Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a clogged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners turn to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these cleaners are frequently found in cleaning cabinets, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, learn how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few of the safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains without chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re fast and easy to use and offer successful results, at least at first. These cleaners are available in liquid, gel, or powder form and break down hair, grease, food and other substances blocking the drain. They are often advertised as an easy and simple solution to tackle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

The specific reaction that occurs within the pipes will depend on on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are several examples:

  • Acidic drain cleaners contain sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are particularly successful against hair clogs but must often be used more than once or in high concentrations to work.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which release oxygen when dumped down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears clogs from the pipes while destroying bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are most effective against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and dissolve materials clogging the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners do not contain chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a maintenance measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning solution.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Although 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 damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack with time. Regular use of these cleaners can cause expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or rupture.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can harm your family members. The highly toxic ingredients in drain cleaner can trigger respiratory issues if inhaled, significant burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive problems if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be utilized with great care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the earth. Dumping chemicals down 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

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are a few safer possibilities to attempt:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This strategy may call for several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach forces blockages from the pipe with no harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help make a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make strong, consistent plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.
  • Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this tool involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and obstacles. This method is extremely effective against stubborn clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or creating 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 from reoccurring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most effective, long-lasting solution for even the most difficult clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick cure for slight clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY efforts prove fruitless, turn to Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning for professional drain cleaning services in West Palm Beach. We’ll get your drains flowing smoothly again and recommend 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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