Is your bathroom or kitchen sink draining slowly? Are you standing in stagnant water when in the shower? It’s time to deal with the clog in your pipes. Before you call the plumber, there are some DIY methods you could use to clear the blockage.
One of the most popular solutions for clearing clogs is chemical drain cleaners. While such cleaners may get the job done, keep in mind they may harm your drains and not be environmentally friendly.
That being said, in this article, we will look at how chemical drain cleaners work, their pros and cons, as well as the alternatives to using drain cleaners.
Types of Drain Cleaners
Drain cleaners come in powder, gel or liquid form. Here are the three main types of chemical drain cleaners:
- Oxidizing drain cleaners: These cleaners contain substances like nitrates, peroxides, and household bleach. Oxidizing compounds take electrons from the materials causing the clog and produce gas and heat. The reaction helps dissolve soap scum, loosen hair clogs and clear food-based blockages. Since oxidizing drain cleaners are heavier than water, they easily move through standing water.
- Caustic drain cleaners: These drain cleaners are very effective in dissolving grease and soaps. Just like oxidizing drain cleaners, caustic drain cleaners also sink through standing water to get to the clog. They contain ingredients like caustic potash and lye.
- Acidic drain cleaners: Containing drain cleaner ingredients like hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid, acidic drain cleaners are the harshest type. They are usually not available in stores, and are only sold to licensed plumbers. Since this chemical is very strong, it not only dissolves hair, food and grease clogs but also inorganic substances like ceramic, metal and plastic.
Best Drain Cleaner Products
When it comes to drain cleaning products, there are numerous options to choose from. Here are some of the most popular drain cleaners in the market:
Thrift T-600 Alkaline Drain Cleaner
Claimed to clear clogs within 60 seconds, Thrift is a 4-in-1 product that works on drains, grease traps, sewer lines, and septic systems. The main component is sodium hydroxide, which is effective against oils and fats. Since it is non-acidic, it will not damage your plastic or metal pipes.
Drano Max Gel Drain Clog Remover
Drano Max Gel contains drain cleaner ingredients such as sodium hydroxide, blend, sodium silicate, and surfactant. These components dissolve clogs within minutes, making Drano Max one of the best products in the market. While it is ideal for sinks, showers, and bathtubs, Drano Max is not suitable for toilets.
Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver
This enzymatic liquid drain cleaner dissolves hair, soap scum, paper and grease. It has an ultra-thick formula and can sink through standing water to liquefy clogs. Green Gobbler comes in a unique dual-chambered bottle and is suitable for kitchen drains, shower drains and toilets.
Xion Lab Safer Drain Opener
Xion Lab Safer Drain Opener is a non-flammable, odorless biodegradable drain cleaner. It is heavier than water and works effectively against hair, lint, grease, oils, fat and soap scum. However, it is not ideal for clogs caused by paper, food particles and plastics. Unlike other harsh drain cleaners, Xion Lab will not damage your pipes or harm the bacteria in your septic tank.
Safety Guidelines for Using Chemical Drain Cleaners
Considering the risks associated with chemical drain cleaners, taking safety precautions is a must. Here are some safety tips to consider:
- Read the label: Before buying any drain cleaner, read the label to see what ingredients it contains. Avoid cleaners that contain harsh chemicals like acid or lye.
- Follow the instructions: Carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions and heed all the warnings. Never mix different drain cleaners since the toxic chemicals could explode or release dangerous fumes.
- Use protective equipment: To protect yourself from the corrosive chemicals and noxious fumes, always wear rubber gloves, goggles, and a mask when using chemical drain cleaners.
- Don’t use a plunger: Don’t make the mistake of using a drain cleaning chemical in conjunction with a plunger. The chemical could splash on you and cause harm.
- Store securely: If you have pets or children in the house, be sure to store the chemical drain cleaner on a high shelf or in a locked cabinet. Preferably, buy a drain cleaner that comes with a child-proof safety cap.
- Don’t use with a septic tank: If your plumbing system comes with a septic tank, using a chemical drain cleaner might not be a good idea. Harsh chemicals will kill the bacteria that your septic tank uses to break down organic material.
