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The Dangers of Using Liquid Drain Cleaners

hand pouring liquid drain cleaner down the sink

We’ve all experienced it; a clogged toilet, kitchen sink, or bathtub. Nothing can be more irritating than encountering a clogged drain. Oftentimes, a homeowner’s first instinct is to pour a drain cleaner into the drain to clear the clog. But is that the best course of action? The answer is a definite NO!

Drain cleaners are corrosive, hazardous chemical mixtures that are very dangerous to use. They can cause extensive damage to pipes and are a health hazard. Here we will explain why you should never use drain cleaners on your home’s pipes:

Liquid Drain Cleaner Ingredients: What Is That Stuff, Anyway?

If you’ve ever read the label on the back of a drain cleaner product, you know the ingredients are far from safe. Liquid drain cleaners contain a mixture of highly toxic chemicals that are dangerous to your pipes and you. Most commonly used liquid drain cleaners include some or all of the following:

  • Aluminum
  • Sodium Chloride (salt)
  • Sodium Hydroxide (lye)
  • Sodium Nitrate
  • Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach)

The ingredients cause a violent chemical reaction that creates bubbles, heat, and has properties similar to acid — the chemicals melt down proteins and fats in an attempt to clear the pipe passage. The chemical processes caused by the use of liquid drain cleaners are a clear danger to your home, the environment, and family.

The Potential to Damage Your Plumbing

When you use liquid drain cleaners on your home’s plumbing system, you increase the chance of having significant problems with your pipes. Commonly used PVC pipes are incredibly vulnerable to the effects of corrosive chemicals. Once a line begins to corrode, the chance for a catastrophic event like a pipe burst increases. 

Plastic pipes aren’t the only concern you should be aware of. Homes with older plumbing systems can be vulnerable to liquid drain cleaners as well. Older homes mean older pipes. Older pipes are usually made from materials that were once considered acceptable, but have since been replaced with piping solutions that are much more durable. Older pipes may also have existing issues that would be exacerbated by the use of a liquid drain cleaner.

It is best to avoid using liquid drain cleaners with any drainage system, new or old. The harsh chemicals found in liquid drain cleaners will only cause your pipes more harm than good.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Liquid drain cleaners are designed to quickly breakdown proteins, fats, and the debris that cause clogs. During this process, not only does the liquid drain cleaner affect the clogged materials, but it also kills bacteria that live in your drainage system. Beneficial bacteria break down some of the organic compounds that cause clogs. By killing the good bacteria, you leave open the possibility of an ugly clog in the future.

The Environmental Impact

A liquid drain cleaner’s ingredients don’t magically disappear after you’ve poured them down a drain. The chemicals drain into a public sewer system or a private septic tank. There, liquid drain cleaners continue to wreak havoc on everything they encounter. The substances may also seep into groundwater and the soil, causing even more damage to the environment.

Most liquid drain cleaners are also packaged in single-use plastic containers discarded after the product’s application. These containers add to the plastic pollution plaguing our world.

The Hidden Cost

Running to the store and picking up a bottle of liquid drain cleaner may seem like an inexpensive option, but is it really? Wouldn’t the money you might spend on a temporary solution be better spent on a professional drain cleaning service? Also, that cheap liquid drain cleaner may end up costing you more in the long run if it damages your pipes.

Your Health and Safety

The most important reason not to use liquid drain cleaners is you. Liquid drain cleaners can damage the skin, hurt your eyes, and cause breathing problems. If not used properly, liquid drain cleaners are hazardous. If the clog doesn’t clear, you risk further exposure to yourself or a plumber when mechanical plunging or pipe replacement becomes necessary.

The Safer Alternatives

Now that we’ve covered the many reasons why you shouldn’t use liquid drain cleaners, let’s briefly discuss some safer alternatives:

safe alternatives to liquid drain cleaners


In many cases, a clogged drain will only require the use of a mechanical plunger to clear a clog. Plungers should be securely placed over the drain area. Cover any other drainage points that may adversely affect the suction you want to achieve with the plunger. Add enough water to the clogged drain to cover the rubber portion of the plunger. Vigorously plunge for 20 seconds, then remove the plunger straight up as to create more suction. Repeat as needed.


A drain snake is a mechanical tool used to remove more massive clogs that plungers can not remedy on their own. It is inserted into the drain and is guided to the blockage point where it can push or pull the clog to dislodge it.

Hydro jetting

A tool that uses pressurized water to clear a blockage. The hydro-jet can also wash additional substances that have built-up on the interior walls of the pipe.

Video Inspection

Often done by a professional, video inspecting a drainage system will allow you to know exactly where the blockage may be.

You can also make your own non-corrosive liquid drain cleaner at home. Pour one half-cup of baking soda down the drain. Next, add a half-cup of vinegar to the drain. Follow-up with several cups of boiling water, being careful not to spill it. Finally, give the solution some time to work correctly to clear a smaller clog.

If you’re having problems with a clogged drain, contact Curtis Total Service. Our experienced plumbers will diagnose the issue and let you know precisely what needs to be done. We take pride in our customer-driven approach to home repairs.