Do Chemical Drain Cleaners Work?

If you notice a minor clogging in your plumbing, there is usually no cause for worry. Often it is an annoyance that you can clear with a plumbing auger or drain cleaners. While chemical drain cleaners are prevalent in homes today, they have limitations and risks. Most of the compounds in the formulation damage plumbing and can pose health hazards. In this article, we’ll outline how chemical cleaners work and their effectiveness.

What Are Chemical Drain Cleaners?

A chemical drain cleaner is a formulation for clearing pipes and wastewater systems of clogs. They are typically in liquid form and may be either alkaline or acidic. The main advantage for homeowners is that they are affordable and readily available in retail stores.

Chemical drain cleaners can be effective for clearing soft clogs such as hair and grease. Those obstructions are also common in the bathtub and bathroom sinks. Hair and oils can form into balls that hinder the smooth flow of water. A drain cleaner may, at times, remove such obstructions.

Unfortunately, using chemicals can be harmful to your home’s plumbing. Most formulations often include hydrochloric acid or potassium hydroxide. Such chemicals can precipitate corrosion within the pipes, in turn causing widespread leakages.

That’s why you should read the manufacturer’s instructions before using a drain cleaner. You must understand the limits and risks of using chemical cleaners. Some obstructions demand the skill of a professional. You can contact Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing in Greenwood whenever you have a plumbing issue.

Types and Residential Applications of Drain Cleaners

There are different types of household chemical drain cleaners you can find today. Some of them contain sodium hypochlorite, which is the same chemical you’ll find in household bleach. However, the compounds are in a much higher concentration, powerful enough to remove soft obstructions from your pipes.

You will also find alkaline drain cleaners with potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide compounds. An alkaline hydrolysis process breaks down hair, oil, and grease debris in your pipes. The reaction also releases a gas that compounds in the formulation to convert liquid to foam.

Typically, acidic drain cleaners contain high concentrations of sulfuric acid. The fluid will hydrolyze hair, fat, oil, and grease, converting those substances into water and cellulose. The reaction of the pipe and the acid can be violent and explosive. Manufacturers will often recommend you add the cleaner gradually into your plumbing to minimize hazards.

Dangers of Using Chemical Drain Cleaners

Both acidic and alkaline chemical drain cleaners can be dangerous, and therefore, you should apply them with caution. Alkaline formulations react with metal pipes to produce fumes that could be harmful if inhaled. Exposure can cause nausea, inflammation, and respiratory problems.

Acidic drain cleaners can be even more dangerous. Sulfuric acid reacts with explosions, so there is a risk of burns and respiratory complications. You also risk leaving residue along the inside of your plumbing. If you don’t apply caution, you can introduce toxins into your water system.

Drain cleaners will also damage your plumbing if you use them continuously. Sulfuric acid, sodium hydroxide, and sodium hypochlorite are all known to trigger extensive corrosion. Sometimes the chemical does not drain out and only sits on the pipe. After a while, your plumbing will develop leaks.

Chemical Drain Cleaners Versus a Plumber’s Auger

Are chemical drain cleaners effective? The effectiveness of chemical drain cleaners depends on the type and location of the clogs. They can remove hair, soap, and grease debris if close to the pipe’s entrance.

Drain cleaners are not effective for removing solid clogs or obstructions in the wastewater drain. The alkaline and acidic formulations are meant for softer debris like protein, oils, and soap. Stubborn stains will often require other alternatives.

One of the low-cost alternatives is a plumbing auger. The plumber operates the device mechanically to twist and break up the debris inside the pipes. They can remove clogging up to 25 feet into the piping.

The main drawback of a mechanical process is that it is most suitable for smaller pipes of up to 50mm in diameter. The tool is not as effective for larger drains, such as those in the sewer drain.

You also risk scratching the surface of the pipe’s interior. However, when applied with caution, the tool can be safer for your plumbing than chemical drain cleaners.

Enzymatic Drain Cleaners and Home Remedies

Enzymatic cleaners take advantage of the destructive action of enzymes to clear debris. They can be effective, but they take longer to act on the clogging. For that reason, their application is primarily to keep obstructions from building up in the pipes.

Another alternative is to use ingredients in the home to remove the clogging in your sink. The most popular remedy involves mixing boiling water with vinegar. Although they are harmless, these home remedies are largely ineffective, even for soft obstructions.

You may be tempted to mix solutions to create a more powerful cleaner, but you must be cautious of experimenting with different chemical formulations. Alkaline and acids may neutralize, but they generate heat that can melt the pipes. Additionally, the heat acts as a catalyst that speeds up the process of corrosion.

Best Alternatives to Chemical Drain Cleaners

Professional plumbers employ various specialized tools and techniques to eliminate obstructions from your plumbing. One of the most effective methods is hydro-jetting. The process involves forcing a stream of high-pressure water into your plumbing.

With hydro-jetting, there is no need for the plumber to use chemicals. The pressure of the water is enough to push out the debris from your pipes. There is no risk of damaging the interior of your plumbing. At Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our hydro-jetting process in Greenwood is environmentally friendly.

The most significant advantage of hydro-jetting is that it is effective for sewer lines and larger piping. It can remove stubborn solid obstructions such as tree roots, animal litter, and leaves. It can reach further into the pipes without damaging the interior surface or weakening the joints.

Plumbers can use either hot or cold water with hydro-jetting. Hot water may be necessary to increase the cleaning power of the high-pressure water. You can switch to cold water for PVC pipes or where there is no need for hot water.

How to Prevent Plumbing Clogs

Prevention is the best way to stop clogs from occurring in your plumbing. Even hair and soap scum can cause adverse effects on the pipes if not addressed on time.

You can minimize the risk of clogging by keeping grease away from the drains. You can pour it into a container and then dispose of it in the trash rather than down the sewer. Use a mesh screen or drain hair catcher to stop hair from getting into the drain.

If you notice signs of clogging that won’t go away, consider consulting our professional plumbers in Greenwood. Clogs in your drain could be a sign of chronic plumbing problems that you should address promptly. Leaks and obstructions will cause damage to your pipes and other valuables on your property.

The Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing team in Greenwood utilizes the latest techniques and tools for clearing drain lines. Using miniature cameras, we can quickly locate leaks and clogged pipes. Our top-rated plumbers can troubleshoot water softeners and tankless water heaters, among other plumbing equipment. Whenever you have an emergency in Greenwood, don’t hesitate to consult our team.

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