Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a blocked drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these cleaners are frequently found in cleaning closets, but are they completely safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, learn how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, take a look at some safer alternatives for cleaning clogged drains without having to use chemicals.

What are Chemical Drain Cleaners Used For?

Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing clogs. They are attractive to homeowners because they’re practical and simple 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 advertised as an easy and convenient solution to tackle stubborn 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 have sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to create heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are particularly 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, which are substances that release oxygen when put down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and removes blockages from the pipes while killing bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are most effective against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.
  • Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which creates heat to break down and dissolve materials clogging the drain. The caustic traits of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
  • Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not use chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to dissolve clogs than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. Because of this, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a preventative measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

Even though chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do present risks. Here are a few key concerns:

  • Chemical drain cleaner is not good for pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can harm pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can deteriorate and crack over time. Repeated use of these cleaners can result in pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or burst.
  • Chemical drain cleaner can injure humans. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can result in respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive problems if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with extreme care.
  • Chemical drain cleaner is harmful to the earth. Dumping chemicals in the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful effects.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only solution94 for clearing stopped up drains. Here are several safer methods to try:

  • Dish soap and hot water: Adding hot, soapy water to a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away minor blockages. The soap acts as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This method may require a couple 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 produce a tight seal over the drain opening. Then, make strong, regular plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.
  • Drain snake: Also called a plumber’s auger, this tool features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes blockages. This method is very effective against tenacious clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or causing 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 reoccurring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most efficient, long-lasting answer for even the most difficult clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners present a quick remedy for minor 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 Levy & Son Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Dallas. We’ll get your drains draining again and offer you tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!

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