Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?
Unblocking a clogged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners resort to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are frequently found in cleaning closets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine some safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains with no chemicals.
What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?
Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing obstructions. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick 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 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 occurs 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 produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very successful against hair clogs but must often be used repeatedly or in high concentrations to work.
- Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which are substances that release oxygen when dumped down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes clogs from the pipes while destroying bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are most effective against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
- Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and clear up materials clogging the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
- Enzyme drain cleaners don’t use chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a preventative measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning solution.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
While chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do present risks. Here are a few key concerns:
- Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack eventually. Regular use of these cleaners can lead to expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or burst.
- Chemical drain cleaner can harm humans. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be utilized with a lot of care.
- Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the planet. Dumping chemicals in the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful impacts.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer possibilities to try:
- Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This method may call for several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach pushes blockages from 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 strong, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.
- Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this instrument features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and gets rid of obstacles. This method is highly effective against persistent clogs without damaging 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 reoccurring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting option for even the most difficult clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick cure for slight clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free choices 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 for professional drain cleaning services in Orlando. We’ll get your drains clear once again and recommend tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!