Unblocking a clogged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these chemicals are often found in cleaning aisles, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, discover how they actually clear blockages and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore some safer alternatives for clearing clogged drains without having to use chemicals.
Chemical drain cleaners are mainly used for clearing plumbing blockages. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re practical, straightforward 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 debris hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often advertised 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 happens within the pipes will depend on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:
• Acidic drain cleaners have sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very 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 in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans obstructions from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. Because of this, 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 clear up materials in the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
• Enzyme drain cleaners don’t use chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they require more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners due to the fact the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a preventative measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning fix.
Even though chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do present risks. Here are a few key issues to consider:
• 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 over time. Repeated use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or break.
• Chemical drain cleaner can injure your family members. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can result in respiratory issues if inhaled, very bad burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive problems if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with great care.
• Chemical drain cleaner is dangerous to the planet. Putting chemicals in the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful effects.
Fortunately, chemicals aren’t the only solution for clearing clogged drains. Here are several safer methods to try:
• Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap works as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This method may necessitate a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
• Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach pushes blockages out of the pipe without the need for harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help produce a tight seal on top of the drain opening. Then, make forceful, consistent plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.
• Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this device involves 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 difficult clogs and doesn’t damage the pipes or causing any health risks.
• Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and gunk, delivering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccuring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most effective, long-lasting solution for even the toughest clogs.
While chemical drain cleaners present a quick remedy for little clogs, they present too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes 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 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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