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 chemicals are often found in cleaning aisles, but are they really safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they actually clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore a few of the safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing obstructions. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick, simple 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 blocking the drain. They are often advertised as an easy and simple solution to handle persistent clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

The specific reaction that happens within the pipes will depend on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners include sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are especially effective against hair clogs but must often be used over and over or in high concentrations to get the job done.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when put in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which produces heat to break down and break up materials inside the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners do not use chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to work than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a preventative measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning solution.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Even though chemical drain cleaners are fairly effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key considerations:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack eventually. Frequent 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 hurt humans. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad 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 planet. Putting chemicals down the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental impacts.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only option for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer alternatives to try:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away slight blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This strategy may call for several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method forces blockages out of the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help make a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make forceful, regular plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.
  • Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this instrument features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and obstacles. This method is highly effective against persistent clogs and doesn’t damage the pipes or causing any health risks.
  • Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and obstructions, providing a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccuring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting answer for even the most difficult clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick fix for slight clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes don’t do the job, turn to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing for professional drain cleaning services in the U.S.. We’ll get your drains clear once again and recommend tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

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