If your drains ever stop draining, you’re probably no stranger to chemical drain cleaner. People from all over love the idea of fixing what is usually a bigger issue by just dumping something down their drain. However, if you’ve spent any time at all looking for drain solutions online, you’ve probably also seen that you shouldn’t use the stuff. The question everyone’s asking now is, “Why?”
The Solution Is Rarely Solved
If your drain usually drains perfectly, a sudden issue is probably an easy fix. This can happen to anyone. A sudden and unexpected problem with draining is usually caused by:
- A rodent getting stuck in the drain (yes, it happens)
- The results of a neighborhood or local clog in the sewage main
- An influx of hair in the drain (like when you shower after a haircut or shave your legs after a few months of ignoring them)
These kinds of things can make chemical drain cleaner seem like a life saver. Even though a plumber can fix the problem just as easily, the quickly available, DIY response of drain cleaner helps pad its reputation.
The problem is, many people then expect chemical drain cleaner to have the same quick results on a bigger plumbing issue. If you find yourself having to buy chemical drain cleaner more than once every few years on average, you aren’t experiencing a drain cleaner sized problem. You’re experiencing something that needs a plumber’s expertise. That brings us to our next point.
Short Term Solutions Are Expensive…
If the problem thats actually plaguing your plumbing system is one that requires drain cleaner every month or two, the chemical drain cleaner is kind of like putting a bandaid on a major skin infection. It’s not going to hide the problem very well and is certainly not going to make it go away.
The tiny improvement in drainage following use of the drain cleaner is a short term solution. For people with consistent draining issues, the problem isn’t usually hair in the drain. It’s more likely something like:
- Your pipes are not wide enough to handle a modern water flow and are likely not up to modern plumbing code.
- You have hard or metallic water that needs softening or a filter. Iron or mineral buildup along the insides of your pipes can narrow them to an inadequate diameter for your water flow. This buildup has usually been accumulating for so long, by the time it affects your drainage, that none of it is loose enough for a bit of drain cleaner to remove to a notable degree.
- There is a collapsed pipe somewhere, likely underground, where rubble is blocking drainage.
- There are plant roots that have grown into underground pipes and are blocking drainage.
Using chemical drain cleaner to solve these problems will usually solve a different problem. For example, there might be some hair in the drain that is contributing minimally. So, it may seem like the cleaner is doing something to fix the issue, but you’re actually just experiencing a slight uptick in performance due to a separate issue disappearing for a while.
Because drain cleaner isn’t actually solving your problem, frequently spending money on it is a huge waste. The cost of drain cleaner will quickly surpass the cost of hiring a plumber.
… And Cause Long Term Damage
Not only does chemical drain cleaner rarely solve the larger issue, it can actually make things much worse. The chemicals in drain cleaner are extremely potent. That’s why it can dissolve things like hair and grime. It breaks it down in just a half hour, before you rinse it away. But, have you considered what else those aggressive chemicals might be doing while you wait for them to break down drain clogs?
Chemical drain cleaner is so aggressive in its attempts to remove everything it touches, that it can actually damage plumbing. Hard to believe? You may think your plumbing is immune to damage, but pipes are just as susceptible to damage as some organic compounds. If chemical drain cleaner can remove rust, which is oxidized iron, what is it doing to iron or steel pipes?
The answer is, it destroys small layers of the insides of your pipes. One use might not mean long term damage for your plumbing, but repeated use almost certainly will. Drain pipes aren’t extremely thick to begin with. They’re not made for more than water, soap, and your dead skin cells. Therefore, repeatedly dumping cleaner down them that has the power to dissolve metal will weaken them exponentially. This will eventually lead to burst or cracked pipes.