Know the Risks of Homemade & Chemical Drain Cleaners
The Real Science behind Eco-Friendly DIY Homemade Drain Cleaners
The baking soda and vinegar combination is commonly used as an alternative to commercial chemical drain cleaning products by people searching for easy ways to unclog their drains. The method appeals to people who want to stay eco-friendly, know the health risks of commercial drain cleaners or need a quick fix.
Perhaps the dramatic fizz makes us feel like this method actually works. After all, baking soda and vinegar are useful for many household chores. Despite all good intentions, the truth is that the baking soda and vinegar combo is ineffective against clogged drains.
Vinegar is an acid (below 7pH). Baking soda is a base (above 7pH). When an acid and a base of similar strength mix, the resulting substance is neutral and has no corrosive properties.
Because the combination is neutral, it can't melt away grease or build up enough pressure to remove a clog. Most positive results associated with this technique come from pouring boiling hot water down the drain.
Vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, another possible combination of household items, can spell disaster when mixed in the same container. Together vinegar and hydrogen peroxide produce peracetic acid, which can irritate and damage your eyes, lungs and skin.
Lye: The Exposed Truth
Lye is used as the main ingredient in some chemical drain cleaners sold in hardware stores or other home supply stores. It requires no permit or ID for purchase. Yet it's more dangerous than most things in your home.
The Dangers of Lye Drain Cleaners
Combustibility: Lye is usually a non-combustive material when dry. It's normally only combustible when it comes in contact with moisture, and to harness the corrosive power of lye, you must add moisture. This produces a chemical reaction.
Heat radiation: All chemical reactions produce heat according to the laws of thermodynamics. The heat produced by lye coming into contact with water and all the organic materials in your pipes is great. Sometimes, the heat is enough to melt plastic pipes in your plumbing.
Explosive: The heat produced by combustible substances needs a place to go. Clogged drains leave the materials only one option - UP. The substance will be forced back up the pipe through which it entered (not unlike a vinegar and baking soda science fair volcano resulting in an ER visit and permanent vision loss).
Eats through organic materials (including skin): Lye is an extremely caustic alkaline material (base), sitting around a pH of 13 out of 14. It burns through your skin at an astonishing rate, and even faster through soft eye tissue if you're unlucky enough to make contact with it. CAUTION: Contact is liable to be made in the event of a drain eruption.
If you still go ahead and decide to use lye to clean out your drain pipes, make sure the area is well-ventilated. Even just the fumes from lye's gas is able to burn the insides of your nostrils and leave your sense of smell permanently damaged.
Don't take your chances with lye chemical drain cleaners.
Commercial chemical cleaners are supposed to work, right?
Not quite. If you’ve tried before, then you know what the DIY drain cleaning aisle looks like at Walmart: endless and confusing. Common brands like Drano and Liquid Plumr come in so many different formulas that it’s often too hard to determine which one will work for you.
Unless you have the miniature camera to look inside your plumbing, like the professionals at Roto-Rooter Milwaukee do, then you won’t know for sure what’s clogging your drains, and the effective way to resolve it. One product may work on hair, but not on grease build up or vegetable peels, and if you don't know what's draining it you could be wasting your time with the wrong cleaning product.
If one product fails (which, it usually does) DO NOT USE TWO CHEMICAL CLEANING PRODUCTS. Two cleaning products combined can have a negative reaction in the tight space of your drain, resulting in shattered pipes or hazardous material on you. Liquid drain cleaners are all dangerous if improperly used.
Milwaukee Roto-Rooter has the tools to combat any drain clog situation—emergency or regular maintenance. Our professionals locate and identify the clog, use the proper equipment to safely get rid of it—like our powerful water jetting system—and ensure long-lasting results.
The only non-professional strategy we suggest is this:
- Close all the drains in your home, this includes sinks and bathtubs.
- Fill them all with as much water as they can hold
- Once they’re all full, open all the drains simultaneously (or as close to simultaneously as one person is able).
- The water entering your pipes acts as a powerful force that can push out small build ups.
This does not fix seriously clogged drains—though performed every month, it can help stop blockages from forming. Roto-Rooter offers a line of preventative drain cleaning products that are safe, effective and eco-friendly. For a true solution and lasting results contact the professional plumbing team at Roto-Rooter Milwaukee.