There are few things as irritating in modern life as a sink that won’t drain properly. The easiest solution, and the one conveniently available at every hardware store, grocery store, and even corner store, is a bottle of chemical drain cleaner. They can almost seem like magic: pore it in, wait a few minutes, and suddenly the water is flowing down the drain smoothly again.
So what’s the problem? Why do plumbers HATE chemical drain cleaners?
1. They’re hard on your pipes
The chemicals found in drain cleaners are, simply put, very harsh. They’re usually a combination of lye (sodium hydroxide), bleach (sodium hypochrolate), salt (sodium chloride), and aluminum. These chemicals are used because they’re effective at decomposing organic matter.
The problem is that you can’t exactly tell a chemical to only attack the things you don’t like. The heat generated by the chemical process has been known to crack toilet bowls, break down PVC pipes, damage pipes that are already corroded, as well as dissolve the solvents used to create water-tight seals when connecting your pipes.
In other words: Every time you use a chemical drain cleaner, you’re gambling with the possibility that this is the time your plumbing starts to leak. You could end up with sewage leaking into your floors and walls.
2. You can hurt yourself or others
Highly corrosive chemicals are dangerous. If they can dissolve organic matter in your pipes within minutes, imagine what they can do to your hands if you were to spill some on yourself, or if a child or family pet were to access the material.
For plumbers, they are an added risk because if you’ve tried to fix a clog with a chemical drain cleaner and still need a plumber, there’s a good chance the chemicals are still present in the pipeline.
3. Chemistry and industrial tools don’t mix
Common tools of the plumbing trade are plungers and augers: designed to mix things up and things moving in your pipes. If we’re working on your pipes and there’s still bits of chemical drain cleaner in the system, we can easily experience chemical burns from splash back. Fumes can also get into our eyes and lungs.
4. It’s not great for the environment
Nowadays, it’s important to be environmentally aware. While lye tends to eventually get diluted to the point of being safe for the Earth, many other chemicals used in chemical drain cleaners (such as bleach) do not. We all need to do our part to keep our planet green.
5. Ever notice how once you start using chemical drain cleaners, you suddenly seem to need them a lot more often?
Chemical drain cleaners are very effective at killing bacteria. The problem is that bacteria gets a bad wrap. While you may not want it on your counter tops, it’s actually very helpful for breaking down organic matter naturally.
When you kill the bacteria in your plumbing, you’re destroying its ability to clean itself.