Take These Precautions If Using Chemical Drain Cleaners

Posted on: 29 December 2014

Many plumbers recommend against using chemical drain cleaners, since the chemicals they contain may eat away not only at the gunk that's clogging your drain, but at your pipes as well. However, there are times when you're in a pinch and need a quick fix for a clogged drain, and pouring in a chemical drain cleaner can do the trick. Follow these tips to protect your pipes and your health when using chemical drain cleaner.

Call a professional if the drain cleaner does not work the first time.

Chemical drain cleaners are an okay solution to use on occasion, but dumping gallon after gallon of drain cleaner down your pipes is likely to do more harm than good by eroding your pipes and potentially leading to costly leaks down the road. Use the drain cleaner once, according to the instructions on the package. If the clog won't budge, contact a plumber who offers drain cleaning services rather than risking damage to your plumbing.

Use the right type of drain cleaner for the clog.

There are two main types of drain cleaners available in stores. Oxidizing cleaners contain active ingredients such as bleach or nitrates. This variety tends to be more effective at breaking down clogs in kitchen sinks, which are commonly caused by food particles and organic material. Caustic drain cleaners work by releasing heat that helps break down tough clogs caused by hair, paper and other tougher material. They're good for use in bathrooms, and for kitchen clogs that you think may be caused by grease. Using the right kind of cleaner will ensure your efforts are not wasted.

Keep chemical drain cleaners out of reach of children.

This should go without saying, but it never hurts to be extra cautious. Keep the chemical cleaner in a tall cabinet, or better yet, don't keep drain cleaner in your home -- purchase it at the store as needed, and dispose of the bottle outside in your trash can as soon as you're done using it.

Wear gloves and goggles when using the drain cleaner.

One of the reasons many plumbers recommend against chemical cleaners is because they are so unsafe. Even if you're careful not to touch the cleaner, it could splash up into your face as you're pouring it, or accidentally drip down the bottle and onto your hand, causing chemical burns. Protect yourself by wearing goggles and gloves when using drain cleaner. If it comes into contact with your skin, immediately begin rinsing the area. Call 911 if you accidentally ingest drain cleaner or get it in your eyes.

Avoid turning the water on quickly, as this may splash the drain cleaner out of the sink.

Most drain cleaners instruct you to pour them into the sink, wait a specified period of time, and then rinse them down the drain by running the water. Make sure you turn the water on slowly so that drain cleaner does not splash out of the sink and onto your clothing or the floor.

Don't use chemical drain cleaner if the sink is completely blocked.

In order to work effectively, drain cleaner needs to be able to actually enter your pipes. If water won't flow down your drain at all, the drain cleaner is unlikely to be very helpful in fixing your problem. You have a pretty big clog on your hands if your drain is completely blocked, and you're likely better off calling a professional than trying to handle the problem yourself.

Chemical drain cleaners do cause damage to pipes when used regularly, so you should be careful to use them only when absolutely necessary. Always try unclogging a drain with a plunger before resorting to chemical methods, and don't hesitate to call a plumber if you can't remove a stubborn clog yourself. It's better to pay for professional drain cleaning services now than to pay for costly plumbing repairs down the road after you've damaged your pipes by using too much drain cleaner.

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