It happens all the time. Your shower drain is running a bit slow, so you reach for a bottle of the most powerful drain cleaner you can get at the local grocery store. Or maybe your bathroom sink isn’t draining at all, so you decide to use the whole bottle. What could it hurt?
A store-bought drain cleaner may be doing more harm than good!
The most common chemicals in that popular drain cleaner will certainly eat away at the hair, grease, or debris that is clogging your drain. However, it could also be eating away at your plumbing! The corrosive nature of these cleaners does not differentiate between the clog and the pipe itself.
Watch out for your hands.
There is a reason that the instructions on most drain cleaners call for the wearing of gloves and/or protective eyewear. On contact, these hazardous cleaners can leave chemical burns and rashes. The fumes can damage airways and irritate eyes. These problems can be compounded if the drain cleaner is mixed with other chemicals such as bleach. Using a plunger after applying a liquid drain cleaner can result in splash back that can damage fixtures, clothing, and skin. If you accidentally ingest any of this chemical, call 911 or the Poison Control Center without delay at 1-800-222-1222, especially if you are experiencing any of the symptoms noted here: Drain Cleaner Poisoning
Repeated use can be costly.
If you find that you are having to use drain cleaner on a regular basis, you may have a problem bigger than a clog. And if you are using a chemical to clear your drains frequently, you may only be making the problem worse instead of better. The corrosive nature of a chemical drain cleaner means that with extended use, your pipes may become corroded and brittle, which can be expensive to repair.
Not just a problem for your home.
After that chemical flows down your pipes, you probably don’t think about it any further. But the drain cleaner does not just disappear. Even though it flows down to the local treatment plant, it can be purged into the environment. Reaching local waterways, and seeping into groundwater, these chemicals can be hazardous to local wildlife.
So how do you clear a clogged drain?
Of course, our first answer is to call a licensed, professional plumber. Not only can a plumber clear your drains quickly using mechanical methods that are safe for your plumbing, person, and environment, they can also diagnose any underlying issues that may be causing your slow or clogged drains.
However, there are other methods that you can try before calling in a professional!
A basic mixture of baking soda and vinegar followed by hot water may be enough to get that slow drain flowing again.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, we have a quick and easy way to remove hair clogs from bathtub, shower, and bathroom sink drains. Cut small notches into the sides of a zip tie and slide it down into the drain, while keeping a good grip on the end. The notches will catch the hair and pull it out of the drain as you remove the tie.
Another product we frequently recommend is Bio-Clean, which is an enzymatic drain cleaner that is safe for humans, pets, and plumbing. An enzymatic cleaner creates colonies of good bacteria that consume organic waste in drain lines and septic systems. While it does not work as quickly as chemical cleaners, it is much more effective over time, with regular application. Enzymatic cleaners will not harm your plumbing, and most are even safe to consume (though we don’t recommend it)!
Knowledge is Safety.
If you do use a chemical drain cleaner, and then realize you have a larger problem and find yourself needing to call a professional plumber to your home, please understand the danger these chemicals can present to the technician coming to help. Make the plumber aware of any chemicals you may have used. They won’t judge you. In fact, they will thank you for making them aware. Being aware of the presence of these chemicals means they can take precautions against chemical burns and exercise more caution.
Remember, if you have any questions or concerns about the use of chemical drain cleaners or any other plumbing issue, the PROs at PRO Plumbing Service are always available to take your call.