Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a plugged drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners turn to chemical drain cleaners to wash away the gunk. Bottles of these cleaners are commonly found in cleaning aisles, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few 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 often an attractive option for homeowners because they’re quick, easy 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 materials hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often marketed 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 exact reaction that occurs within the pipes depends 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 produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are very effective 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 are substances that release oxygen when poured down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans clogs from the pipes while killing bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are the best against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.

• Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates heat to break down and dissolve materials in the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic items.

• Enzyme drain cleaners don’t contain chemicals. Instead, enzyme drain cleaners break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to work than chemical drain cleaners given that the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. For this reason, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a preventative measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning fix.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

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

• Chemical drain cleaner is not good for pipes. The heat generated by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can become weak and crack over time. Regular use of these cleaners can result in expensive repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are susceptible to leak or burst.

• Chemical drain cleaner can harm people. The highly toxic chemicals in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, severe burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive complications if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be used with extreme care.

• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the environment. Pouring chemicals in the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful effects.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only solution for clearing blocked 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 disperses the clog. This method may call for a couple attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.

Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique pushes blockages from the pipe without harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help create a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make strong, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.

Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this tool uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstacles. This method is extremely effective against stubborn clogs without doing any damage to the pipes or posing health risks.

Hydro-jetting: This professional service uses high-pressure water to blast away debris and obstructions, providing 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 solution for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick remedy for minor clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free alternatives to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY attempts prove fruitless, turn to Levy & Son Service Experts for professional drain cleaning services in Dallas. We’ll get your drains clear once again and recommend tips to prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are eager to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!

Savings For You

See All Offers Here >
maintenance icon

$79 Drain Cleaning

  • $79 per drain up to three and accessible cleanout required to claim the offer
maintenance icon

$50 OFF HVAC Tune-up Special

There’s no reason to skip your seasonal maintenance that saves energy and helps ensure your air conditioner and heater will work reliably all season long.

  • Regularly $129, now only $79
  • Save up to 30% on energy bills
  • Written Expert Service Guarantee

© 2023 Service Experts, Service Experts Heating & Air Conditioning, and the Service Experts logo and design are registered trademarks of Service Experts LLC and used under license by SE Canada Inc. All Rights Reserved. *Not applicable to the Advantage Program. See your signed Advantage Program Agreement for full details and exclusions. 100% Satisfaction Guarantee is subject to certain restrictions and limitations as set forth in the applicable Terms and Conditions.