Drain cleaners can provide a simple DIY method of clearing light sewer clogs in your home plumbing system. They can provide a simple and affordable solution to clogged drains in sinks, showers, tubs and toilets. That being said, there are differences in the products you can purchase at the local hardware or grocery store. Homeowners should understand how drain cleaning products work as well as where they are useful and where they can do more harm than good. Sometimes drain clogs can be serious and need a plumbing professional to clear the sewer line properly. It is still important to understand the products available for home use and how they work.
So How Do Drain Cleaning Products Work?
Drain cleaning products are usually either Alkaline or Acidic products. Alkaline cleaners usually contain sodium hydroxide (lye) or potassium hydroxide. On the other end, Acidic products contain high concentrations of sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid. Both of these chemicals will dissolve simple hair, grease and oil clogs but extra caution should be taken when considering using these products on your septic system. Although these chemicals can dissolve grease, hair and oils, they will also kill any “good” bacteria and enzymes that have developed to eat the waste in a septic tank system. This could ultimately lead to a septic system failure. If you decide to use a drain cleaner on any sewer lines connecting to your septic tank, please read the instructions and use a cleaner that is septic safe.
Cast Iron and PVC Plumbing
The chemicals in a drain cleaner are, by nature, caustic. These chemicals can be extremely corrosive when used to clean metal such as cast iron sewer lines. Typically a drain cleaning chemical is used when there is a clog or a slow-flowing drain. The application of the product means it is going to sit inside the drain until it has dissolved an opening through the organic matter that is causing the clog. This, in short, means that the chemical can also eat through the metal piping it is sitting in. There are many examples on the internet of drain cleaners eating through homeowners old cast iron plumbing traps if you feel like exploring worst-case scenarios.
Drain cleaners can also pose a risk to PVC pipes which are commonly found in new homes. Most drain cleaners are caustic meaning corrosive. We already explained how corrosion can cause damage to cast iron plumbing but how does it damage plastic PVC? Drain cleaners do not directly dissolve PVC. When the drain cleaner reaches a clog in the plumbing or a drain line, it creates a chemical reaction with the substance which in turn generates a lot of heat. Typically PVC will begin to soften or melt around 140-170 degrees. Some drain cleaners can create chemical reactions that can generate enough heat to soften or potentially melt your PVC plumbing.
Caustic drain cleaners are also toxic and harmful to humans. If you read the labels they clearly state not to swallow the product or allow it to make contact with your skin. These chemicals can burn or irritate your skin and eyes and are extremely harmful if swallowed. Toxic vapors can also form from the chemical reaction occurring in your plumbing and should only be used in well ventilated areas. Please read the products instructions and exercise caution when using any drain cleaning products.
The Safer Alternative
There are drain cleaners on the market that are not a caustic and are developed to be safer for your plumbing, family and the environment. BioOne is an alternative to caustic cleaners and is safe for use on all plumbing including septic tanks and grease traps. This product has been certified by the EPA to be eco-friendly, biodegradable and safe for family and pets. BioOne uses bacteria and enzymes to dissolve food waste, grease, hair and oils to keep your drain clean and running smoothly. BioOne will not dissolve any inorganic substances, will not generate heat and will not create toxic fumes like other caustic cleaners. BioOne will also help instead of harm your septic system. BioOne is intended to be used on a semi-regular basis to help keep bacteria and enzyme levels at a high enough concentration to continue to dissolve and eat away at any waste going down the drain. If you would like to read more about BioOne click here.
Drain cleaning products are not a cure-all solution to your sewer line blockages. Plumbing sewer systems can run slow or be clogged for many different reasons. Sewer lines can have improper fall, defective traps, offsets, root intrusions, bellies etc. Homeowners can neither see these issues, nor take care of the problem without professional equipment. There are other approaches plumbing outfits can take in order to provide a solution to your sewer line clog. Hydro Jetting and snaking sewer lines is the most effective way to remove a clog. Using high pressure water or a mechanical auger to physically remove a blockage is the only way to totally eliminate the issue, especially if you have root incursion or a heavy grease build-up.
If you notice your drain running slow or you are experiencing a sewer line clog, give the sewer experts a call. Call Mister Sewer at 412-835-4478 to schedule an appointment with a technician. You can also schedule an appointment by clicking the link here. If you would like to learn more about sewer line related issues please visit our Resource page. We encourage all of our customers to learn more about plumbing in order to make more informed decisions. We also encourage customers to take a look at our Google Reviews. Remember, “There’s no charge if not resolved, call Mister Sewer problem solved.”