Unblocking a clogged drain can be unpleasant work, so many homeowners choose chemical drain cleaners to wash away the sludge. Bottles of these chemicals are commonly found in cleaning aisles, but are they truly safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, discover how they function and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, examine a few of the safer alternatives for removing debris from clogged drains without chemicals.
Chemical drain cleaners are mostly used for clearing plumbing blockages. They appeal to homeowners because they’re fast, 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 substances blocking the drain. They are often advertised as an easy and convenient solution to tackle persistent clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
The specific reaction that takes place within the pipes depends on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are several 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 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 poured down the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and cleans blockages from the pipes while eliminating bacteria. As a result, oxidizing cleaners are most effective 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 clogging the drain. The caustic nature of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic substances.
• Enzyme drain cleaners do not use chemicals. Instead, they break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes require time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are a good choice as a preventative measure rather than a fast drain-cleaning remedy.
Even though chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do pose risks. Here are a few key considerations:
• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat created by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack with time. Repeated use of these cleaners can lead to costly 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 concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be utilized with a lot of care.
• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the earth. Putting chemicals down the drain transfers toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging impacts.
Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only choice for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer methods to consider:
• Dish soap and hot water: Flushing soapy, hot water into a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away simple blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and carries away the clog. This tactic may require several attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
• Plunger: This manual drain-clearing technique forces blockages out of the pipe without 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 strong, consistent plunging motions until the water drains away.
• Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this device involves a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and blockages. This method is very 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, providing 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 answer for even the most challenging clogs.
While chemical drain cleaners present a quick cure for slight clogs, they present too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY fixes don’t do the job, 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 ready to help, so reach out to a Service Experts office near you today!
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