When used in excess or on a frequent basis, chemical drain cleaners may aggravate even mild drain problems. How is this possible with solutions that are so good at eliminating blockages and residue? May they affect your health or the environment if they can harm your pipes? In this post, we assess the benefits and drawbacks of commercial drain cleaners before recommending whether you should use them or go for safer alternatives.
Ingredients Used In Commercial Drain Cleaners
Common ingredients in commercial drain cleaners include:
- Potassium Hydroxide
- Bleach (NaOCl)
- Lye or Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)
- Nonylphenol Ethoxylate
- Enzyme Producing Bacteria
- Hydrochloric Acid
As you can see, these ingredients are strong stuff! That is why drain cleaners are often chosen when clogs appear.
How Effective Are Commercial Drain Cleaners?
It’s common to grab for the closest commercial drain cleaner when your drain is plugged. And for good reason: they work, frequently eliminating even the most persistent obstructions in a short amount of time. However, have you ever considered why they’re so effective? You may be surprised by what you don’t know about chemical drain cleaners, their components, and how they operate.
We’d be lying if we said professional drain cleaning solutions don’t do what they claim; they may clear a drain pipe of obstinate stuck particles and remove muck and leftover buildup more efficiently than water pressure alone. This comprises blockages that occur on a regular basis as a result of:
- Animal fats or cooking oils
- Drain disposal systems are clogged with animal bones or pieces.
- Foods that are too starchy or fibrous
- Clippings of hair or nails
- Products made of plastic or paper
A commercial drain cleaner’s job is to remove the dirt and debris from a system. But these fluids often end up damaging pipes and other components, exposing residents to potential health hazards. And because they’re designed for large-scale use in industrial or commercial applications, their disposal can pose problems as well.
How Do Drain Cleaners Cause Damage To Your Pipes?
While drain cleaners may be beneficial in the short term, they might be harmful in the long run, particularly if used repeatedly. Sulfuric acid-based high-strength acidic drain cleaners may be particularly harmful since the substance is known to dissolve most metals. “But,” you could object, “I have plastic pipes.” Chemical drain cleaners, on the other hand, may harm them as well. The caustic cleaning solutions may cause a chemical reaction and generate heat, which can cause the plastic pipe to deform or even melt. These responses may exacerbate plumbing problems, turning a minor drain problem into a full-fledged plumbing crisis.
Chemical drain cleaning chemicals, when used often or on a regular basis, may corrode pipes and damage inner pipe walls to the point where DIY repairs are difficult. You might transform a little sink clog into a major pipe collapse if you use a lot of industrial cleansers. Your fast and easy fix would then cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in repairs and renovations!
Commercial drain cleaners are often used by homeowners to unclog clogged drains. However, these products can cause a variety of problems. As an alternative, learn how to unclog a drain using liquid dish detergent here.
What Health Risks Do Drain Cleaners Pose?
Prolonged exposure to commercial drain cleaners would be far worse than pipe deterioration and extra upgrades. Have you ever looked at the components in certain drain cleaners? The list may be rather frightening. Every year, it is estimated that 3,000 injuries are produced by drain cleaners in the United States (about 13% of them include cutaneous burns caused by sulfuric acid, resulting in painful skin grafting). According to Consumer Reports, accidents involving home cleaning products accounted for 11% of calls to poison control centers for children aged 6 and younger.
Even the vapors from many of these goods are poisonous; although they aren’t officially considered pollutants, they may produce a variety of deadly poisons (including mustard gas) when they come into contact with surface water. When you consider that the chemical ingredients in liquid drain cleaners are designed to break down organic material (like sink debris and food products, which often cause clogs) and clear drain passageways of all residual matter, you can only imagine how harmful this could be to your eyes or skin if you come into contact with them.
Even if you use a chemical drain cleaner, never combine multiple drain cleaners together. When bleach-based drain cleaners are used with acidic cleansers, chlorine gas is produced “Gas with a strong odor that may cause respiratory difficulties. Inhaling it is very dangerous “Tom Teets, a chemistry assistant professor at the University of Houston, agrees.
The Environmental Impact Of Drain Cleaners
It’s hardly unexpected that chemical drain cleaners may harm our environment, given what they can do to your pipes and your health. When water and chemicals are flushed down the toilet, they are often released into the environment. According to Carbon Companion, certain chemical solutions are harmful to the environment and have long-term negative consequences such as water toxicity and bacterial destruction. Chemical cleaners may modify PH levels after they leave your system and infiltrate neighboring waterways, causing tissue damage to animals and death if consumed before dilution. It also has an impact on the reproductive, endocrine, and developmental systems.
Furthermore, the components in chemical drain cleaners and other home items may generate “volatile organic compounds” (also known as VOCs), which can be very detrimental to air quality. VOCs generated by home cleaning products have been shown to be a significant cause of air pollution in metropolitan areas, according to researchers (via The Guardian). Even more of a reason to go natural.
