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How Drain Cleaners Work

Stubborn clogs in your plumbing can be a real annoyance, especially if they occur frequently. In many cases, you can address clogged drains on your own with products from your local store. In this guide dive in what drain cleaners are, the different types and when you would want to use a particular type.

What Is Drain Cleaner?

A drain cleaner is a solution comprised of different acids and bases that can be used to unclog different plumbing fixtures such as drains and sewer pipes. Drain cleaner can also be a mechanical device which is called a plumbing snake, drain auger or even plunger. Store bought drain cleaning chemicals are the most common type of drain cleaning solution.

What Types of Drain Cleaners are There? 

There are three main drain cleaning solutions which include chemical drain cleaner, acid drain cleaner and oxidizing drain cleaner. Each of these work in a different manner, but ultimately they break down clogs and leave your drain cleaner than they were before. The primary difference between these cleaners is what they are composed. Some may use heat in order break down a clog or they may cause organic matter to lose electrons. It all comes down to the drain cleaner chemicals used in the creation of these solutions. They can even come in powder or liquid form.

Chemical Drain Cleaners

The most common drain-cleaning product on the market is one you have likely used before—chemical drain cleaner. The drain cleaner chemicals in these products are typically composed of lye, caustic potash and bleach. Lye, also known as sodium hydroxide, works to physically remove stubborn build up by breaking up the chemical bonds that hold it together. Caustic potash quickens the decomposition of soft tissues and organic matter. This type of drain cleaner is typically sold as a liquid drain cleaner and due to it being heavier than water, is able to makes its way to clogs through other liquids.

Acid Drain Cleaners

Acid cleaners are more dangerous than store-bought chemical drain cleaners, and should only be used by professionals. The main component is sulfuric acid, which can cause severe chemical and thermal burns if it contacts bare skin. Sulfuric acid can also have a dangerous reaction when exposed to water and certain metals, causing hydrogen gas, which can cause severe damage to the throat, eyes, lungs, and skin. These kinds of cleaners can come as a drain cleaner powder or as a liquid drain cleaner.

Oxidizing Drain Cleaner

Oxidizing drain cleaners differ from chemical drain cleaners as are typically comprised of household bleach, nitrates and peroxides. The drain cleaner chemicals in this solution cause oxidization within the organic material in a clog. This breaks down the clog and allows it to be pushed through easier.

Use a Plumber's Snake as an Alternative to Drain Cleaners

If you are wary of chemicals, you can use a drain-cleaning tool called a plumber’s snake. This tool is a long piece of metal with coiled wire at the end. You use it by slipping the metal coil down the drain and then twisting it until the water begins to flow freely down the drain. The coiled wire works to break up the matter that is clogging your drain. It can be a great thing to use when you want to be environmentally conscious or are concerned about the use of toxic chemicals in your home.

Call The Drain Cleaning Professionals

If you are unsuccessful with chemical drain cleaners or drain snakes, you may have a more severe problem than you thought. This is especially true if you have more than one drain that’s working slowly. Call one of Roto-Rooter’s professional plumbers to assess the situation. They’ll be able to diagnose the problem, locate the clog, and leverage more advanced tools to rectify the problem.



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