When a sink or shower drain develops a clog, your first thought might be to reach for a bottle of liquid drain cleaner to break up the blockage and get the water flowing again. However, before you do, you should be aware of the effects of liquid drain cleaners on your plumbing and your health, as you might think twice about this seemingly simple solution.

Many homeowners ask, “Do liquid drain cleaners damage pipes?” when we caution them against picking up a bottle to deal with minor clogs. Damaged pipes are just one of the many liquid drain cleaner concerns, which we’ll explain here.

How Do Liquid Drain Cleaners Work?

To understand the impact of drain cleaners on pipes, it’s important to understand how these products work.

All drain cleaners create heat to break down the blockage in the pipe so water can flow freely. There are three primary types of cleaners:

  • Caustic, which contains lye or potash that reacts with aluminum in the water to heat the blockage and speed decomposition.
  • Oxidizing, which contains bleach and nitrates that dissolve the clog.
  • Acid, which contains high amounts of hydrochloric and sulfuric acid that eat away at the hair, soap scum, and grease that make up the clog.

Although these ingredients can effectively remove some of the pipe blockage, as you might expect, the chemicals contact more than whatever is clogging the pipe. They also touch the walls of the pipes, which begs the question, “Do liquid drain cleaners damage pipes?

The Risks of Liquid Drain Cleaners

Whether your plumbing pipes are metal or PVC, there is a risk for drain cleaner pipe damage if you use commercially available products to clear clogs. Not only can the caustic chemicals eat away at the pipes, but the excess heat that they create can soften the pipes (especially PVC), putting them at risk for a leak. The longer they remain in contact with the plumbing, the greater the impact of drain cleaners on pipes.

Not only do you create the risk of pipe corrosion from drain cleaners, but the products can react with existing corrosion and cause unexpected issues. For example, the excess heat can crack the joints and seals in the plumbing and cause leaks. Drain cleaners can also damage fixtures like toilets, especially if they are old and already have deterioration or damage.

While drain cleaners can damage your pipes, they also create other risks to your family’s health and well-being, including:

  • Unpredictable chemical reactions with chemicals or substances in the pipes can create toxic fumes.
  • Environmental damage if the chemicals leach into the groundwater; even the bottle itself contains toxic residue that can harm the environment when it goes into the landfill.
  • Physical injuries due to splashback or otherwise coming in contact with the caustic chemicals; in some cases, a chemical reaction when the product contacts the clog can cause the cleaner to blow back from the pipe and cause injury.

Alternatives to Using Drain Cleaners to Eliminate Clogs

Given that the answer to “Do liquid drain cleaners damage pipes?” is “yes,” what can you do to deal with pesky clogs that doesn’t involve as much risk to your plumbing or health?

The easiest and safest way is to use a plunger, which puts additional water pressure on a clog to change its shape so it can flow freely down the pipes. A drain snake or pipe auger is another option for breaking up the clog and removing it.

If these methods don’t work, or you have repeated stubborn clogs, get help from a professional plumber. A professional drain cleaning ensures complete clog removal the first time, without damaging the pipes or putting anyone at risk.

Relying on a plumber instead of a bottle of harmful drain cleaner means not having to deal with bigger, messier, and more expensive plumbing issues in the future. A plumber can also help you figure out what’s causing the repeated clogs and find ways to avoid them.

Call Grasshopper Heating & Cooling for Help with Clogs and Other Plumbing Concerns

The next time you have a clogged sink and think about picking up a bottle of drain cleaner to clear it, remember that if you were to ask a plumber, “Do liquid drain cleaners damage pipes?” they would say, “Yes.” Unless you want to cause more problems, put the bottle back on the shelf and contact Grasshopper Heating & Cooling for help instead. Call (518) 545-3271 to request a plumber at any time in the Clifton Park, NY, area.

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