The Truth About Drain Cleaners: 5 Reasons to Avoid Them

A homeowner may think that fixing a blocked drain using chemical cleaners is the best step to take. But did you know that you would probably be doing more harm than good by doing so?

There are three kinds of chemical drain cleaners:

  • Caustic cleaners are often made with caustic potash and lye which transform grease into a soapy substance, making it easier to flush out.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaners like bleach, nitrates, and peroxides are heavier than water, which means they can work even in areas with standing water.
  • Acid cleaners, on the other hand, are only sold to licensed plumbers. This is because some of them have a high sulfuric acid content that allows them to melt congealed grease, hair, and even tissue paper for easy removal.

Each of these products has different ingredients, but they all have one thing in common: They all generate heat to clear the blockage. Having a better understanding of the adverse effects of drain cleaners can help you care for your plumbing and sewage system better.

Here are five good reasons why drain cleaners should not be used to fix blocked sewage systems:

1.   Drain cleaners pose dangers to your health.

Chemical drain cleaners are highly toxic. These products produce fumes that, when inhaled, can cause potential health risks. They can irritate your respiratory system as well as your eyes, throat, and skin.

The worst part is that these fumes tend to linger for a very long time. In fact, even if the cleaner has already been flushed down the drain, its residue may still cause harm to people by contaminating the water supply and the soil.

2.   They damage pipes, sinks and other plumbing fixtures.

As mentioned earlier, drain cleaning agents produce heat to help get rid of the blockage more easily. This heat from caustic, oxidizing, and acid drain cleaners can wear down the pipes, leaving them misshapen and warped. When this happens, you’ll have your hands full with leaking pipes (and your pockets will be emptied, too).

Aside from that, the long-term effects of the repeated use of these cleaners also include damage to the sink and other plumbing fixtures. That’s because the enamel used to coat bathtubs and sinks may crumble from constant exposure to the chemical.

3.   They can harm your septic system.

Drain cleaners are used as a quick fix, but they don’t provide a long-term solution. In fact, they may even harm your septic system, if used frequently.

Septic tanks house natural bacteria that help break down wastewater. When you use chemical cleaners to clear your drain, you inadvertently kill these bacteria and leave your septic system less efficient in performing its job.

4.   They have adverse effects on the environment.

Aside from the harm these can do to you and your home, drain cleaners also have a large-scale effect on the environment. The chemical residue on discarded containers and bottles leave unpleasant consequences for Mother Earth, including animal poisoning and land and water pollution.

When these items are tossed out with the trash, they eventually end up in landfills. Over time, the toxic substances they contained seep through the soil and find their way to the ocean, killing fish and other sea creatures.

5.   They are not as effective as advertised.

Aside from having numerous negative effects, drain cleaners are not as effective as many people thought they are. In fact, these products don’t deserve to be called “blockage pushers” – as some ads refer to them – since they don’t really “push” the blockage. Instead, these chemicals eat away congealed grease and other particles that block the drain.

Let the Professionals Do the Work

Some people believe that using chemical drain cleaners can help them save money, but the truth is that it can lead to more costs. Seasoned professional plumbers can deal with the problem from the very roots, and not just the symptoms. Ultimately, this will help you make the most out of the money you pay, which also applies to all other plumbing problems you may encounter in the future.


Based in South Melbourne, Blue Diamond Plumbing was founded in 1985, working on new homes, repairs and commercial contracts. Over time they have grown to become some of the best plumbers Melbourne has to offer. Since 2001 the company has specialised in Emergency Plumbing and Property Maintenance, Repairs and Renovations for homes and businesses in Melbourne and inner city suburbs. Owner Rod Diamond has over 30 years experience with emergency plumbing in Melbourne’s inner suburbs.

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