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Is Drain Cleaner Bad for Pipes?

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Clogged drains can be a significant inconvenience for homeowners, often leading to water backing up, slow drainage, and, in severe cases, flooding. These issues can cause substantial damage to your property, including water damage to walls, floors, and fixtures, as well as potential health hazards from standing water that can breed bacteria and attract pests.

In the face of such problems, many homeowners understandably seek quick solutions, often reaching for the nearest bottle of chemical drain cleaner they bought from the store. These products promise easy and instant results, making them an attractive option when dealing with a stubborn blockage.

However, while these chemical cleaners may provide a temporary fix, they can often cause more harm than good in the long run. When it comes to maintaining a clean and efficient plumbing system, many homeowners wonder, “Is drain cleaner bad for pipes?” In short, the answer to this question is “yes.” In some cases, drain cleaner can damage pipes, resulting in the need for repair. Let’s discuss why these products can be harmful to your plumbing system in more detail below.

The Impact of Drain Cleaners on Pipes

Drain cleaners are common household items designed to remove clogs and keep your drains flowing freely. However, the question remains: “Can drain cleaner damage pipes?”

As we previously mentioned, unfortunately, the answer is often yes; drain cleaner can damage pipes. These products can be highly acidic and capable of eating through copper, iron, and steel, causing significant damage to your pipes. Even more concerning, they can potentially ruin your foundation.

Why Are Drain Cleaners Harmful? 

The three primary types of chemical drain cleaners are caustic, oxidizing, and acid. Caustic drain cleaners typically contain substances like lye (sodium hydroxide) or potash (potassium hydroxide). These chemicals are alkaline, meaning they have a high pH. They work by generating heat, which breaks down the grease, hair, food, or other organic matter clogging the drain.

Oxidizing drain cleaners, on the other hand, contain chemicals like bleach, peroxides, and nitrates. These chemicals cause the organic material in the clog to lose electrons and react with the cleaner, effectively breaking down the clog.

Acidic drain cleaners are often considered the harshest type. They usually contain sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. These acids have a very low pH and are highly reactive, allowing them to eat away at whatever is causing the blockage.

Liquid drain cleaners work by inducing chemical reactions meant to dissolve organic materials. However, these reactions can generate excessive heat that weakens the seals in PVC pipes, making them particularly bad for these types of pipes. Furthermore, drain cleaner can damage pipes because the heat and chemicals can cause metal pipes to dissolve and plastic pipes to warp.

When Is Drain Cleaner Safe to Use?

Drain cleaners may offer a quick and seemingly easy solution to a common problem. However, it’s important to understand that these products should be used sparingly and with caution. In fact, it’s best to avoid them altogether if possible.

So, when is drain cleaner safe to use? Ideally, only in emergencies when other methods have failed, and always in moderation. Remember, prevention is the best cure. Regular maintenance and proper disposal of food waste and other potential clogging materials can help you avoid the need for drain cleaners in the first place.

Are There Safer Alternatives? 

If you’re dealing with a stubborn clog, you might be tempted to pour a commercial drain cleaner down the drain. However, since drain cleaner is bad for pipes, it’s worth exploring safer alternatives.

Baking Soda & Vinegar

One popular method involves using baking soda and vinegar, followed by hot water. Start by pouring a cup of baking soda into the drain, then add an equal amount of vinegar. Wait for the fizzing reaction to subside before flushing the mixture down with boiling water. This method is less harmful to your plumbing system and can effectively remove minor clogs.


A plunger is not only a simple and effective tool, but it also stands as a safer alternative to chemical drain cleaners when it comes to clearing clogged drains. Unlike chemical cleaners, plungers don’t pose a threat to your health or the environment. They’re manual tools that require a bit of elbow grease, but they are generally safe for anyone to use. Plus, plungers don’t have an expiry date and can be reused many times over, making them a cost-effective solution, too.

Drain Snakes

Drain snakes are also safe alternatives to store-bought drain cleaners. A drain snake, also known as a “plumber’s snake,” is a flexible auger used to dislodge clogs in plumbing. It’s a simple tool that involves a coiled spiral snake that’s flexible and can be pushed down the pipe to break up or retrieve the obstruction causing the blockage.

