Drain cleaning is a service that removes the buildup of grime that stops sink and tub drains from properly draining. Clogged drains are a serious problem that can lead to extensive and expensive repairs if not addressed quickly.
Homeowners can try simple at-home mixtures of baking soda and vinegar that won’t damage pipes or use professional drain cleaning services. For professional help, contact Plumbing Express, Inc. now!
Chemical drain cleaners are a common go-to solution for stubborn clogs. They come in liquid, gel, or powder form and work by creating a chemical reaction with the clog to break it up. While these products are effective, they can also be dangerous. They often give off noxious fumes, which can irritate your nose, eyes, and throat. And if the product gets on your skin, it can cause chemical burns.
They can be harmful to pipes, too. The chemicals in these cleaners can corrode metal and plastic pipes. This can result in broken, leaky pipes down the line. And if you use caustic drain cleaners on a regular basis, it can damage your pipes to the point where they need to be replaced.
In addition, many chemical drain cleaners are harmful to the environment. They can seep into groundwater and contaminate it. And the bottles they come in often end up in landfills, where they can leach into the soil and water. These chemicals are also dangerous for aquatic life and can poison wildlife.
If you must use a chemical drain cleaner, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Wear gloves and protective eyewear, and make sure the area is well ventilated. And never mix different types of cleaners, as they may react to produce toxic gas or even an explosion.
Biological drain cleaners
Unlike chemical cleaners, biological drain cleaners do not contain any acid, lye, or solvents. Instead, they use living organisms to break down organic waste. These products are available in liquid and powder forms and can be used to clean sinks, tubs, showers, floor drains, toilets, septic systems, cesspools, and outhouses. They are safe for pipes and can be used on all pipe materials, including epoxy-lined ones. They also work well to remove hair, soap scum, and other organic debris that can clog pipes and sewer lines.
Using these cleaners requires proper application and timing. They must be mixed with warm water and applied when the pipe will not be used for six to eight hours. This is usually at bedtime or before leaving for work. This allows the bacteria to settle in the pipe and begin breaking down the gunk on contact. Once the drain is fully cleaned, it should be flushed with water to wash away any remaining bacteria.
Most commercially produced bio-drain cleaners are a mixture of additives, enzymes, and live bacteria that is stored in a protected container until it is mixed with water to activate the organisms and begin working on the clog. The enzymes in the product are fast-acting and can digest fats, oils, and grease (FOG) on contact. These liquid products are generally safe for all pipe materials and are effective for most clogs, except those caused by metals or plastics. They do not dissolve clogs as thoroughly as caustic chemical cleaners and may require multiple applications before the clog is fully eliminated.
Aside from the ability to break down FOG, these biological products can also be used to kill tree roots that are growing into and around drains. They are effective in homes, office buildings, restaurants, food processing plants, hotels, motels, and any other commercial kitchen. They are safer than many traditional chemical drain cleaners and are a great choice for septic systems and other sewage treatment systems. However, the quality of these products differs from the industrial-grade biological drain cleaners used by professional plumbers and can vary greatly in effectiveness.
Plastic Drain Cleaning Tools
Many household items can clog drains, and water backups or slow-moving sinks and tubs don’t always indicate that there’s an underlying problem. In many cases, a simple plastic drain snake available at most hardware stores can dislodge stuck hair and other debris. Before using a snake, remove any personal items from around the drain and carefully straighten out the snake’s long body so that its sharp plastic barbs don’t scratch your pipes.
Liquid drain cleaners, which you pour down a clogged pipe, typically use chemicals that attack a clog by chemically breaking it apart. Caustic chemical cleaners, for example, contain ingredients like sodium hydroxide (lye) and caustic potash that dissolve organic material, such as hair, soap scum, food scraps, and grease. These cleaners aren’t as safe for your pipes as biological drain cleaners, and they may cause damage if they come into contact with metal or plastic pipes, Abrams says.
For stubborn clogs, you can try mechanical drain cleaners such as the standard plumbing snake plumbers use. These tools have flexible metal coils that work similar to a corkscrew. When you activate the motor on a drain auger, it pushes the ends of the coils into the clog, creating a hole that water can flow through.
Another option is an air-burst drain cleaner, which uses pressurized air or carbon dioxide to break down or dislodge the clog. These devices have built-in compressors or carbon dioxide cartridges that create a burst of gas pressure when you turn them on. Some are portable, while others require you to snake the unit into the clogged pipe yourself.
Another chemical-free way to clean a drain is with an enzyme-based cleaner. These products break down organic materials, such as hair and soap scum, into smaller particles that bacteria can digest. They’re safe for your pipes, including plastic ones, and they’re usually less expensive than chemical drain cleaners. They can also be used preventively to keep your drains flowing freely. Available in single-use packets, enzyme cleaners are easy to use and can be paired with a plastic drain snake for double the unclogging power.
While some DIYers believe that pouring a pot of boiling water down the drain is a quick, green solution to a clogged sink or tub, this home remedy doesn’t always work. In fact, it can be damaging to pipes if the hot temperature of the water comes into contact with plastic (PVC) piping.
If you’re lucky enough to have metal plumbing, the hot water from a boil can break up and dissolve clogs like hair, food residue, grease, soap scum, or other sticky materials. To use boiling water for drain cleaning, fill a large pot with as much water as it can hold and bring it to a boil. Then, slowly pour the hot water down your drain in two to three stages, with a few seconds between each pour.
When you combine baking soda and vinegar with boiling water for drain cleaning, the chemical reaction creates carbon dioxide bubbles that break up the gunk stuck in your pipe and dislodge it from your pipes. The baking soda and vinegar will also clean your pipes, making sure they’re free of dirt, grime, and rust.
Vinegar and baking soda can be used on weaker drain clogs, but you’ll likely need something stronger, like Liquid-Plumr, for stubborn or long-term blockages. In addition, regular drain maintenance and avoiding putting foods in your drains that are high in fat (like bacon grease or cooking oil) can help prevent clogs.
When you need to quickly clear a clogged drain, you can try using a plunger. This method works best for clogged toilets, but it can also be used in kitchen sinks and bathtubs. To use a plunger, find one that fits into your drain opening and make sure it has a strong seal. Place it over the drain and make six even, up-and-down thrusts to create suction. If the clog is gone, the plunger should have removed it with ease. If not, try another few thrusts or switch to using a different plunger. A flange plunger can be a better option for a bathroom sink than a cup plunger because it has a bigger surface area to create suction.