Why Chemical Drain Cleaners Aren’t Always the Best Option
Chemical drain cleaners are a great solution when you want to clear a blocked drain fast. However, before you use a product like Liquid Plumber or Drano, you must first understand the benefits and downsides of chemical drain cleaning.
Pros of Drain Cleaners
- Easy to use: With chemical drain cleaner, there is no technical know-how required, no special tools, and no disassembly of pipes. Simply take off the cap, pour the contents down the drain, and wait for the chemical to work its magic.
- Works fast: Chemical drain cleaners can clear clogs within minutes.
- Inexpensive: Though the price varies from product to product, you can buy a bottle of chemical drain cleaner for as little as $10. This is very cheap compared to buying plumbing tools or hiring a professional plumber.
Cons of Drain Cleaners
- Doesn’t work in toilets: Since chemical drain cleaners are heavier than water, they sit at the bottom of the toilet bowl and cannot move up the curve to the clog.
- Cannot clear all types of clogs: While chemical drain cleaners work well with food, grease, or hair clogs, they are very ineffective in clearing clogs caused by solid objects. Drain cleaning products are corrosive substances that eat away at the clog, not push it away.
- Dangerous if misused: Some drain cleaners produce noxious fumes when breaking up clogs. Inhaling such fumes could be dangerous to your health. In addition, splashing the corrosive chemicals on your skin or eyes could result in burns or scars.
- Contains pollutants: Most manufacturers will not outrightly mention that their products contain pollutants like trichlorobenzene, potassium hydroxide, trichloroethane, and sodium nitrate. However, you can discover this for yourself by researching the drain cleaner ingredients listed at the back in small print.
If the chemical leaks from the main sewer line, it could contaminate your soil as well as the groundwater.
- Damages pipes: The heat produced when using chemical drain cleaners could damage or weaken your PVC or metal drain pipe and plumbing fittings. The problem becomes worse with repeated use.
Alternatives to Chemical Drain Cleaners
Although most chemical drain cleaners are labeled safe to use or environmentally friendly, they should be the last resort for clearing clogged drains. Before buying a bottle of chemical drain cleaner, try other solutions like a plunger, plumbing snake, baking soda and vinegar, hot water and soap, or a coat hanger.
A better idea is to prevent clogs from forming in the first place. In your kitchen, avoid letting egg shells, coffee grounds, grease, potato skins, and other solids go down the drain. In the toilet, do not flush anything besides toilet paper down the toilet.
Objects like baby wipes, sanitary towels, and cotton balls should go into the trash. Brush your hair before taking a shower. This will get rid of loose hair which would have gone down your shower drain.
You can also prevent clogs using these innovative products from TubShroom:
- SinkShroom: Retailing at only $11.99, this bathroom sink drain strainer is designed to catch hair before it goes down the drain, where it can create a clog over time. Unlike regular hair catchers that are placed over the drain, SinkShroom fits neatly inside. This means that you will have to remove the screw-in or pop up stopper before placing SinkShroom.
- TubShroom: This award-winning hair catcher is designed for tub drains. TubShroom will catch any kind of pet or human hair without interfering with the flow of water. Just like SinkShroom, it fits into any standard bathtub drain opening. This tool sells for only $12.99.
- ShowerShroom: ShowerShroom is compatible with almost all 2-inch, stand-up shower stall drains. This hair snare is placed under the stand-up shower stall grate. ShowerShroom, priced at $10.99, comes in three great colors; neutral gray, marina blue and clean white.
Save Yourself Hassle by Preventing Clogs
When faced with clogging problems, drain cleaners are a great solution. The most common types are oxidizing drain cleaners, acidic drain cleaners, and caustic drain cleaners. Before buying any product, take time to learn about the pros and cons of using drain cleaners. In addition, do your research and compare the different options available in the market.
Don’t forget that there are other options to using a drain cleaner to clear clogs. A plunger, plumbing snake, baking soda and vinegar, hot water and soap, or coat hanger could also come in handy for solving your blockage problems.
You can avoid using chemical drain cleaners or other DIY methods altogether by taking preventative measures. Besides not flushing unnecessary items down the drain, you can use drain protectors like ShowerShroom, TubShroom and SinkShroom. They are not only affordable, but also very effective in keeping hair from going down your drain.