The process of using a drain snake is straightforward. You insert the end of the snake into the drain and turn the handle to break up the clog. As you turn the handle, the snake rotates and moves deeper into the drain, breaking up the clog and allowing water to flow freely again.

All-in-all, using a drain snake can sometimes save you money in the long run. While there may be an initial investment for the tool, it’s reusable and can handle multiple types of clogs. In comparison, you’d have to continually purchase chemical drain cleaners every time a clog occurs.

Professional Services

When it comes to addressing clogged drains, professional drain cleaning stands out as one of the safest and most effective alternatives to chemical drain cleaners.

When an experienced plumber performs a drain cleaning service, you can typically count on them to provide a comprehensive solution. Professionals use specialized tools and techniques, like drain snakes, to physically remove or break down the clog. This method is much safer for your pipes, as it does not involve any corrosive chemical source.

In addition, professional services offer a correct diagnosis of the issue, helping to prevent recurring problems. They can identify whether the blockage is due to accumulated debris, tree roots, or other underlying issues, thus providing a targeted solution.

When Should You Call a Professional Plumber?

While DIY methods can handle small clogs, they don’t work for serious blockages. In such cases, liquid drain cleaner working its magic might seem like the only option. But remember, it can cause significant damage to your pipes and potentially contaminate your water supply.

If you’ve tried the baking soda and vinegar method or even a plunger and the clog still persists, it’s time to call a professional plumber. They have the tools and expertise to remove clogs without causing further damage to your pipes.

Are Drain Cleaners Safe? 

At the end of the day, the question isn’t just “Is drain cleaner bad for pipes?” but also “Are drain cleaners safe?” Aside from the potential harm to your pipes, these products are also highly toxic. If not handled properly, they can pose a risk to those living in the home.

Keep Your Drains Clean With Lee’s Air, Plumbing & Heating

Maintaining the integrity of your plumbing system is crucial for a comfortable and efficient home. One aspect that often gets overlooked is drain cleaning. Instead of resorting to abrasive chemicals that could potentially damage your pipes, consider a safer and more effective alternative: professional services by Lee’s Air, Plumbing & Heating. With our comprehensive drain cleaning in Fresno, CA, and the surrounding areas, you can rest assured knowing your drains are functioning optimally without the risk of damage.

What Makes Us Stand Out?

Why should you choose Lee’s Air, Plumbing & Heating? Our company has been at the forefront of providing exceptional plumbing solutions since 1981. That’s over four decades of experience in addressing various plumbing concerns and delivering top-notch customer service. Our longevity in the industry speaks volumes about the trust and confidence that our clients have in us.

Over the years, we’ve earned several notable recognitions that further establish our credibility. We have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a testament to our commitment to upholding high standards of business practices, transparency, and customer satisfaction. In addition to this, we have also received the Elite Service Award from HomeAdvisor. These accolades reflect our relentless pursuit of excellence in all areas of our operation.

Our team comprises seasoned experts who are well-versed in the intricacies of plumbing systems. They are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to clean your drain thoroughly and remove clogs without causing any harm to your pipes. We understand that each drain issue is unique and requires a tailored approach. Therefore, we employ advanced techniques and state-of-the-art equipment to ensure every job is done right the first time.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Ignoring a simple clog could escalate into a major plumbing problem if not addressed promptly. A blocked drain can lead to slow water drainage, corrosion, flooding, and in severe cases, sewage backup and costly repairs. It’s imperative not to let such a minor issue turn into a significant inconvenience that could disrupt your daily routine and put a dent in your wallet.

Now that you know drain cleaner is bad for pipes, reach out to us today to schedule a professional drain cleaning service. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff are ready to assist you, providing you with reliable advice and solutions tailored to your specific needs. Whether you need drain cleaning or plumbing repair in Sacramento, CA, we strive to deliver a seamless and stress-free experience. From the moment you contact us until the job is completed, you can count on us to deliver a solution that is to your satisfaction!

Thomas Howard

Written by Thomas Howard

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