Unblocking a blocked drain can be nasty work, so many homeowners use chemical drain cleaners to wash away the crud. Bottles of these chemicals are often found in cleaning cabinets, but are they really safe? Dive into the world of chemical drain cleaners, find out 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 primarily used for clearing plumbing clogs. They appeal to homeowners because they’re fast, straightforward to use and offer good results—at least at first. These cleaners are available in liquid, gel or powder form and break down hair, grease, food and other debris blocking the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and convenient solution to fix persistent clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.
The specific reaction that takes place within the pipes will depend 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 especially efficient against hair clogs but must often be used over and over or in high concentrations to do the job.
• Oxidizing drain cleaners contain bleach, peroxides or nitrates, all of which release oxygen when poured in the drain. Oxidation breaks down organic matter and clears obstructions from the pipes while destroying bacteria. Because of this, oxidizing cleaners work very well against easy-to-break-down materials like food.
• Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which generates heat to break down and dissolve materials in the drain. The caustic characteristics of these cleaners allow them to dissolve fat, grease and other organic materials.
• Enzyme drain cleaners don’t use chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material with bacteria or enzymes. However, they take longer to remove blockages than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes need time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners work best as a preventative measure rather than a rapid drain-cleaning solution.
Although chemical drain cleaners are somewhat effective, they do present risks. Here are a few key considerations:
• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for pipes. The heat created 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 lead to costly repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or break.
• Chemical drain cleaner can hurt your family members. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can result in 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 a lot of care.
• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the earth. Pouring chemicals into the drain introduces toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally damaging effects.
Luckily, chemicals aren’t the only solution for clearing clogged drains. Here are several safer alternatives to try:
• Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow-moving drain helps break up grease and washes away simple blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and washes out the clog. This tactic may require a number of attempts, but it’s safe and non-toxic.
• Plunger: This manual drain-clearing approach forces blockages from the pipe with no harmful chemicals. Fill the clogged sink or tub with an inch of water to help create a tight seal over the drain opening. Then, make powerful, continuous plunging motions until the water goes down the drain.
• Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this device features a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When inserted into the drain, the snake physically breaks up and gets rid of obstructions. This method is very effective against persistent 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 buildup, delivering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from happening. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting answer for even the most challenging clogs.
While chemical drain cleaners provide a quick cure for slight clogs, they create too many risks. Consider switching to safer, chemical-free solutions to protect your pipes, your family and the environment. If your DIY attempts don’t work, 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 prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so contact a Service Experts office near you today!
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