Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a plugged drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these cleaners are frequently found in cleaning cabinets, but are they really safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, discover how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing obstructions. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re practical, simple 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 marketed as an easy and convenient solution to tackle 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 a few 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 effective against hair clogs but must often be used more than once or in high concentrations to get the job done.

• Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which are substances that release oxygen when poured in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes obstructions from the pipes while destroying bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are the best against easy-to-break-down substances like food.

• Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates 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 have chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a maintenance measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Even though chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do present risks. Here are a few key issues to consider:

• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack with time. Frequent use of these cleaners can result in pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or break.

• Chemical drain cleaner can harm your family members. 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 complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with a lot of care.

• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the planet. Pouring chemicals into the drain transfers toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging effects.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only choice for clearing clogged drains. Here are a number of safer alternatives to try:

Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This strategy may call for a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.

Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach forces blockages down the the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help generate a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make strong, continuous plunging motions until the water drains away.

Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this tool involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes blockages. This method is very effective against persistent 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 obstructions, delivering 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 option for even the most challenging clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick cure for small clogs, they create too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY efforts prove fruitless, turn to Service Experts Heating, Air Conditioning & Plumbing for professional drain cleaning services in the U.S.. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly 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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