Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe to Use?

Unblocking a blocked drain can be unpleasant 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, discover how they work and learn why they’re hazardous. Then, explore a few safer alternatives for removing debris from 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, easy 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 debris hindering the flow of water through the drain. They are often marketed as an easy and simple solution to handle persistent clogs and are sold at grocery stores, hardware stores and big box retailers.

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

The precise reaction that happens within the pipes varies depending on the type of drain cleaner being used. Here are some examples:

• Acidic drain cleaners contain sulfuric, muriatic or hydrochloric acid. This reacts with organic materials to produce heat and gas, dissolving the clog. Acidic cleaners are particularly efficient 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 clears clogs from the pipes while killing bacteria. Consequently, oxidizing cleaners are the best against easy-to-break-down blockages like food.

• Caustic drain cleaners contain lye or potassium hydroxide, which produces 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 substances.

• Enzyme drain cleaners are products that do not have chemicals. Instead, these products break down organic material using bacteria or enzymes. However, they take more time to work than chemical drain cleaners because the bacteria or enzymes must have time to multiply. As a result, enzyme drain cleaners are most effective as a preventative measure rather than a speedy drain-cleaning remedy.

Is Drain Cleaner Safe?

While chemical drain cleaners are reasonably effective, they do have risks. Here are a few key considerations:

• Chemical drain cleaner is damaging to pipes. The heat produced by caustic and acidic drain cleaners can inflict damage on pipes, especially older or plastic ones, which can weaken and crack eventually. Regular use of these cleaners can lead to pricey repairs or replacements, as damaged pipes are more likely to leak or break.

• Chemical drain cleaner can injure people. The highly toxic compounds in drain cleaner can cause respiratory issues if inhaled, significant burns if touched, blindness if rubbed into the eyes or digestive concerns if ingested. Therefore, drain cleaner must be handled with great care.

• Chemical drain cleaner is bad for the planet. Dumping chemicals down the drain sends toxic substances to local waterways, disrupting ecosystems, harming aquatic life and causing other environmentally harmful impacts.

Safer Alternatives to Drain Cleaner Chemicals

The good news is, chemicals aren’t the only option for clearing blocked drains. Here are a number of safer methods to try:

Dish soap and hot water: Pouring hot, soapy water down a slow drain helps break up grease and washes away small blockages. The soap serves as a lubricant and emulsifier, while the hot water dissolves and disperses the clog. This tactic may require 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 make a tight seal around the drain opening. Then, make strong, continuous plunging motions until the water drains away.

Drain snake: Also known as a plumber’s auger, this instrument uses a flexible cable with a corkscrew on the end. When put down the drain, the snake physically breaks up and removes obstructions. This method is extremely effective against stubborn 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 obstructions, offering a thorough cleaning that keeps future clogs from reoccuring. Hydro-jetting requires a professional plumber’s assistance, but it’s the most powerful, long-lasting answer for even the toughest clogs.

Schedule Professional Drain Cleaning Services

While chemical drain cleaners offer a quick fix for small clogs, they pose too many risks. Consider using safer, chemical-free choices to protect your pipes, your loved ones and the environment. If your DIY efforts 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 prevent clogs from returning. Our plumbers are ready to help, so call a Service Experts office near you today!

Savings For You

See All Offers Here >
parts and labor icon

5% off Active Military & Veteran's Discount

  • Get 5% off the price off any equipment install
  • We value our military community and are proud to offer discounts to eligible military personnel
water treatment icon

$200 OFF Water Softener or Whole House Filtration System

  • Written 100% Satisfaction 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.