As a homeowner, maintaining a plumbing system can feel like a chore. That is, until a clogged drain ruins a hot shower. While a clogged drain feels like a minor inconvenience, one that can be solved with a quick pour of Drano, it's not always straightforward. A clogged drain can indicate more significant plumbing issues, but there are a few things to consider before reaching for a drain cleaner.
While drain cleaners are sold in local supermarkets across the country, the truth is these intensive cleaners are loaded with potentially dangerous chemicals. Drain cleaners are often made with caustic chemical like lye, bleach, and concentrated acids. Hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide, and ammonia are all common ingredients in drain cleaners (and even detergent pods). These corrosive agents are highly toxic. While they're capable of dissolving that mass of gunk hanging out in the plumbing, they're also capable of dissolving the protective coating inside the pipes. While seemingly effective, the caustic chemicals used in soap making can cause health issues, damage pipes, and even harm the environment.
Just how problematic are these drain cleaners? Here are three reasons why it's time to rethink using these products at home.
Possible safety issues
Even though drain cleaners are easily purchased, that doesn't mean they're safe. If misused, the caustic chemical used to create these products can lead to serious health issues. For families, keeping these products around the house is a serious issue, and all drain cleaners should be kept out of reach of children and pets. If ingested, these cleaners can burn the mouth, esophagus, and stomach, causing serious injuries to internal organs. These drain cleaners can even be fatal in certain instances.
If these cleaners must be used, they should be done with thick gloves to prevent chemical burn on hand and skin. Experts also recommend wearing a face mask as chemical fume can cause lung damage.
Further plumbing damage
Despite what the instructions on the back of the drain cleaner might say, they can cause damage to the pipes. That's right; these cleaners aren't fully safe for the plumbing systems they're meant to fix. Caustic chemicals can eat away at pipes, especially if they're not fully flushed out properly. If the drain cleaner doesn't eradicate the blockage, the chemicals can be left sitting in the pipes, causing erosion and weakening.
Houses with older pipes should exercise when caution when considering a drain cleaner. This is particularly true for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes, which are especially susceptible to damage from caustic chemicals.
Chemical drain cleaners contain highly toxic materials. Unfortunately, once these cleaners have been flushed from house pipes, they end up in the sewage systems, where they make their way into rivers, streams, and of course, the ocean. Not only do these chemicals damage local plants and wildlife, but they can also contaminate water sources.
The environmental impact doesn't end there. Once these chemicals are in the water, they can be absorbed by local fish and seafood populations or, when used in agriculture to water crops, can even end up in food.
While there are several home remedies for clogged drains, including this popular internet myth about using salt, the best way to solve the problem is with a trained professional. Similarly, using a 'pipe snake' to remove a blockage can bring up toxic waste, introduce noxious fumes into the house, and damage a weakened or older pipe.
However, a clogged drain doesn't have to be a recipe for disaster. Rather than exposing your home and family to potentially dangerous chemicals, call a qualified professional to handle the situation. A certified plumber can check the pipes and diagnose the problem correctly. Remember, a clogged drain can have numerous causes, including a cracked or broken pipe. The plumber can identify and solve the issue efficiently and safely by bringing in an expert.
If you have questions about a clogged drain, contact Stahl Plumbing to schedule a service and get your home back in shape.