How they work
First, let’s see how those drain cleaners that you buy from the store work. They use strong chemicals that move electrons to generate heat. The process breaks down the grease and helps it dissolve. The cleaner is heavier than water so it can reach the clog through standing water.
When to use them
The most common clogs are caused by scum and grease that build up over time. Drain cleaners will dislodge soft obstructions such as these if they are located near the opening of the pipe. The way to tell is if the water backs up quickly each time the drain is used (1).
Drain cleaners don’t work for more solid obstructions. For example, a clog that forms in the trap (the bottom of the pipe where it starts curving upward) is most likely caused by a foreign object such as a toy. You’ll have to remove the object.
If there’s a big clump of hair in your drain, the drain cleaner may also have a hard time working through that. Try getting some tweezers and pulling out as much hair as you can. Foods like rice and noodles can clog in the kitchen sink because they expand. Don’t put them down the disposal.
Clogs that form deeper down in the pipes away from the opening will probably require a plumber’s help. Drain cleaners won’t reach far enough to remove the obstruction. Our service uses Hydro Jetting; powerful jets of water that clear blockages without harming your pipes.
Drain cleaners are one of the most hazardous household products, so precautions are to be taken when using them (2). Always follow the directions on the container and never mix them with other cleaners or chemicals. They can release noxious fumes, burn skin, and eat through clothing. Use them in a well-ventilated area, wear rubber gloves, and keep children away.
The harsh chemicals found in drain cleaners can also erode your pipes if used enough. They harm septic systems by killing useful bacteria and are dangerous to the environment. It might be worth trying these alternatives first.
Before pouring cleaner down the drain remove everything you can reach from inside the pipe. If the clog is in the bathroom, hair is probably the culprit. Use tweezers to pull out any hair near the opening. Then pour boiling hot water down the drain. Mixing liquid dish soap with the hot water can help coat the pipe and clear the obstruction. If that doesn’t work try a plunger.
You can also try a home remedy such as baking soda and vinegar. Pour half a cup of each down the drain, let it sit for 15 minutes, then pour in hot water.
Whether or not to use a drain cleaner depends on what’s blocking your pipes, but by following these tips you can say goodbye to a flooded sink.