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The Downsides of Drain Cleaner

Your morning shower helps wake you up and get ready for the day, but that daily hygiene habit becomes annoying and dangerous when you do it in standing water. If the shower's drain is clogged, the water backs up and covers your feet. In those conditions, you could easily slip or fall. And even if you don't, it's unpleasant to have dirty water sloshing around your feet.

Bathroom drains in sinks, tubs, and showers are notorious sites of clogged pipes. Many people turn to grocery store drain clearing products as a quick and easy solution. But, store-bought drain cleaners have several downsides you should consider before you use them.

1. Drain cleaners can be expensive.

Per bottle, store-bought drain cleaners cost about $5 to $10 each. That doesn't sound like a hefty price unless you consider that the one-time cost may present the whole picture.

For instance, you'll probably have to purchase several bottles of drain cleaner over the course of a year. Many drains clog repeatedly, meaning your annual costs could be much higher than the price of one bottle.

You might also end up spending more if you buy the wrong type of drain cleaner. In the worst cases, store-bought drain cleaners can damage pipes, forcing you to shell out more money to fix a bigger problem.

2. Drain cleaners have harmful chemicals.

Cost may not be the biggest deterrent against at-home drain cleaning products, but their chemical composition should certainly give you pause. The strong chemicals in these products can dissolve more than whatever is plugging your pipes. They can also disintegrate fabrics and burn skin.

Plus, most chemicals in drain cleaners are anything but eco-friendly. If a chemical is strong enough to burn through something strong enough to block your sink drain, imagine its awful powers in the water supply and the environment of living creatures. (Below we'll share a green alternative to these powerful chemicals.)

3. Drain cleaners cannot fix every clog.

TV ads for drain cleaners make it look like these products fix every type of clog. But if you skim the product label in the grocery store aisle, it becomes clear that each product has more specific uses. Some are best for standing water. Others are better suited for slowly draining pipes. You may have a hard time diagnosing the problem with your drain and finding the right chemical drain cleaner to match. Even if you choose the correct formula, the clog might be too severe for the drain cleaner to handle effectively.

If your home has a septic system, it may be incompatible with drain cleaners of any kind. The product's chemicals might clear your pipes without causing damage but wreak havoc deeper into your septic system. That's why septic system users should steer clear of drain cleaners.

4. Drain cleaners only create a temporary fix.

As we mentioned above, buying one bottle of drain cleaner doesn't guarantee you a long-term fix for the clogged drain. Sometimes drain cleaners are strong enough to clear out enough of the obstruction for water to drain normally for a few weeks. But unless they clear away everything, the problem will likely return soon. You're better off taking preventative measures and calling a plumber for help clearing out persistent clogs.

5. Drain cleaners can be hard to use correctly.

Store-bought drain cleaners list quite a few directions for their proper use. You have to do more than just open the bottle and pour it down the drain. Users need to take safety precautions, too. That includes:

  • Wearing rubber gloves to protect skin from touching the chemicals

  • Keeping pets and children away from drains being declogged

  • Ensuring the room stays well-ventilated to avoid noxious fumes or explosions

Those precautions sound simple enough, but they hint at the dangerous nature of these chemicals. You can avoid these problems altogether by using alternatives to store-bought drain cleaners.

Safe Alternatives to Store-Bought Drain Cleaners

Is the hassle and danger of drain cleaners steering you towards alternative solutions? Here are three you can trust:

1. Make a natural drain cleaner at home.

Rather than turning to harmful chemicals, you can use simple, safe household products to clear small pipe clogs. Try this recipe for an inexpensive monthly drain pick-me-up:

  • Scoop half a cup (125 mL) baking soda down the clogged drain.

  • Pour 1 cup (250 mL) white vinegar down the drain.

  • Let the baking soda and vinegar bubble for 5 to 10 minutes.

  • Pour 4 cups (1 L) boiling water down the drain to clear out remaining soda, vinegar and debris.

2. Swap your current drain covers or use drain baskets.

Another solution involves keeping out whatever clogs your pipes in the first place. You can find a bathroom drain cover or a kitchen drain basket at a home improvement store for less than $5.

If you can't find a style that's compatible with your drain, ask your plumber about swapping your drains. Look for drains designed to keep out hair, food and other common clog sources.

3. Call in a professional plumber.

Finally, your best bet may be to call in a professional plumber from EZ Plumbing. Our plumbers can evaluate not just the poorly draining sink but also the pipes beneath it. Our plumbers can then determine why your drain isn't doing its job and recommend a long-term solution to save you money and frustration.


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