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Why You Should Avoid Storebought Drain Cleaners – And What To Use Instead

What do you do when one of your drains starts draining slowly or clogs completely? Do you run to the store for a bottle of drain cleaner? If this is your go-to solution, you're not alone – but you're also not making the best decision for your plumbing or for your health. Here's a look at why storebought drain cleaners are such a bad choice, as well as some tips for clearing your drain in a safer manner.

The Risks of Chemical Drain Cleaners

Chemical drain cleaners are made to "eat through" things. They dissolve clogging material so water can flow freely through your drain. The problem is that in addition to dissolving clogging material, they also slowly dissolve the material that comprises your pipes. While you won't typically have an issue after one use, years of dumping storebought drain cleaners down your drains may lead to leaky pipes that require premature replacement. And replacing pipes is not cheap, so it's worth your while to avoid this damage.

The other problem with chemical drain cleaners is that they are incredibly hazardous to your health. If you accidentally get the chemical on your skin, it can burn you, and if it gets into your eyes, you may be permanently blinded. Even the fumes from the cleaner are not safe to inhale. Since you can't prevent accidents 100% when caustic chemicals are around, it's best to avoid bringing them into your home in the first place.

Alternatives To Chemical Drain Cleaners

The majority of clogs can be removed with plunging if you actually spend the time to plunge properly. Make sure there's enough water in the sink or tub to cover the plunger head, and use a few strong thrusts instead of multiple, quick plunges. If the plunger does not free the clog, try pouring a cup of baking soda and a cup of vinegar down the drain. The foaming action should help loosen the clogging material. Let the mixture sit in the drain for about an hour, and then rinse it down with hot (but not quite boiling) water.

If the plunging and baking soda-vinegar mixture don't free up your drain, your best bet is to call a plumber. They can loosen the clog in a way that won't harm you, your family, or your pipes. It's better to have to call the plumber now for a clog than in a few years for a pipe that has burst due to corrosion from chemical drain cleaners.