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OTC Drain Cleaners Are Bad! Here’s Why…

A consistent build up of soap scum, grease, hair, nail clippings, and leftover food waste can create an un-plungeable nightmare of a clog in your home’s pipes. The appealing solution? Over the counter drain cleaning chemicals of course! They’re relatively inexpensive, fast acting, and can be purchased just about anywhere toilet paper is sold. But before you reach for that old trusty bottle of chemical compounds, let’s take a deeper dive into what exactly is in that bottle.


One of the most commonly used compounds found in over-the-counter drain cleaners is sodium hydroxide. This goes by a couple of other names as well like caustic soda, sulfuric acid, or lye. Regardless of the name used to describe this chemical compound, one thing remains universally true, sodium hydroxide is extremely corrosive to metals and other organic materials. This is why it is so effective at eating through tough clogs. The chemicals are bases that function by providing electrons to the substance that has created the clog. Their hydroxide ions work by creating a reaction inside the pipe the clears or at least partially breaks up the clog, restoring at least some water flow.


The bottom line is this, chemical drain cleaners are dangerous to use and will cause harm to your home’s plumbing system. Rather they are flowing through PVC or metal pipes, they will eat away at, and cause corrosion of those pipes. Not only do these chemicals cause damage to the interior of pipes, but they can also harm sinks & tubs, too.

Perhaps an even bigger immediate issue is the fact that chemical drain cleaners can also mask underlying issues within your plumbing system. Often times clogged pipes occur due to the build up of material within the pipe. Other times clogged pipes are a symptom of a bigger problem like a broken or backed up sewer line, a broken pipe, or a disconnected joint.

Aside from the damage to your home’s pipes, it is worth noting that these OTC drain cleaners are also extremely toxic. They should be used with extreme caution and never be ingested or come into contact with your skin.


If you find yourself in a pinch and in need of immediate clogged drain relief, we recommend baking soda and vinegar as a fast acting yet safe alternative to chemical drain cleaning agents.


Bring a pot of water to a boil. Pour the entire pot into the clogged drain and then follow it up with an equal amount of cold water about 30 seconds later. This hot/cold combination can sometimes be enough to clear a simple clog. For a tougher clog it is safe to use roughly 1/2 cup of baking soda followed by an equal amount of vinegar. Allow the mixture to work inside the pipes overnight and follow it with about 5 gallons of boiling water the next day to flush the pipes out.

When these options do not work, it’s time to call in the professionals. Allowing clogged drains to go untreated can lead to all  sorts of issues down the line. The team here at Flow Plumbing is filled with plumbing experts that are amongst the very best in the business at diagnosing tough clogs at their source, and clearing them fast. From high powered drain cleaning equipment to plungers, snakes, and good old fashioned elbow grease, we’ve got the tools and experience to get your plumbing flowing smoothly again.

If you are suffering from a clogged drain, tub, shower, or sink and need plumbing help, give us a call today at (214) 388-8838. We are standing by ready to help!

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