Unblocking a plugged drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these products are often found in cleaning aisles, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, take a look at a few 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 blockages. They appeal to homeowners because they’re quick and easy to use and offer successful results, at least at first. These cleaners are available in liquid, gel, or powder form and break down hair, grease, food and other substances hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often advertised as an easy and convenient solution to fix 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 will depend on on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are a few examples:
- Acidic drain cleaners have sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create 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 get the job done.
- Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when dumped in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans blockages from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. Consequently, oxidizing cleaners are the best against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.
- Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and dissolve materials inside the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
- Enzyme drain cleaners don’t contain chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a preventative measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning remedy.
Is Drain Cleaner Safe?
Although chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do have risks. Here are a few key concerns:
- 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 weaken and crack in the long run. Regular use of these cleaners can lead to expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or rupture.
- Chemical drain cleaner can hurt your family members. 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 concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with a lot of care.
- Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the earth. Putting chemicals down the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful effects.
Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals
Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only choice94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are several safer alternatives to consider:
- Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a slow 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 method may call for a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
- Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method sends blockages down the the pipe with no harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help create a tight seal over the drain opening. Then, make powerful, continuous plunging motions until the water goes away.
- Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this instrument uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstacles. This method is extremely 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 gunk, offering 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 solution for even the most challenging clogs.
Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick fix for small clogs, they present too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY attempts don't do the job, turn to Rob's Albertan Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Edmonton. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!