Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a clogged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are commonly found in cleaning closets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, learn how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore a few safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing blockages. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re quick and 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 stuff hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and effortless solution to handle 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 contain sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to make heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are especially efficient against hair clogs but must often be used over and over or in high concentrations to get the job done.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which are substances that release oxygen when put in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes obstructions from the pipes while destroying bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down substances like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and dissolve materials clogging the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners do not contain chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a maintenance measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning solution.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Even though chemical drain cleaners are fairly effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key considerations:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack over time. Regular use of these cleaners can result in expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or burst.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can harm humans. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with extreme care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the environment. Putting chemicals in the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging impacts.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are several safer methods 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 carries away the clog. This method may require a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method forces blockages from the pipe without the need for 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 forceful, continuous plunging motions until the water goes away.
  • Drain snake: Also referred to as 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 gets rid of blockages. This method is highly effective against difficult clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or posing health risks.
  • Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and buildup, delivering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting answer for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick remedy for little clogs, they present too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY fixes prove fruitless, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning for professional drain cleaning services in Memphis. We’ll get your drains clear once again and offer you tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!

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