Are store bought drain cleaners any good?
So you’re stuck with a clogged drain:
Chemical drain cleaners are very effective in fixing a typical hair-and-grease or toilet paper clog problem and are readily available in most stores, in solid or liquid form.
Well, before you head out to the store to buy a drain cleaner, it might be wise to learn about the effects of these products before you apply them:
Toxicity and damage: Store bought drain cleaners are potentially very damaging to your plumbing system. These solutions rely on harsh chemicals in order to dissolve the obstruction. Drain cleaners contain unhealthy materials like acid, caustic and basic solvents, and often poisons such as bleach, lye, peroxides, potash and nitrates.
As a result of their chemical nature, these products are almost guaranteed to do some degree of damage to most pipes. Metal based plumbing systems can suffer because of the corrosive nature of these products, PVC pipes can be warped by the heat that is generated from the chemical reaction.
Effectiveness: Chemical drain cleaners tend to be very effective indeed. So effective (read: corrosive), that once a small area of the clog is dissolved, the rest of the solution tends to just flow past the rest of the problem area. Meaning that a large part of the obstruction is not treated and thus remains there.
Also, while drain cleaners are effective at clearing organic matter close to the drain opening, they are less useful at getting rid of solid obstructions and clogs located further down the drain pipe.
Safety risks: Drain cleaners are among the most hazardous publicly available household products. Because of their chemical nature, these products can be extremely hazardous to your health. You risk serious injuries if the solution comes into contact with your eyes, skin, lungs, and also clothing and various household materials such as wood, paint and aluminum. There is also a risk of explosion if the solution comes into contact with other chemical products that might possibly have been previously used in your pipes.
All in all, if you have a clogged drain, don’t make a beeline for the store just yet. Try to exhaust all your other options before you consider using store bought solutions. If a plunger doesn’t help, then see if you can open the drain and try cleaning it out by hand , if you have the budget, call in a professional service.