Are Chemical Drain Cleaners Safe? (The Unvarnished Truth!)

Store-bought chemical drain cleaners are not safe. There, I said it.

Although you’ve probably heard this before from your “organic” neighbor or a professional plumber, it bears repeating. And you need to listen and take heed. Chemical drain cleaners are dangerous and often do more harm than good.

Let me tell you why.

If You Insist on Using Chemical Drain Cleaners…

Hey, we know why so many people use store-bought chemical or liquid drain cleaners. They’re heavily advertised and they’re convenient. But that doesn’t make them good.

So, if you insist on using them, do yourself a favor and:

  • Handle it like you are in a chemical lab, because you will be
  • Only use the smallest amount needed for the job
  • Don’t tempt fate by storing what’s left over for a future date; get rid of it
are chemical drain cleaners safe - scientist working in lab
Using a chemical drain cleaner is like working in a lab. Don’t do it unless you’re a scientist and using lots of protection!

Here’s Why Chemical Drain Cleaners are Dangerous

Concentrated sulfuric acid, the active ingredient in many drain cleaners, can blind you, give you second-degree burns, or eat completely through most synthetic and natural fiber clothing. If swallowed, it will burn away your throat and part of your stomach.

All of that can happen in about 5 seconds!

Another toxic chemical often used in chemical drain cleaners is lye (also known as caustic soda). Lye is actually potassium hydroxide or sodium hydroxide. Although it will dissolve solidified grease and helps break down hardened soap scum, it is highly corrosive to galvanized steel, iron, and copper pipes.

These are dangerous chemicals we’re talking about. Yet, millions of people casually toss them into their drains without a second thought. The sulfuric acid, for example, literally burns loose deposits of food, paper, hair, and similar debris as it begins burning away at your pipes.

are chemical drain cleaners safe - time lapse of sulfuric acid on steel pipe
This is what happens to a slice of steel pipe after being in contact with sulfuric acid, the main ingredient in many chemical drain cleaners. Corrosion and pitting begin immediately, weakening your pipes for an eventual leak or disaster.

Never Mix Different Chemical Cleaners

It’s critically important that you never, ever attempt to mix together the acid and lye varieties of drain cleaners.

Their chemical reaction in a drainpipe is so violent that it can forcefully bubble back up into your face. And weak pipes can be blown apart by the rapid increase in pressure caused by the reaction.

This is not hypothetical; there are numerous cases of this actually happening. If you don’t believe me, ask your high school science teacher. She’ll set you straight!

This is the reaction you’ll get in your drains if you mix two different kinds of chemical drain cleaners together. You can also see this video here.

How Do Chemical Drain Cleaners Damage Pipes?

When using acid-based drain cleaners, start slowly. The acid eats away at some iron pipes as well as it does organic solids, which is why these chemical drain cleaners are not safe.

Weak joints, fittings, or thin pipes might actually develop leaks from the acid pitting the metal. Sooner or later, the result will be a leak or worse. Flood damage is expensive.

If you have to use acids inside pipes, keep your eyes and nose alert for acid leaks, which would quickly destroy furniture, rugs, clothing, and almost anything else beneath the leak.

Here’s our video describing why exactly store-bought chemical drain cleaners are so dangerous. If you prefer to see it on your YouTube channel, go here.


Final Thoughts

To summarize, we strongly recommend that you don’t use chemical drain cleaners to unclog your drain. Use a drain sink plunger or a plumber’s snake (auger) instead. Or on the other hand, use a natural solution of baking soda and vinegar.

These alternative solutions for unclogging drains cost about the same as a chemical cleaner but can be used safely and repeatedly.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need help unclogging a drain properly.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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