A drain cleaner can be an acid OR a base. Commercially available liquid drain cleaners can range from extremely base to extremely acidic. For example, Drano has a pH of 11, on a scale of 0-14, making it very basic.
While many promise complete clog removal or prevention, they are rarely effective and can be dangerous to you and your plumbing. The problem lies in their chemical nature. Drain cleaner pH can be very high or very low, depending on which drain cleaner you’ve purchased.
Acidic Drain Cleaners
Old drain cleaners were frequently acidic. You can still find some of them on the market today. They have a low pH, usually from their active ingredient, sulfuric acid. This intense acid is powerful enough to dissolve many of the sources of drain clogs, including hair, plant matter, fats and fibers.
If the drain cleaner uses sulfuric acid, it will also pull water from absorbent materials in the clog, like tissue paper or foodstuff. The idea is that shrinking the material may allow the clog to come loose. However, few clogs have excess moisture to be drawn out. Usually, they are composed of solid fats, hair and plant matter. So, this method is rarely effective.
However, the acidity of sulfuric acid drain cleaner can cause serious irritation to your skin or lungs if you touch it or inhale the fumes. Drain cleaners of all types may be deadly if swallowed and may cause permanent injury to your skin, eyes and lungs.
This powerful acidity may also do damage to your pipes and their sealant. First, they have the potential to explode when they touch water, which can damage your pipes. They may also wear away at protective coatings and sealants, possibly creating a leak.
Basic Drain Cleaners
Most modern drain cleaner pH is high or basic (also known as alkaline). Drano is a basic drain cleaner.
Basic drain cleaners are among the most alkaline substances available. Some score a 14 on the 14 point pH scale. This is more basic than bleach, which should give you an idea of just how dangerous these drain cleaning solutions can be.
Just like bleach, a basic drain cleaner can irritate or permanently injure your skin and may cause dangerous fumes or explosions if combined with other household products. Drain cleaners are among the least safe substances you can buy for home use. They can cause death, especially if children get ahold of them.
Despite their strength, these drain cleaners are rarely effective. To truly work they need to be applied directly to the clog, where they can begin to eat away at the fats, food products or other materials in the clog.
Particularly for toilet clogs, it’s not possible for homeowners to directly apply the solution to the clog. Instead, drain cleaners loosen the material stuck to the side of the pipes before the clog, and that material flows down to make the clog worse.
Furthermore, when basic drain cleaners eat away at the clogs in plumbing pipes, they cause heat. This heat can damage PVC pipes and cause them to deform and weaken. Or, the heat can affect sealants. That’s why households that rely on liquid drain cleaners typically have more leaks and need more re-pipes.
Avoid Acidic & Basic Drain Cleaners
A plumber specializing in drain cleaning can give you several options that won’t harm you, your family, or your plumbing pipes. Techniques like hydro jetting and rooting can remove your blockages and erode buildups that could slow your pipes without completely clogging them.
If you’re looking for professional drain cleaning in Fremont or surrounding cities, please consider calling Smart Choice Plumbing. Our team is fully equipped to handle any kind of drain clog, and our dedication to customer service means it’s dead simple to get the help you need.