Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a blocked drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners resort to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these products are often found in cleaning closets, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore a few safer alternatives for removing debris from clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing blockages. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re fast and straight forward 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 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 exact reaction that happens within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners include sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to make 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 do the job.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when dumped in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes clogs from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down substances like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates heat to break down and break up materials clogging the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not contain chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a preventative measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Although 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 generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack eventually. Frequent use of these cleaners can lead to expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure people. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be utilized with extreme care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the environment. Pouring chemicals in the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging effects.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only solution94 for clearing clogged drains. Here are several safer possibilities to consider:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away slight blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This method may call for a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing method sends blockages out of the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help make a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make powerful, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this tool uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstacles. This method is highly effective against persistent clogs and doesn't damage the pipes or posing 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 from reoccurring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting solution for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick cure for little clogs, they pose too many risks. Think about using safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY fixes don't do the job, turn to Finch Air Conditioning & Heating for professional drain cleaning services in Kingwood. We’ll get your drains clear once again and offer you tips to help prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!