Drain Cleaning is a chemical product or mechanical utensil that unblocks clogged drains. These products are available through hardware stores, and some are marketed to professional plumbers.
Many common household products are effective drain cleaners. For example, a mixture of baking soda and hot water can dissolve gunky deposits that cause a clog. Likewise, a bent wire coat hanger can help clear a drain blocked by hair.
Sodium hydroxide (known as caustic soda) has been used for millennia to clean drains and toilets. When mixed with water it forms a chemical that can eat through organic debris such as soap scum, hair, grease and other food particles that build up in your sink or tub drain.
Caustic drain cleaner can be found in liquid, gel and granular form and is often sold at hardware stores and big box retailers. It can also be made at home by mixing water and caustic soda.
Large bleach manufacturers realized that the sodium hypochloride they produced for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces could also be used to make a caustic drain cleaner that ate through the fats, oils and proteins that clog your pipes. The caustic drain cleaner is dispensed from tanks onto empty containers that are then sealed and capped. There is very little waste during this process as the chemicals are automatically fed from one tank into another.
Chemical Drain Cleaners
Traditional chemical drain cleaners use substances such as lye or caustic potash to create the reaction that clears the clog. They also contain alkaline, or basic, chemicals that release heat and turn grease into a soap-like substance that’s more easily dissolved. Some of these products require a user to mix the product with water and others are pre-mixed. All chemical drain cleaners emit harsh fumes that can damage the lungs and should be used with caution.
Manufacturers of these products carefully monitor and test the solutions to ensure they’re safe for consumers to use. Sodium hydroxide, the main ingredient in many chemical drain cleaners, is dangerous to touch and can burn skin. Huge tanks of sulphuric acid, which is used to produce some chemical drain cleaners, are often kept in metal containers that don’t react with the acid.
Kitchen staples like baking soda, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can substitute for chemical drain cleaners. These natural clog removers don’t generate any harmful fumes and work great for hair and grease clogs.
Biological Drain Cleaners
Biological drain cleaners are made up of natural bacteria and enzymes that break down organic material like hair, grease and food waste. They can be used in drains, urinal basins and even septic systems.
Unlike chemical drain cleaners, biological drain cleaners don’t release harmful fumes and are safe for people and pets. They are also biodegradable and environmentally friendly.
This product contains high concentrations of long lasting micro-organisms that degrade fats and oils and assist in keeping drain lines free flowing and odour free. It also inhibits the normal biological production of odour causing gasses by the naturally occurring bacterial populations in grease traps and drain lines.
To use this product, mix a few spoons of the powder with lukewarm water and pour down the drain. It is best applied when the drain won’t be used for a few hours (at bedtime for example). Repeat this process every month to keep your drains and septic system healthy and clog-free.
Natural Drain Cleaners
The pipes in a house carry everything from hair, food scraps, and grease to cleaning products, and sometimes these can all combine into a stinky drain clog. Avoid commercial cleaners that are made with chemicals that can eat away at the pipes and instead try these eco-friendly homemade drain cleaner recipes.
Baking soda and vinegar can create a fizzy, bubbly chemical reaction that lifts grime from the pipes. Mix half a cup of baking soda with half a cup of white vinegar and pour down the drain, sealing it with a plug or rag to prevent the mixture from escaping the pipe. After about half an hour, flush with boiling water.
Another option is to use an all-natural biological drain cleaner like Harris Drain Clean, which uses natural enzymes to break down clogs and clean the pipes without harming the environment or killing fish. The company recommends using it once a month to keep the drains in your home clean and free of grease, hair, and other debris that can cause clogs.