Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a blocked drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these cleaners are often found in cleaning closets, 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 some safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains without 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 practical and easy to use and offer effective 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 effortless solution to handle persistent 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 a few examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners include sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are especially 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, all of which release oxygen when poured down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans clogs from the pipes while killing bacteria. Consequently, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and clear up materials in the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners don’t use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a precautionary measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning solution.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

While chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key concerns:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack in the long run. Repeated use of these cleaners can result in expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or burst.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure people. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can result in respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with great 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 detrimental impacts.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Fortunately, chemicals aren’t the only solution94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are a few safer methods to try:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This strategy may necessitate a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach pushes blockages out of the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help produce a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make forceful, regular plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.
  • Drain snake: Also called 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 removes obstructions. This method is extremely 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 gunk, providing a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting remedy for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick fix for little clogs, they pose too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your household and the environment. If your DIY attempts prove fruitless, turn to San Antonio Air Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in San Antonio. We’ll get your drains draining again and offer you tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!

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