Clogged pipes and drains are among the most common of all plumbing issues.
Drainage problems can occur anytime without warning, so being prepared can help resolve the situation quickly. There are several DIY methods to deal with a clogged drain, and many of these use items available in most homes, like baking soda.
Alternatively, some other methods involve using chemical drain cleaners, which may be effective, but can potentially damage your plumbing pipes. So, if you’re unsure whether to use such cleaners for unblocking clogged drains, this guide on the subject might be helpful.
It can help you decide whether it is safe to use a caustic drain cleaner and, if not, what the alternatives are. So, let’s get started!
Why Should You Avoid Using Caustic Cleaners?
Drain clogs generally occur when foreign objects, such as eggshells, grease, soap scum, coffee grinds and toilet paper, end up inside the drain. These can obstruct the drain pipes and prevent the flow of water.
In most cases, the plumber can remove such clogs using a drain auger or a hydro jet blaster. While using an auger or drain snake is a safe option, the same cannot be said for caustic drain cleaners.
This is because such cleaners are made from strong chemicals that can not only clear away the materials responsible for the clog but can also damage the plumbing pipes. It is also dangerous for you or the plumber, as it can burn the skin, and the fumes from caustic cleaners, if inhaled, can cause irritation.
That is why wearing protective clothing such as gloves, protective glasses, and a mask is necessary when working with such cleaners.
The Effect Of Chemical Cleaners On Plumbing Pipes
A chemical drain cleaner removes clogs by eating up the substances causing an obstruction. However, it doesn’t just stop there, as the chemicals are incredibly strong and can start damaging almost any surface they come into contact with.
This includes the drain pipes, the soldering material used to connect them, and the pipe fittings. If such a cleaner is left in the pipes for a long period, it can eat through the pipe and reach other areas causing further damage.
Being acidic, a chemical drain cleaner can even lead to leaks or breakage of the piping in the future. When that happens, these cleaners can go into the ground, contaminating the groundwater and killing nearby plants.
The chemical reaction with liquid drain cleaners can affect plastic and metal pipes.
1. Plastic Pipes
Avoid using liquid drain cleaners for drain lines made from PVC or other plastic since these can eat through the material. The cleaner can reach other areas and surfaces, even if you wash it away afterwards.
2. Metal Pipes
Caustic drain cleaners should also not be used on old metal pipes since these generally have corrosion through which the cleaner can enter. Once it reaches an area where water cannot flush it out, the cleaner will continue eating away at the surface and cause further damage.
What If The Clog Cannot Be Removed Using A Liquid Drain Cleaner?
If you cannot remove the clog even after using a drain cleaner, it can cause further problems. For instance, if the cleaner passes through a hole in the pipe, it can cause damage in other areas. If water reaches an uncleared clog, it may lead to a splashback.
What’s more, once a drain cleaner has been used, another method cannot be employed to clear the clog. This is because using an auger or a plumber can expose you to the chemicals in the cleaner. It is best to call a professional plumber to deal with the issue in such a situation.
Chemical Drain Cleaner Alternatives
There are several DIY alternatives to clearing a blocked drain that you can try:
- Baking soda and white vinegar
- Hot water
- Dish soap
- Plumbing snake or wire coat hanger
If these do not work, one of the best and safest alternatives to chemical drain cleaners is calling a professional plumber. This is because frequent clogging may signify more serious plumbing problems, such as invasion by tree roots, pipe corrosion, broken pipes or other types of damage.
Identifying and resolving such problems requires the pipeline to be visually inspected, for which plumbers use a camera to help locate clogs, corrosion and other problems. Once located, the plumber can use an electric plumbing auger or hydro jets to remove clogs.
Also, you can get the plumber to install a pipe liner to help prevent rust and keep the piping clean, improving the water flow.
Why You Should Avoid Chemical Drain Cleaner
So, does drain cleaner corrode pipes? Well, it depends on the pipe materials and liquid drain cleaner you’re using, but it definitely contributes and can cause significant damage.
Now that you know how a drain cleaner can damage pipes, hopefully, you will consider trying other, safer methods for clearing blocked drains. The simplest way is to pour boiling water down the drain, which can melt away materials like soap scum, human waste, and hair build-up in your plumbing system. Or try the baking soda method. You can also purchase a plumbing snake to remove minor clogs from your kitchen sink or garbage disposal.
Other alternatives include using a biological drain cleaner or creating your homemade drain cleaner using sodium hydroxide. Both are safer options and do not damage the drainage system, making them excellent chemical cleaners. If all else fails, reach out to our expert plumbers at FTD Pipe Relining. We can provide an affordable solution for your clogged drain!
With that said, it is time to wrap up. Until next time!