even though chemical drain cleaners are fairly effective, they do present 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 weaken and crack with time. Repeated use of these cleaners can cause costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or burst.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure humans. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, significant burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with a lot of care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the planet. Putting chemicals in the drain transfers 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 choice for clearing stopped up drains. Here are several safer alternatives to try:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away simple blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This tactic may call for several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach forces blockages down the 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, regular plunging motions until the water drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this device involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstructions. This method is highly effective against tenacious clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or creating any 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 option for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick remedy for slight clogs, they create too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY efforts prove fruitless, turn to Norrell Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Birmingham. We’ll get your drains draining again and suggest tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!

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