Unblocking a plugged 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 completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, see how they actually clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore some safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains without chemicals.
Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing obstructions. They appeal to homeowners because they’re practical, straightforward 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 debris hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often promoted as an easy and convenient solution to handle stubborn clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
The specific reaction that occurs within the pipes will depend 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 create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are especially effective against hair clogs but must often be used repeatedly or in high concentrations to work.
• Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, which are substances that release oxygen when dumped down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans obstructions from the pipes while killing bacteria. Consequently, 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 clogging the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.
• Enzyme drain cleaners do not contain chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a maintenance measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning remedy.
While chemical drain cleaners are fairly effective, they do have risks. Here are a few key considerations:
• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack over time. Frequent use of these cleaners can result in expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or break.
• Chemical drain cleaner can injure humans. The highly toxic chemicals 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 great care.
• Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the environment. Dumping chemicals down the drain transfers toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally detrimental effects.
Fortunately, chemicals aren’t the only option for clearing stopped up drains. Here are a number of safer possibilities to consider:
• Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap serves 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 method pushes blockages from the pipe without harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help make a tight seal over the drain opening. Then, make forceful, regular plunging motions until the water drains away.
• Drain snake: Also referred to as a plumber’s auger, this tool 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 stubborn clogs without damaging the pipes or creating any health risks.
• Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and obstructions, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs at bay. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most effective, long-lasting option for even the most challenging clogs.
While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick remedy for little clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your household 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 clear once again and recommend tips to stop clogs from returning. Our plumbers are prepared to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!
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