Clogged drains are some of the most inconvenient things that can happen to disrupt our day. Clogs always seem to happen when we need our drains working at their absolute best, and that’s rarely ever the case. Instead, they happen when we least expect it, and they can do anything from ruin our kitchens to completely destroy our bathrooms.

One of the most common responses to clogs in the home is with liquid drain cleaners. These powerful chemical compounds work by eroding away the source of the clog, effectively disintegrating whatever’s in the pipe to help things start flowing normally. These cleaners are very simple to use, but they aren’t often the best choice for any homeowner. Here are just a few reasons why you should avoid using liquid drain cleaners, and some suggestions on better alternatives.

Mechanical Means are Still Better than Chemical

man holding plunger before cleaning a drain

While liquid drain cleaner is much easier, all you have to do is pour it down the drain and wait, they are still not as effective as mechanical means, like the plunger or drain snake. There’s a reason why plumbers still use plungers, and why they remain a staple of any well-run household: they simply work better than anything else we’ve come up with.

The technology is ancient, but forcing the blockage with some elbow grease actually cleans out blockages much more effectively than liquid chemical cleaners, and they do it faster and with less strain on your wallet. So instead of buying new jugs of liquid drain cleaner, invest in a decent plunger. Or, if the blockage is quite severe, call in an expert with a drain snake to clean out things in just a few seconds. The mechanical remains the better option.

That being said, liquid drain cleaners do have their uses if you are looking for an easy unclogging solution. These chemicals are very effective on smaller clogs, the tiny ones that are making things run slower than you want. But if the blockage is complete or nearly complete, these chemicals can actually be quite harmful and ineffective.

Chemical Cleaners are Dangerous, for Your Plumbing and Your Family

man wearing hazmat suit about to use a toxic liquid drain cleaning product

Some of the harshest chemicals you keep in your home are liquid drain cleaners. The reasoning is both simple and complicated. On the one hand, chemical drain cleaners can’t rely on elbow grease, so they have to rely on chemically breaking down almost anything in your drain without so much as a scrub from a washcloth.

Compare that to dishwashing detergent that you use in on your dishes, where you may leave dishes to soak for awhile, but you know you’ll have to clean them with a scrub brush at some point. Liquid drain cleaner is the equivalent of a dish detergent that would clean your dishes through the simple act of leaving them in the solution. Of course, such a powerful chemical formula would make those dishes completely unusable, making them more brittle and fragile and because eating off them would be extremely dangerous.

The same goes for liquid drain cleaner, which can wear away at pipes and seriously harm anyone who gets their hands on it. The risk of children ingesting liquid drain cleaner is very real, especially when they are too young to know better, which is why many parents choose to never have these chemicals in their house at all, or keep them safely locked away and out of the hands of children.

As for your pipes, the chemicals in liquid drain cleaner can erode at your pipes, especially if it’s used on any sort of regular basis. That erosion can impact the lifespan of your plumbing system and lead to expensive problems and replacements down the line. Conversely, mechanical means are much easier on the pipes themselves, since you would have to be particularly strong if you were going to separate pipes at their connections with force from a plunger.

If You Want to Use Liquid Cleaners, Go Green

green gobbler, an eco-friendly drain cleaning option

There is an alternative to the harsh chemicals found in liquid drain cleaners, one that works almost as well but has fewer problems than the usual products you find at the store, and that is green cleaners. Enzyme based biological liquid drain cleaners actually break down organic clogs with similar chemicals our own bodies use for digestion, but they do so at a much slower rate. These enzyme-based cleaners are gaining popularity and they’re better on the environment, but they are also quite slow-going. Even a minor clogging issues could take up to twenty-four hours with these cleaners, which makes them almost not worth the effort overall.

An important note regarding these biological drain cleaners: they are still extremely dangerous for people. Always keep them safely stored away from children and animals, since the chemicals can still cause extreme harm if ingested or left on the skin.

Clogged drains are disruptive to our daily lives, not only getting in the way of everything from our morning routines to making dinner, but in the time and money that it can take to get these clogs properly eliminated. Unfortunately, while liquid drain cleaners are a very easy solution to some clogs, they aren’t the best, or cheapest option available.

Instead of using these cleaning products, you should instead use mechanical solutions, including the humble plunger, which can safely, effectively, and quickly eliminate most clogs. Of course, if the clog is more severe, it may be better to simply call in the professionals.

Professional plumbers offer a wide range of services and consultation options to help your plumbing work at its absolute best. By calling in a professional, you can get an expert opinion on why your pipes are clogging up, and together you can figure out a more longterm solution to your problem.

Andrew Olexiuk - Your Toronto Plumbing Expert
Andrew Olexiuk - Your Toronto Plumbing Expert
Andrew has over 20 years of experience as a plumbing contractor. He is co-owner and operator of Absolute Draining & Plumbing, a professional plumbing company serving residential & commercial properties across the Toronto, Ontario region.
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