Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a clogged drain can be dirty work, so many homeowners turn to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these products are often found in cleaning closets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, take a look at some safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains with no chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are primarily used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re fast and straight forward 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 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 will depend on on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are a few 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 especially successful against hair clogs but must often be used over and over or in high concentrations to work.
  • 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 clears obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners work very well 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 inside 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 have chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a preventative measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning solution.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

  • 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 become weak and crack with time. Frequent use of these cleaners can cause costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or break.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure humans. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can result in 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 extreme care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the environment. Dumping chemicals into the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental effects.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Thankfully, chemicals aren’t the only option94 for clearing blocked drains. Here are a few safer alternatives to consider:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a sluggish drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This method may call for several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
  • Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach sends blockages from the pipe with no 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, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.
  • Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this instrument uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and obstructions. This method is extremely effective against tenacious clogs and doesn't damage the pipes or creating any health risks.
  • Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and gunk, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most effective, long-lasting solution for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick remedy for little clogs, they present too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes don't work, turn to Gordon's Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Oklahoma City. We’ll get your drains draining again and suggest tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

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