Water draining slowly, foul odour, and bubbling sounds—these are the common signs of a clogged drain! Ignoring them is a surefire recipe for disaster, but there is some debate as to how you should tackle the problem.
Instead of calling a plumber, many homeowners opt to use chemical drain cleaners as a quick and easy solution. Unfortunately, chemical drain cleaners often do more harm than good and can even endanger your family.
Keep reading to learn about the risks!
As the name implies, chemical drain cleaners clear a clogged drain by creating a chemical-based reaction. They come in three types:
|How It Works
|Acidic Drain Cleaner
|Acidic drain cleaners (which typically contain sulfuric or hydrochloric acid) break down and liquefy substances, generating enough heat to dissolve blockages.
|Caustic Drain Cleaner
|Caustic drain cleaners—often composed of alkaline substances like sodium or potassium hydroxide—saponify fats and grease into soap. Organic materials are broken down and emulsified, transforming clogs into water-soluble materials.
|Oxidizing Drain Cleaner
|Oxidizing drain cleaners typically contain compounds like peroxides or bleach which release oxygen molecules that react with clogs to break them down. The oxidation process facilitates the decomposition of materials in the drain so the cleaner can dissolve and remove blockages.
Many drain cleaners are straightforward; you only have to pour the agent directly into the drain and wait 15 minutes or so before flushing with fresh water. Unfortunately, this easy-to-use facade hides the destructive effects these drain cleaners can have on your plumbing system.
While they’re convenient, drain cleaner chemical reactions can wreck the pipes in your home, along with posing plenty of other risks and dangers. Let’s explore them in more detail.
The reaction created when you use a liquid drain cleaner can corrode your pipes—especially if your plumbing system is old or made of PVC. Any old seals, chalking, and metal fittings are also at risk of corrosion.
This corrosion caused by a drain cleaner chemical reaction can often lead to small leaks with big consequences, including serious water damage.
When considering the risks of chemical drain cleaners, you also need to be aware of how they can damage your septic system. The dangerous compounds found in these agents can leave your sewer drain needing more than just a cleaning.
Besides that, chemical drain cleaners also harm the bacteria within the septic system responsible for producing enzymes that decompose waste. Disrupting or killing them can lead to waste hardening and even worse clogs down the road.
→ Read more: What Is Sewer Backup?
You, your family, and your pets are at risk when you use chemical drain cleaners because they contain toxic ingredients that are dangerous to your health! Coming into contact with these drain cleaner chemical agents can cause:
It’s no secret that these types of drain cleaners are terrible for the environment, but did you know that the chemicals can poison our groundwater, soil, plants, and animals, thereby affecting our entire ecosystem?
Despite the low upfront costs of liquid drain cleaners, you’ll pay a higher price for having to replace your pipes—or worse. It’s not worth risking your health or hurting the environment when these safer alternatives are available:
The most common alternative to traditional liquid drain cleaners is baking soda and vinegar. By mixing the two, you create a natural drain cleaner that’s just as effective at clearing clogged drains even if it is still quite acidic.
The first step to unclog drains (even shower drains) with this method is to pour boiling hot water into the ditch. Next, add half a cup of baking soda down the drain, making sure it’s settled beyond the opening. Then, add half a cup of vinegar. You’ll immediately hear fizzing—this is good! Wait 10 to 15 minutes before flushing the drain with another round of boiling hot water.
Depending on the severity of the clog you may need another round or two of this homemade drain cleaner.
You can also try manual unclogging methods such as a drain snake or sink plunger. These tools effectively clear clogged drains without the need for chemical drain cleaners by helping you physically scoop or pull the troublesome blockages out.
→ Read more: How to Snake a Drain
As you might expect, hiring plumbing experts is the best and safest way to unclog drains. These licensed professionals know the ins and outs of a plumbing system and will pull out all the stops to get the job done properly without relying on chemical cleaners.
Chemical drain cleaning might be convenient in a pinch, but running the risk of corroded pipes is a serious problem that can cost you in the long run. Your first choice for a clogged drain should always be calling a professional plumber like the team at 1st Rooter!
We’re proud to call ourselves the most reliable plumbing company in Ontario. We’ve been unclogging drains for over 25 years, always opting for skill and technique rather than hazardous options that put you and your home at risk.