Hazards of Chemical Drain Cleaners

A clogged drain.

Most homeowners deal with a clogged drain at some point and one of the first things many people reach for when this happens is an over-the-counter drain cleaner. There are, however, other methods to deal with a clogged drain. We see ads on TV touting the effectiveness of a drain cleaner without giving a thought to the potential hazards the product may pose to you or to the drains and pipes in your home.

Before opening and handling a drain cleaner, be sure you understand just what you’re dealing with and the dangers involved.

Health Impacts

Because the chemicals are synthetic, they are designed to be extra powerful to clear out clogged drains. Realizing the potency of drain cleaners should alert you to just what these chemicals can do not only to your health, but also to the pipes in your home.

The goal of a drain clearer is to dissolve whatever is clogging the drain. This can be a combination of soap, shampoo, and hair in the shower and dish detergent, food, and grease in the kitchen.

Once the liquid is poured down the drain, it goes into action churning and dissolving the gunk all the while emitting fumes, which can still emanate from the drain days later.

One of the chemicals found in some drain cleaners is sodium hydroxide. This toxic drug presents itself with symptoms such as chest pain, severe abdominal pain, bloody vomit, severe mouth and throat pain, and burns in the mouth and throat. Vision loss is also possible if the chemical gets into your eyes and scarring may occur when the chemicals make contact with skin.

Bad News for Pipes

A clogged drain.

Another chemical found in drain cleaners is hydrochloric acid. Remember, the focus of chemical drain cleaners is to dissolve drain buildup quickly with no residue left behind. To be this effective at dissolving debris, the drain cleaner must have corrosive elements, which leads to corroded pipes. With degraded, damaged, and leaking pipes, it increases the chances you will need to replace parts of your plumbing systems, which can be expensive.

Not Up to the Job

One of the problems with drain cleaners from the grocery store is while the cleaner may temporarily unclog the drain, there could be an underlying issue causing the clog. This creates a vicious cycle of more clogs and more chemicals poured down the drain increasing the odds of damaging the pipes.

Plan of Action

Water running down a drain.

If you’re not familiar with working with chemicals, this can be problematic from a health point of view as well as a negative situation for the pipes.

Whether a drain is completely clogged or draining slowly, the best plan of action is to consult with a local plumbing service. A professional plumber will check the lines for leaks and breakage and unclog the drain using the proper techniques, which doesn’t include the use of chemicals.

Warning: If a situation arises where you or someone in your household is exposed to dangerous chemicals, call 911 immediately. You can also call 1-800-222-1222 to reach Poison Control.