The Truth About Chemical Drain Cleaners

A bottle of hazardous drain cleaner being poured down a bathroom sink

Are you struggling to clear a tough clog? Before you reach for a bottle of drain cleaner, here are five things you should know about these harsh chemical products.

  1. Chemical drain cleaners contain corrosive substances
    There are two main types of household drain cleaners, and they both use strong chemicals to dislodge clogs. The bleach and peroxides in oxidizing drain cleaners react with organic material trapped in your drain. This reaction produces heat and gas which help clear the blockage. Similarly, the lye and other basic chemicals in caustic drain cleaners react with grease and oil stuck in your pipes to produce heat and dissolve the clog.
  2. Chemical drain cleaners can damage your plumbing
    The chemical reactions produced by drain cleaners release heat which can soften and warp plastic PVC pipes. The harsh chemicals in these products can also corrode sink fixtures and old plumbing, leading to cracks and leaks. Even newer pipes can be damaged by drain cleaners if a tough clog traps the chemicals in your plumbing for too long. Chemical drain cleaners can also seriously damage septic systems by killing the bacteria that allows these systems to function properly.
  3. Chemical drain cleaners pose a safety hazard
    Chemical drain cleaners are designed to corrode organic material in your plumbing, but they’ll also burn your eyes, skin and the tissue that lines your respiratory and digestive tracts. These products are particularly dangerous in households with children or pets because they can be fatal if ingested. Chemical drain cleaners also release toxic fumes and, if used incorrectly, can cause explosions.
  4. Chemical drain cleaners harm the environment
    Not all municipal water treatment systems are able to purge water of chemical drain cleaners. When this water returns to lakes and rivers, the harsh chemicals poison fish and other wildlife. Additionally, a septic system that’s been damaged by a drain cleaner won’t be able to prevent chemicals from seeping into the soil and contaminating the groundwater. Even the residue in a discarded bottle of drain cleaner can be hazardous to the soil and wildlife in a landfill.
  5. There are safer alternatives
    There are several ways to unclog a drain without relying on harsh chemicals. Enzymatic drain cleaners use bacteria to decompose organic material, a common source of drain clogs. Alternatively, you can pour baking soda and vinegar down the drain and then flush the pipe with boiling water. A plunger can also be an effective tool for unclogging a drain when used correctly.

Plumbing Services in Southwestern Ontario

Don’t let a blocked drain become a plumbing emergency — call a certified plumber. Pitton Plumbing provides service to most of southwestern Ontario, including Toronto, Hamilton and Mississauga. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.