Chemical Drain Cleaners: The 6 Most Dangerous
A few cleaning products are more dangerous to your health, your house, and the environment than their marketing and labeling imply. Some of the worst offenders are listed by organizations like the Environmental Working Group (EWG):
1. Drano Kitchen Crystals (Professional Strength)
Most plumbers would advise you to stay away from chemicals like Drano because of the potential for harm to your home’s plumbing. Because these chemicals are designed to dissolve organic debris, hair, oil, and other blockage components, they’re naturally dangerous—contact with flesh generally results in a terrible chemical burn.
The fact that Drano’s kitchen crystals tend to stay in the drain long after usage and react aggressively with water, causing it to erupt or boil out, is particularly concerning. The product made EWG’s “Hall of Shame” because of the possible hazard of water interacting with remaining crystals in the drain.
2. Comet Disinfectant
This home cleanser has been around for a long time in the United States. However, research by the Environmental Working Group revealed that Comet powder emitted compounds associated with cancer and asthma. According to EWG research, some of these compounds, such as “formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform, and toluene — are not stated on the label.” Furthermore, the bleach in the powder may wreak havoc on some types of plumbing pipes.
3. Ajax Liquid Laundry Detergent
Formaldehyde, often known as formalin, is most typically associated with the preservation of remains in funeral homes. It is, however, a carcinogen that has been linked to asthma and allergies in people. Ajax liquid laundry detergent includes formaldehyde, which is an issue. Some formaldehyde residue may migrate from the garments to your skin if you wash your clothes with this product. This might irritate the skin and trigger allergic responses.
Bleach (sodium hydroxide) is a typical home cleaning chemical that also happens to be a component in a lot of other things. Bleach is alkaline (or base) with a pH greater than 12. Bleach is a well-known irritant. When water and salt are combined with acids, a chemical process known as neutralization occurs, which produces water and salt as byproducts. The issue is that salt may be very corrosive to a variety of pipe materials, resulting in corrosion.
Bleach consumption is even more troublesome for houses with septic systems, since too much concentrated bleach may alter the pH balance in the tank, killing the microorganisms that the septic tank depends on to operate.
5. Nonylphenol Ethoxylate Floor Cleaners
Nonylphenol Ethoxylate, which is widely present in floor cleaners like Spic and Span, may be harmful when broken down. This molecule, when broken down into nonylphenol, may disrupt the human hormone system and is very harmful to aquatic life. The production of items containing this chemical compound is already prohibited in California. As a result, it’s unlikely to be seen on local shop shelves.
6. Ammonia-Based Cleaners
Ammonia, a frequent chemical in many window cleaners, is not only a severe irritant but it has also been connected to “chronic bronchitis and asthma” in the research reported by Experience Life Magazine from ChemConscious, Inc. Ammonia may produce deadly vapors when coupled with bleach, which can cause instant injury.
Cleaning Alternatives That Are Non-Corrosive
Dealing with blockages and backlog issues isn’t as tough as you would imagine. In fact, you may be able to completely clear your drains utilizing items and non-toxic substances that you already have on hand. Homeowners may use one of three efficient DIY cleaning treatments to clear ordinary drain clogs:
- Borax. Borax may be used as a mildew cleanser in the bathroom when combined with baking soda. It may also be used to clean carpets and upholstery when blended with light liquid soap, lemon juice, and warm water.
- Soda products that are acidic. Soda products’ high carbonation and natural acids perform similarly to chemical cleaners in breaking down trapped debris and removing residue while posing none of the hazards associated with professional cleaners.
- Mixtures of baking soda and vinegar Non-toxic vinegar and baking soda DIY combinations react inside drain pipes to clear blockages without jeopardizing the health of your pipes. Baking soda and vinegar are used to unclog blockages. Steps to use:
- Pour some boiling water down the drain with caution.
- Pour a solution of one cup baking soda, one cup water, and one cup vinegar down the drain.
- Wait 5-10 minutes after covering the drain with the drain cap.
- Once again, pour boiling water down the drain. The bubbling reaction between the baking soda and vinegar helps to release the blockage in the drain, and the boiling water in step 4 helps to flush it out.
When In Doubt, Call A Professional
So, what’s the final verdict on commercial drain cleaners: Is drain cleaner dangerous? While effective at removing clogs and debris, products like these bring other risks, which can put your pipes, health, and the environment in danger. So, although handy in a pinch, you should never use commercial products regularly to maintain your pipes. If possible, try safer alternatives, such as non-toxic mixtures and acidic sodas, or contact an expert.
A drain cleaner may not be enough to remove a severe blockage. In that case, you may want to learn more about What Is CCTV Sewer And Pipe Inspection, And How Does It Work?
Frequently Asked Questions
Is drain cleaner harmful to the environment?
A: While it is true that drain cleaners can be environmentally hazardous, a lot of the chemicals in them are under specific laws and regulations which means you need to read signs on any product you buy before blindly purchasing.
Do drain cleaners harm pipes?
A: Drain cleaners can cause a lot of problems with pipes, so it is best to do research on what types you should use and the proper way to use them.
Are commercial drain cleaners safe?
A: Yes, they are safe and effective at unblocking drains. They’re just not always the best option as a long-term solution.
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