Plumber’s Advice: Just Say “No” To Chemical Drain Cleaners for Clogs

When the water starts backing up in the shower or your kitchen sink takes 30 minutes to drain, many homeowners have had it ingrained in their brain to reach for a chemical-based unclogging solution. However, what most homeowners don't know is that almost every plumber advises against this as a solution to clogs because you risk doing infinitely more costly damage to your plumbing.

What Does Chemical Drain Cleaner Do?

Every drain cleaning solution is different, but take for example the popular Drano brand. Drano is made up of a series of chemicals that cause several different chain reactions. Primarily, it is made up of sodium hydroxide, otherwise known as lye. This decomposes organic matter, but in Drano, it is combined with aluminum shards that cause it to generate heat. The combination of the lye, aluminum, and other chemicals causes hair and grease to decompose faster due to the increased heat and clogs are essentially dissolved and flushed out with hot water.

Why are Drain Cleaners Not Recommended?

The above results sound just perfect. You want the clog gone, and the chemical reaction makes it so in a pretty speedy manner. However, while it gets results quickly, every time it is used, those chemicals create damage. Harm that comes from the use of such caustic drain cleaners comes in two forms, human and property.

  • Corrosion and Plumbing Damage – In the grand scheme of things, drain cleaner doesn't stay in a drain for a long time unless improperly flushed out. However, in its stay, the chemical reaction and heat it produces can damage plumbing, especially if it is older. Older pipes are at high risk from its heat-producing, corrosive nature. PVC pipes can become softened, effectively aging them dramatically, and chemical drain cleaners quickly eat away glue holding pipes together.
  • Dangerous to Humans – If there is one thing we can all agree on, it is that you don't want chemical drain cleaner on skin. If used with a plunger or auger, you run a high risk of it splashing up and coming into contact. Furthermore, it can be unpredictable when it reacts to other chemicals.

Drain cleaners should always be used very sparingly, or not at all if you live with older plumbing. When it comes to complete blocks, they should also be avoided. Your best option is to use an auger, otherwise known as a "drain snake." It is one of the most used tools in a plumber's kit and it solves clogs quickly, though infinitely more effective when in the hands of a plumbing professional.

If you have any questions or experience any sort of plumbing situation, give our team a call. We’d be happy to help.

-A R Engh Team