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 sludge. Bottles of these chemicals are often found in cleaning cabinets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains without having to use chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing blockages. They appeal to homeowners because they’re fast, easy 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 marketed as an easy and convenient 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 takes place within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners have 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 do the job.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when poured in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans clogs from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are the best against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates heat to break down and break up materials in the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners don’t use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a preventative measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

  • Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack over time. Regular use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more prone to leak or break.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure humans. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, severe 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 dangerous to the environment. Putting chemicals in the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful consequences.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only solution for clearing stopped up drains. Here are several safer methods to consider:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This strategy may require several 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 produce a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make forceful, consistent plunging motions until the water goes away.
  • Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this device features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstacles. This method is extremely effective against difficult clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or causing any health risks.
  • Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and buildup, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs at bay. 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 create too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY attempts don’t work, turn to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing for professional drain cleaning services in the U.S.. We’ll get your drains draining again and recommend tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!

Savings For You

See All Offers Here >

SOLAR CONSULTATION

print

$50 OFF DRAIN CLEANING

print

© 2024 Service Experts, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, and the Service Experts logo and design are registered trademarks of Service Experts LLC and used under license by SE Canada Inc. All Rights Reserved. *Not applicable to the Advantage Program. See your signed Advantage Program Agreement for full details and exclusions. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is subject to certain restrictions and limitations as set forth in the applicable Terms and Conditions.

Chat with a Service Experts Professional