A drain tends to get clogged when debris blocks the path for water and other wastes. During such situation, any drain opener solution can be used to dissolve the debris and remove the clog. There are different kinds of drain opener solutions and it is basically divided into two types based on the pH of the main ingredient in the solution. Both acids and alkali elements are used for opening a drain.
Any element with pH greater than 7 is called as alkaline or alkali element. It is also called as basic (base) element. According to common belief, if a drain opener is not acidic, it has to be alkaline. To be fair, there are other forms of drain openers too and it cannot be just concluded as alkali drain opener just because it is not acidic. Now, let us talk about the top ingredients in any alkali drain opener. There are numerous types of alkali compounds that are used for drain opening.
Type of drain opener
The alkali drain opener can be broadly classified into two types.
The first type is strong alkali drain opener and the second is weak alkali drain opener.
- The strong alkali drain opener is usually prepared in industry settings and the alkali used in such drain openers are at high concentration. You may have to use such openers with care.
- On the other hand, as the name indicates, weak alkali drain openers have weak alkali compounds and thus, are not a threat for personal safety. Let us talk about the main alkali ingredients in each type of openers.
Strong alkali drain opener
This type of drain opener is very commonly called as caustic soda drain opener. This is because of the common main ingredient in this type of drain openers, caustic soda.
- Caustic soda is a mixture of lye and sodium hydroxide.
- Both liquid and solid forms of strong alkali drain openers have sodium hydroxide. Lye is a common name used for sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide.
In some specific brands of strong alkali drain opener, you can find only potassium hydroxide as the main ingredient.
Some brands of alkali drain opener provide corrosive liquid formulation. Such openers have sodium hypochlorite which is also called as bleach in very high concentration. The solid version of corrosive liquid alkali drain opener will have sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide in granules form. Sodium hypochlorite alone does not cause any benefit, when it comes to unclogging a drain. It has to come in contact with another salt to create better output. It is not safe to mix other cleaning agents with bleach at home. The corrosive liquid alkali drain opener has bleach along with other alkali elements which helps in unclogging the drain.
Weak alkali drain opener
Weak alkali drain openers are commonly used in cases where having a concentrated drain opener in home is considered dangerous. For instance, in a house with an infant, it is not safe to have a strong alkali drain opener.
Baking Soda with Vinegar
The most common weak alkali drain opener is baking soda with vinegar. Vinegar is a weak acid and baking soda is the alkali here. Any common cleaning supplies have sodium hydroxide in diluted version. Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate. Both can be used in this type of drain opener. In some cases, baking powder is used instead of baking soda. Though it sounds similar, baking powder is not the same as that of baking soda. However, the main alkali in both the components is same. Baking soda also contains sodium bicarbonate with an acid salt.
How to use baking soda with vinegar?
Any branded alkali drain opener you buy from market is strong alkali drain opener. Only household drain openers can be weak alkaline one as it cannot be pre-made for future uses. For weak alkaline drain opener solution, throw a cup of baking soda into the drain and add quarter cup of any weak acid (any brand and any type of vinegar would do well). Add a liter of boiling water after five minutes.
Alkalis that you can find at home
There are numerous alkalis that you can find at home like ammonium hydroxide, potassium permanganate and others. Yet, sodium bicarbonate is the most commonly used one. It is because of its following properties.
- Easy and common to find and easy to use.
- Deodorizes the drain
- Does not leave harsh odor
- No environmental side effects
- Cost effective
- No risk with children or those with breathing problems
These are some of the numerous reasons to why baking soda is very commonly used.
Why sodium hydroxide is very common?
Why is the alkali, sodium hydroxide very commonly used in most of the drain openers? Yes, there are even stronger alkali substances in the periodic table. Yet, most of the brands that you choose have sodium hydroxide. Yes, it is a cheaper alkali than most of the other element but, that cannot be the only reason for this popularity. Below is the list of advantages of using sodium hydroxide in a drain opener:
- It can be handled with ease when compared to other strong bases.
- Strong sodium hydroxide can digest tissues too. Thus, any human wastes like hair can be dissolved, within a few minutes from your drain.
- Even hard clog made of organic wastes can be digested with ease and leaves out a coffee like structured solid that can be crushed with finger tips. Fast flowing water would be enough to wash the substance out of your drain.
- It also helps in killing fungi, bacteria and other unwanted micro-organisms.
- It can easily dissolve grease, oil and other protein based deposits.
- It can also dissolve precipitated protein.
This article talks in detail about alkali used in drain openers. The common alkali substances mentioned in this article are sodium hydroxide, sodium bicarbonate and potassium hydroxide. This is not an exclusive list. There are numerous brands of drain openers around the world. Each brand uses different chemical components with varying strength. There can be other alkalis used for drain opener manufacturing. This article just pinpointed the most common ones of all.