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Anyone who uses chemicals on clogs, from toilet to sink to shower, should know the effects the chemicals have on pipes and the environment, as well as the danger to humans.

What exactly is in that jug?
There are two types of drain cleaners: chemical and enzymatic. Most of us use chemical drain cleaners. Chemical drain cleaners use sodium hydroxide (caustic soda or lye) or sulfuric acid.  They are extremely corrosive to organic materials and many metals. A chemical cleaner will clear a clog quickly.  It will also burn through your clothes and skin.
Enzymatic drain cleaner is not as quick as a chemicals, but is biodegradable, environmentally friendly, and chemical-free.

What happens when I use chemicals?
Chemical drain cleaners damage PVC, galvanized steel, copper, and iron pipes, as well as fixtures.  They should never be used on a completely clogged drain; the caustic materials can eat pipes while they sit clearing the organic materials.

What happens when I use enzymes?
Enzymatic cleaners use a natural enzyme mixture to establish a colony that lives in the pipes and eats organic materials.  It’s all very natural and Earth-friendly.  Unlike instant-gratification chemicals, it takes a while—at least one overnight application. Additional applications are required, since parts of the colony go down the drain every time it’s used. Any type of bleach or antibacterial cleaner also damages the colony.

Do chemical drain cleaners harm the environment?
Unused chemical drain cleaners should be treated as hazardous waste.  The packaging cannot be recycled due to being contaminated with caustic chemicals. Any cleaner poured down the drain can make its way into lakes, rivers, and wildlife.

Can chemical drain cleaners harm ME?
Absolutely.  Remember, this stuff will instantly start eating away at anything it touches. Chemical gloves and goggles are recommended. Never mix with different drain cleaners or household chemicals—toxic gas and caustic explosions can be produced. Keep chemical cleaners away from children.

What can I do?

Avoid clogs in the first place.

January 18, 2012