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The Dangers of Using Do-It-Yourself Drain Cleaners


Clogged drains are an all-too-common problem in households and commercial buildings. While it may seem easy and cost-effective to pour some store-bought cleaner down the drain, this solution may cause worse issues in the future. Whenever there is a problem with your drain, it is best to call a Houston residential plumber for proper diagnosis and solutions.

Name-brand drain cleaners that you buy at the store contain light concentrations of caustic bases, such as sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite. Common names for these ingredients are lye and bleach, respectively. These cleaners work by disintegrating the materials that are clogging the pipes. Manufactured drain cleaners are generally safe for the plumbing but contain warnings regarding human contact.

Health Warnings

No matter which brand or type you buy, drain cleaners contain toxic chemicals that are harmful when they come into contact with your body. If the product gets on your skin or eyes, it can cause painful irritation. Breathing in the fumes can also irritate your throat and lungs. Long-term exposure causes sneezing and headaches. Remember that drain cleaner is designed to dissolve organic materials like hair and inorganic ones like soap scum, so imagine what it could do to your body. A bad spill could lead to chemical burns.

There are long-term effects that can occur with repeated use. Studies indicate that the ingredients can cause hormone disruption and birth defects. Exposure to the chemicals may disrupt the body’s natural hormone production, affecting androgens, testosterone, and estrogen. Men may suffer a decrease in sperm count, and pregnant women put their babies at risk for different birth defects.

Certain ingredients found in drain cleaners combine with nitrites to form carcinogens and neurotoxins. Repeated or long-term exposure to these chemicals may increase your risk of certain cancers. When handling drain cleaners, you should always use safety precautions. Safety goggles and protective gloves are always recommended. You may also consider a face mask to decrease the amount of fumes you breathe in. Manufacturers post material safety and data sheets (MSDS) on their websites to provide important safety information about their products. These documents indicate what to do in the event of injury. The best way to avoid problems is by relying on professional plumbers to handle clogs.

Plumbing Concerns

Drain cleaners may temporarily clear the clog, but they can also cause more plumbing issues down the line. Both lye and bleach are fine for the pipes, but they can erode rubber parts, such as gaskets in a garbage disposal. Some products leave residue throughout the piping. With enough buildup, this residue can lead to additional clogs in the future. Using manufactured drain cleaners are only a temporary fix.

Caustic bases can also weaken your plumbing over time, especially when considering the drain cables. This process takes longer in high-quality plumbing, but deterioration happens rapidly with cheap materials. Replacement of drain cables or other parts will most likely require the assistance of a professional. To avoid more costly expenses, you should always call a Houston toilet repair technician when dealing with clogs and other plumbing problems.

Alternatives and Prevention

Since drain cleaners come with so many problems, many Houston commercial plumbers are using safer alternatives. For example, restaurants rely on natural enzymes that destroy organic material and bacteria in their floor drains. These enzymes are nontoxic and do not adversely affect the plumbing itself. You can try to prevent clogs by implementing proper filtration devices like placing drain covers in showers. Regular cleaning and maintenance of your plumbing can also decrease your need for chemical drain cleaners. The best advice is to call a Houston plumber when there is a problem with your drains.

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