It can be incredibly distressing to find yourself standing with water halfway up your ankles when you’re just trying to take a shower. If you’re brushing your teeth or washing your face in the sink, the last thing you want is dirty water hanging out and splashing into your eye.


If you’re like most people, the first thing you reach for when your drain becomes slow is an over-the-counter drain cleaner to get rid of the clog. These products aren’t just convenient and easy to use, they are also effective. But, pouring chemical drain cleaners down your drain might be causing more harm than you’re bargaining for.


How Do Drain Cleaners Work?


Chemical drain cleaners usually come in three different forms: liquid, gel, or powder. No matter which one you choose, they all work in a similar fashion. Since they rely on chemical reactions to remove the clog from your drain, they work by either taking away or giving the clog electrons. During this process, heat is generated. In general, there are three different types of drain cleaners, and these include the following:




These drain cleaners will contain substances such as lye or caustic potash. Since these are bases, they remove the clog by giving electrons to the elements that are stuck in your drain. For example, if soap has built up in your drain, then when the electron transfer occurs and heat is produced, it turns the soap into a substance that is easy to dissolve. These cleaners are often heavier than water, so they are used when you have standing water in your tub or sink, as the liquid still has the ability to reach the clog.




These drain cleaners contain substances such as bleach, peroxides and nitrates. When these chemicals reach an organic clog in your drain, including hair and skin cells, it causes them to lose electrons and become oxidized. Heat and gas are released from the clog to help push it down the drain.




These typically aren’t found in stores, and they contain high concentrations of hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid. When this remover comes in contact with the clog, the hydronium ions are increased and electrons are taken away from the clog. This drain cleaner works best for greasy clogs, and the heat resulting from the electron transform melts the grease and moves it through the plumbing.


Do Drain Cleaners Cause Damage to Pipes/Drains?


Since these drain cleaners create heat while removing a clog, they can cause damage to pipes. This is especially true if you have older metal plumbing or use this on a completely blocked drain. Drain cleaner can also impact plastic pipes, as the heat can melt these components and cause leaks to form.


Natural Alternatives to Drain Cleaners


If you notice that you have clogged plumbing, instead of going for these over-the-counter cleaners that can create more problems than they solve, you might consider using some alternative, natural methods. These include the following:




You more than likely already have a plunger in your bathroom, and this can be a helpful tool in moving the clog through your plumbing. To use this correctly, you’ll want to put a few inches of water in the tub or sink (if there isn’t already some in there) to get a good seal over the drain. You’ll then move the plunger up and down a few times. If this is successful, the clog will move along, and the water will drain freely.


Boiling Water


If the clog is greasy or soapy in nature, then you may be able to melt it with boiling water. After bringing the water to a rolling boil, carefully and slowly pour it down the drain so that it sits and melts everything away.


Baking Soda and Vinegar


For this method, you want to pour ½ cup of baking soda into your drain and follow it with ½ cup of vinegar. Then plug the drain and let this mixture sit for an hour. After that time has passed, unplug the drain and pour boiling water into it. Continue adding boiling water until the drain flows freely.


Wire Coat Hanger


Should you be dealing with a clog that consists mainly of hair, your best course of action will be to fish it out. Take a metal coat hanger and straighten it out so that the hook is still in place. You’ll then put this down your drain and pull out any hair or other items that might be clogging the drain.


What To Do To Avoid Clogs Appearing in the First Place


Dealing with clogs can be challenging, so finding ways to prevent them from occurring in the first place can alleviate a lot of stress and frustration. One simple way to accomplish this goal is to place a mesh screen over your drains. This will catch the vast majority of hair, food particles, and other debris before it goes down the drain, you can then dispose of these things in the trash.


No matter how hard you try, you’ll never stop your hair from falling out in the shower, or anywhere, for that matter. However, you can reduce how much hair gets into the plumbing by combing or brushing your hair before bathing. When it comes to bathing your pets, you may want to consider bathing them outside to keep their fur from clogging the drains. If it’s too cold, consider placing a washcloth over the drain to catch all but a few stray hairs while still allowing the water to soak through. 


To reduce the chances of clogs happening, it’s also important that you use the proper amount of toilet paper and let kids know which items can go down the drain and what can’t. You can also give your disposal a break every once in a while and just compost whatever items you can. Even if you aren’t a gardener, you might be able to donate these items to a community garden.


Dealing with a clogged drain can be incredibly frustrating and may have you reaching for the easiest and most convenient products you can find, however, drain cleaners can have a negative impact on your plumbing and cause more problems.

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