The short answer is no, but let’s explore the many reasons why chemical drain cleaners are dangerous.
First, you should know that there are three main types of chemical drain cleaners that are commonly used.
Acidic Cleaners use acid (low pH level) to break down clogs. Sulfuric and muriatic acid are the common chemical compounds found in acidic drain cleaners. It may take multiple uses for acidic drain cleaners to fully dissolve a clog and they work best on clogs caused by hair.
Oxidizing Cleaners are typically not as effective as the other types of drain cleaners as they are not quite as harsh. Bleach, peroxide, or nitrates are commonly found in oxidizing cleaners. It is a long process to dissolve substances with this type of drain cleaners, so it works best with organic matter like food.
Caustic Cleaners are the opposite of acidic cleaners as they are very basic (high pH level). Lye or potash are commonly found in caustic cleaners. This type of cleaner works similarly to the acidic drain cleaners in the way it breaks down clogs. This type of cleaner works best with grease clogs.
Now that you know a bit about the types of chemical drain cleaners that exist, let’s dive into why they should be avoided.
Corrosion can occur with the use of chemical drain cleaners. These chemicals are meant to be so strong and powerful to break down clogs within your drain. This, unfortunately, means that they are strong enough to damage the pipe itself. Repeated use of chemical drain cleaners will likely result in damaged pipes that must be replaced.
Chemical drain cleaners present a health risk to anyone that comes in contact with them. They can release toxic fumes that can be dangerous to breathe in. If the drain cleaners are not handled properly and come in contact with skin, they can cause severe burns.
Be cautious of damage to fixtures when using chemical drain cleaners. They are so strong that if any of the cleaners get on your sink or bathtub, they will ruin the enamel-based finishes. This type of damage is not fixable and you will have to replace these fixtures.
Chemical drain cleaners are terrible for the environment. Some of the cleaners will end up in water sources and ground areas. The Chesapeake Bay is negatively affected by chemical drain cleaners. You can learn more about that here. And, when you throw the container away after using it, there will be trace amounts of the chemicals that end up in landfills.
Remember, these chemical drain cleaners can be ineffective and require repeated use which further damages your plumbing, fixtures, health, and environment.
There are some DIY drain cleaners that you can make with non-toxic ingredients that can be very effective.
Vinegar & Baking Soda Mixture - Mix vinegar and baking soda together, pour it over the clogged drain, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, pour hot water down the drain.
Dish Soap & Hot Water - Boil water and mix some dish soap with it and slowly pour it down the clogged drain.
Both of these alternatives can be used interchangeably and as needed, without fear of damaging your plumbing, environment, or health.
You should contact a licensed plumber if you are experiencing a clogged pipe that will not resolve with attempts of the alternative drain cleaners listed above. The reason for this is because there are so many possible causes of a clog, that it’s much safer to have a professional determine the cause without damaging your plumbing. For example, tree roots can actually cause backups in your plumbing and no amount of chemical or alternative drain cleaner will fix that.
So, if you have been unsuccessful with clearing a clogged pipe on your own, definitely contact a professional for assistance.
The staff of Donovan WaterWorks is highly trained to safely and effectively unclog drains. Book a consultation with us here.