Do Chemical Drain Cleaners Work?

Drain in Atlanta, Georgia

A clogged drain creates a very inconveniencing and frustrating mess. When this happens, most homeowners turn to chemical drain cleaners in search of a quick solution. There have been discussions on whether the chemical cleaners do more harm or good. It’s a good idea to find out more about these cleaners and their effectiveness before buying. Here is a detailed piece to help you make an informed decision.

1. What Are Chemical Drain Cleaners?
Chemical cleaners are liquids, gels, foam, or powders designed to unblock pipes and drains. Most of these cleaners are readily available in stores. The main components in these cleaners are caustic soda, hydrochloric, and sulphuric acid.

Acid cleaners usually come in liquid form, and they aren’t always available in the shops since they can be very dangerous when mishandled. On the other hand, alkaline drain cleaners are readily available in the stores for anyone to buy and use at home. They contain sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda, and they can dissolve lighter debris like soap, grease, and hair.

2. Do Chemical Drain Cleaners Work?
Sometimes the chemical drain cleaners work, while other times, they fail. When you pour the acidic chemical drain cleaners into the drain, they react with the blockage to produce heat. The heat breaks up the bonds holding the clogs together and softens them so that they can move down the drain. The caustic drain cleaners work by turning the grease into a dissolvable substance.

The main advantage of chemical drain cleaners is their availability. They are also very easy to use and can be effective for removing minor blockages. However, there are instances where the cleaners can fail. Whenever a person decides to go for the chemical cleaner, the chances are that they could be dealing with a large blockage down the plumbing system.

If the chemicals fail to come into direct contact with the clogs, they won’t work well. Although it might get rid of a portion of the clog, such that the drain will let through more water, it cannot eliminate the entire blockage. With time, the problem will reoccur.

3. Drawbacks of Using Chemical Drain Cleaners
The strong acids and bases on the chemical drain cleaners can destroy almost everything they come into contact with. Since the reaction generates heat, it could cause massive damage to your pipes. With enough exposure, your drain pipes will begin to wear off, corrode and start leaking. This mainly happens if the cleaner fails to work on the clog quickly. It lays underutilized on the blocked area, so it concentrates the reaction on a single part of the pipe. Plastic pipes can melt and deform.

Although metallic lines appear somewhat more resilient, the heat can weaken them to the extent that they crack and form leaks. This problem mainly affects older plumbing. You might not notice the damage on the pipes right away, but with time, the issue gradually build-ups causing more severe issues like a pipe burst.

Another problem you will encounter while using chemical cleaners is the production of harmful fumes. When inhaled, you might experience nose, throat, eyes, and lungs irritations. Some drain cleaners can also cause burns if they spill on your skin. The chemicals cause severe burns and damages when they splash into your eyes.

The drain cleaning solution can also destroy fixtures such as the enamel base finish in bathtubs or sink if they splash around. Such damages may call for total replacements of the fixtures. It may seem like the chemical drain cleaners are a cheaper alternative, but the lasting damages caused will cost you more to repair in the long run.

In some cases, the cleaners might not damage your piping or compromise your health. However, there is no guarantee that the chemical cleaner will effectively clear the clogs. If the blockage isn’t a result of grease or hair build-up, the chemicals are unlikely to help.

Sometimes, drain clogging can occur due to a leak in the pipe that allows entry of materials. Other times, overgrowing roots near the drainage system can cause blockage, and using chemical cleaners in such a situation is a waste of money. It’s, therefore, a good idea that you call a professional plumber to assess the cause of the blockage and advice on the best cause of action before buying chemical drain cleaners.

4. How to Use Drain Cleaners Safely
If you must use drain cleaners, you should take extreme care. Read all the directions and warnings on the cleaner’s label. Keep in mind that these cleaners are extremely toxic and could cause harmful effects on the user when inhaled or spilled. They can also damage your surfaces and eat through your clothing.

Use the cleaners in well-ventilated rooms and keep pets and children away from the drain. Ensure that you wear protective clothing. Always have goggles on to protect your eyes. Wear gloves too, and don’t stand in the tub or shower while pouring in the cleaner. You shouldn’t leave the chemical cleaner inside the drain longer than required. Most brands indicate that you wait for around 15 minutes, then pour hot water into the drain. You should only repeat the process if the problem persists. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the water temperature you should use and for how long.

Never try mixing the chemical cleaners with any other cleaning product. It can cause explosions and the production of toxic gases. If one cleaner type fails to work, you shouldn’t feel tempted to pour in another variety.

5. Drain Cleaning Alternatives That You Can Consider
Instead of using chemical drain cleaners, there are other safer methods that you can try out. First, use a plunger, pull it up and down vigorously, to create suction and compression forces that break loose the clog and push it down the drain system. Alternatively, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by an equal amount of vinegar. You will hear some fizzing sounds and bubbles. Let the mixture work on the blockages for about 10 to 15 minutes, then flush it with hot water for around 30 seconds.

You can also directly pour in hot water with a few tablespoons of dish soap into the drain. The hot water will break down the clogs, particularly grease blockages, while the soap will help them slide down the drain. If that fails to work, you will need to seek professional assistance.

Bottom Line
Although the chemical drain cleaners may work in some situations, it would be best to avoid them. If you have a stubborn drain clog that isn’t clearing off, call a professional plumber to diagnose the problem and develop the most viable solution. Professional plumbers use specialized cleaning equipment to effectively clear the blockage in a way that protects your plumbing.

If the homemade remedies fail to work, you can always reach out to Bardi Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing. We deal with drain cleaning, pipe replacement, water treatment, and leak detection. Our company also provides AC and heating systems installation, repair, and maintenance services in Norcross, GA, and the nearby regions. Reach out to us today to book an appointment and enjoy our exceptional services.


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