Unblocking a blocked drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these chemicals are frequently 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 of the safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains without chemicals.
What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?
Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing obstructions. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re fast and 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 hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and convenient solution to tackle stubborn 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 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 make 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 work.
- Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which release oxygen when dumped in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. Consequently, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
- Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates 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 don’t contain chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a preventative measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning fix.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
While chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do have risks. Here are a few key considerations:
- Chemical drain cleaner is not good for pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack with time. Frequent use of these cleaners can cause expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or break.
- Chemical drain cleaner can injure people. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, significant burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive problems if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with a lot of care.
- Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the earth. Dumping chemicals into the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging consequences.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only solution94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are several safer methods to try:
- Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This strategy may necessitate a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique forces blockages out of the pipe without harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help make a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make strong, continuous plunging motions until the water goes away.
- Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this device involves 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 highly effective against tenacious 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, delivering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most effective, long-lasting solution for even the most challenging clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick remedy for slight clogs, they pose too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY attempts don't do the job, turn to Bryant Heating & Cooling Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Windsor. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly again and offer you tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!