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Are Drain Cleaners Safe to Use? Learn the Surprising Answer

Are Drain Cleaners Safe to Use? Learn the Surprising Answer

When you have a clogged drain, is your first reaction to run to the grocery store and grab some drain cleaner? Chemical cleaners have been touted as very effective. And, of course, these over-the-counter solutions are cheap and readily available. That said, homeowners should resist the urge to reach for a drain unblocker and instead go for a solution that’s likely to get results - especially if you live in an older home with a delicate plumbing system.

Should You Use Chemical Cleaners?

Consumer Reports conducted a study on drain cleaners and concluded that most commercially available products don’t work and, worse, can cause serious harm to humans. Most products used to clear clogs out of drains contain a highly harmful substance called sodium hydroxide. This substance is harmful to humans if ingested or even if it gets on your skin or in your eyes.

Chemical cleaners also contain sulfuric acid and lye, both of which release dangerous fumes and can cause death if ingested, blindness if it gets into the eyes and burns if it gets on the skin. If you choose to use these products without proper ventilation, the fumes could pose a significant risk to your health, too.

Consumer Reports also found that harsh chemical cleaners pose a risk to plumbing pipes, whether they are new or old. If you mix drain cleaners with other household cleaners that you commonly use, the resulting chemical reaction could cause the product to shoot out of the drain. The pressure created could also damage plumbing parts. Additionally, using too much of the product can lead to the formation of a solid blockage in the pipes, which becomes fixed like cement in the plumbing. To resolve the problem, you’d need to hire a plumber to replace the pipes, and what you thought was a simple fix could become a large, costly repair.

Need another reason to avoid harsh chemical products? The combination of substances used in the products purposely generates heat to remove the blockage; however, this heat can corrode older metal pipes.

What Should You Use?

Most experts recommend that homeowners avoid using chemical cleaners altogether, and the Consumer Reports study does, too. So what should you use in place of them? A simple plunger works for removing small blockages of things like soap, hair and grease. If you have access to a plumber’s snake (and are confident and experienced when it comes to using one), give it a try. Otherwise, get help from a plumber. Repeated clogs can be a sign that there’s a serious problem somewhere in the plumbing system, and only an expert will be able to diagnose the problem properly.

For expert help with clogged drains, contact Casteel Heating, Cooling and Plumbing. We welcome questions from our neighbors in Buckhead.