Do Chemical Drain Cleaners Damage Pipes?

If you use them as directed, chemical drain cleaners may help to clear a partially clogged drain. 

But because they’re so powerful, we suggest using them as a last resort

So, yes, chemical drain cleaners can cause damage to your pipes, especially when:

  • You have older, weak metal pipes
  • You use them incorrectly with plastic pipes
  • You use it on a completely blocked drain

You see, because they produce heat, chemical drain cleaners can warp or damage softer pipes like plastic and older metal piping.

Also, you should never use chemical drain cleaners in completely blocked drains. If the chemicals can’t clear a clog, they end up just sitting in pipes, eventually gnawing through them and causing more harm than good.

We’ll explain how chemical drain cleaners work, how they can cause damage and what you should do instead to clear a partially or completely clogged drain.

Have a drain that needs to be professionally cleaned? Just contact us at 731-668-7492 and we’ll send over a reliable plumber.

How do chemical drain cleaners really work?

Chemical drain cleaners work by producing heat that powers through clogs in the drain.

The 3 different types of chemical drain cleaners include:

  1. Caustic (lye and caustic potash drain cleaners)
  2. Oxidizing (bleach, peroxides, nitrate cleaners)
  3. Acid (sulfuric and muriatic acid cleaners)

All the above drain cleaners are designed to complete an electron-transfer process—meaning the chemicals in the drain cleaner either take away or give electrons to organic substances (aka the hair, grease, food, etc that’s clogging your drain). And from this electron transition, heat is produced. That heat then breaks down the clog until it can flush away.

One important downfall to how chemical drain cleaner works, however, is that when the chemicals breakdown “FOG” clogs (clogs caused by fats, oils or grease) the clog material just moves down the drain. And, over time, this creates a build up elsewhere in the drain line that can usually be cleared but requires professional services that are expensive if done properly.

2 other ways chemical drain cleaners can cause damage

1. They can cause harm to you.

Consumer reports label chemical drain cleaners as “among the most dangerous household products” because they’re so toxic to humans and pets. Just by breathing them in, you could experience stinging and irritated eyes and throat.

But even worse, chemical cleaners can burn through human skin, leaving behind damage such as open sores and rashes. 

2. They’re harmful to the environment.

After you’ve used chemical drain cleaners, they end up in lakes, rivers, and landfills and can poison animals and other wildlife.

Use chemical drain cleaners as a last resort—after these alternatives...

Consumer Reports suggests using chemicals only as a last resort.

Two safer drain clearing options to try first include:

  1. Mechanical options
  2. Biological options

Mechanical options include using a plunger or augers to clear the clog.

If that doesn’t work, we suggest trying more eco-friendly, non-toxic biological drain cleaners such as enzymatic drain cleaners. These cleaners use live enzymes or bacteria that basically eat the clog. Enzymatic drain cleaners typically take 24 hours to clear a blockage in your drain and are best used for organic clogs made from grease, hair, soap, etc.

Need professional drain clearing? Call a McCoy's Heating & Air!

If you’ve tried the above mechanic and biological options (and maybe even chemical drain cleaners) but you still have a clogged drain, we can help.

Just contact us at 731-668-7492 and we’ll send over a reliable plumber who can clear your drain fast.