Kitchen sink backed up? Shower drain clogged with hair? When blockages happen in your home, you might reach for an over-the-counter drain cleaner to solve your problem rather than call for a plumbing contractor. While OTC products can sometimes save you money, there are a few things to know.
Types Of Drain Cleaners
Drain cleaners on the market come in three types: acidic, oxidizing, and caustic. Each of these three types work differently.
- Caustic products, including popular brands Drano® and Liquid Plumr®, contain a form of sodium hydroxide (lye) or sodium hypochlorite (bleach) that create a chemical reaction that eats away at soap scum, hair, toothpaste, and grease.
- Oxidizing drain cleaners contain chemicals such as peroxide and hydrochloride (bleach) that makes organic material in clogs break down.
- Acidic drain cleaners contain high concentrations of sulfuric acid, which makes them capable of dissolving hair, grease, and even paper. These are not usually sold to consumers.
Do Drain Cleaners Work – And At What Cost?
OTC drain cleaners may work on your clogged drain or stopped up sink — or not. What is clear is that they may harm your pipes and anything they touch. Caustic and oxidizing products are kinder on pipes, but will immediately eat away at rubber seals on garbage disposal, and other rubber surfaces. When any type of drain cleaner interacts with the residue of clogs, the chemical reaction continues and heat builds up on the inside of pipes, which can ultimately lead to deterioration and release hazardous gases into the air.
When chemicals reach septic tanks, they also destroy the bacteria that helps maintain these tanks.
Any drain cleaning product poses risks to users if it is splashed on the skin or eyes. If you use drain cleaners, you should outfit yourself with gloves and eye protection, and clothes that cover your extremities to prevent burns. Chemicals also infiltrate the air, which can make your nose and eyes sting long after you have finished the job.
Professional plumbers do not recommend attempting to break up clogs with drain cleaners, especially if there is standing water present. When drain cleaners work, they only do so if the cleaner is applied close to the clog. When water is backed up in a sink or tub, adding drain cleaner creates a pool full of harsh chemicals that is unlikely to cut through the clog. When plumbers attempt to unclog the sink, they first have to deal with removing the chemicals, which makes the job take longer, and as a result, more expensive.
Should Homeowners Handle Clogs?
When your pipes clog, you should consider alternatives to chemical drain cleaners before pulling out the bottle of Drano®. Many clogs respond to a good old-fashioned plunger or drain remover, which can help dislodge part of the clog and move it on. There are also natural combinations such as boiling water and
baking soda and vinegar that may help with soap scum and hair clogs.
After trying the basics, your next call should be to Plumbing Nerds, local plumbing contractors who know how to quickly and efficiently unclog pipes without the use of toxic chemicals. By using specialized tools such as electric plumber snakes, hydro jetting, enzymatic drain cleaners, and other techniques, these experienced plumbers can quickly get your drains clear without harming your pipes.
Whether you need a routine service call to maintain your drains, or an emergency call to unblock them, schedule an appointment online or call us today at 239.471.7557.