May 21, 2012   //   by Daniel Cordova   //   Blog  //  1 Comment

Let us get straight to the point here: Whether liquid, gel, or powder form, there is nothing good about chemical drain cleaners.  Period.  They are advertised to give you a “quick fix” for those pesky drain clogs, but what else do they really do?  We shall explain.

Generally speaking, there are two types of retail drain cleaners sold at the majority of local super markets and drug stores across America.  They are either caustic drain cleaners or oxidizing drain cleaners.  (Other types of drain cleaners are generally much more powerful and are not sold to the open public.)  Without getting too “in-depth” for this article, we will quickly explain the two.  Caustic drain cleaners contain chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and lye, which help create reactions to break down substances like grease into water-soluble soap-like substances, which will generally help clear most grease clogs.  Oxidizing drain cleaners contain such chemicals as peroxide and hydochlorite (more commonly known as household bleach), which cause the organic material of any clog to break apart, which helps with hair clogs and other types of clogs made up of organic material.

So what’s the problem?  They both sound like they will work just fine.  Well, what these “quick fix” drain cleaners don’t tell you (out loud at least), is how harmful these substances really are and what else they do to your drains besides clearing the clog.  These drain cleaners are made of extremely harsh chemicals, and once they meet with the materials found in most household clogs and drain pipes, begin a chemical reaction that releases heat and many different gases into the air that are extremely hazardous to your health and the health of the environment.  Not only that, but this type of reaction causes the inside of your drain pipes to corrode and deteriorate with time which can eventually make matters much worse than just a simple clog.

Sound bad enough?  Well wait, there’s more!  Chemical drain cleaners can also be extremely harmful to septic tanks, as they destroy many of the beneficial bacteria needed to keep these tanks maintained.  They are also so harsh that if accidentally spilled, leaked or splashed they can tarnish bathroom fixtures, tiles, flooring, and even eat away at cloth and other material.  They can cause major skin irritation and burns and even blindness if splashed in the eye.  The worst part is, they are not even guaranteed to always work!  First, these drain cleaners must be located close enough to the blockage for them to be able to create a reaction with the material of the clog to make it work.  (Which means, if the water is backed up or standing still, you should not use these cleaners.)  If it doesn’t, you’re stuck with a sink or tub full of extremely harsh chemicals with no way out.  If you decide to call a plumber at this point, the cost, whether explained to you or not, is usually a bit higher, since now the plumber also has to deal with these harsh chemicals as well.  (Not many plumbing companies would tell you that, but we like our customers to be informed.)

On the other hand, if they do start to work, it will take some time, and the time that it does take, these chemicals will also begin eating away at your pipes.  Usually in these cases, the clog will only partially clear and your drain will begin to flow again, but what is left of the clog, the materials that the drain cleaner did not react with, will remain in the drain.  These remains will sit, waiting to catch more debris, which is why in most cases when using chemical drain cleaners, the clog will return!

At Daniel Cordova Plumbing, we strongly recommend against these types of chemical drain cleaners.  There are many much less harmful home remedies that are out there that you can try instead (a few which we will explain in our May 2012 Tip-of-the-Month: Drain Clogs & Home Remedies).  However, if all else fails, you always know we are always here to offer you just as quick of a fix, with less than half the headaches and always at our DCP guaranteed reasonable prices!

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