Is Drain Cleaner Liquid Bad For Your Plumbing?

drain cleaner liquid pouring down sink drain to remove drain clog

How Safe Is Your Drain Cleaner Liquid?

Clogged drains are an inconvenience, and when they occur you might think reaching for a drain cleaner liquid is the quick solution. But in many cases, the quick solution is not the best solution. Not all drain cleaner liquid products are the same—some types of drain cleaner liquid products are actually bad for your drains and your plumbing.

Let’s take a look at drain cleaner liquid products to see which are potentially harmful and which are not:

  • Types of drain cleaner liquid products
  • Why use a drain cleaner liquid?
  • How does a drain cleaner liquid work?
  • The problems caused by chemical drain cleaner liquid products
  • How best to unclog your drains

Types of Drain Cleaner Liquid Products


There are several different types of chemical drain cleaner liquid products used to clear clogs.

  • Acidic drain cleaner liquid products use sulfuric acid or muriatic acid (also called hydrochloric acid) to eat away at clogs, particularly hair clogs.
  • Oxidizing drain cleaner liquid products made of bleach, peroxide, or nitrates are less harsh than acidic formulations, but are also not as effective at clearing severe clogs. They also take a significant while to break down a clog, and are best suited for easy-to-break-down food particles.
  • Caustic drain cleaner liquid products contain potash or lye, which results in a much higher pH than acidic drain cleaner liquid products, making them best suited for grease clogs.

Natural drain cleaner liquids do not use harsh chemicals. Some of these are available as commercial products that use environmentally-friendly enzymes to dissolve clogs. However, you can make a natural drain cleaner liquid yourself using everyday household supplies. The most common is a solution of baking soda and vinegar, though some also add cream of tartar, salt, borax, lemon juice, and/or dish soap to hot water. Natural drain cleaner liquids are effective for most run-of-the-mill clogs caused by hair and fatty deposits. Adding baking soda and lemon juice to your drains on a regular basis, even if you don’t have a clog, also helps to neutralize odors and freshen up your drains.

How Does a Drain Cleaner Liquid Work?

Both chemical and natural drain cleaner liquids rely on a chemical reaction (yes, even natural drain cleaner liquids are composed of chemicals, but they aren’t as corrosive) to dissolve bacteria and organic waste. By and large, chemical drain cleaner liquids work faster and, in the case of severe clogs, are more effective. However, despite their effectiveness, chemical drain cleaner liquids have serious side effects you want to avoid.

Problems Caused by Chemical Drain Cleaner Products

Chemical drain cleaner liquids are potentially harmful for several reasons:

  • They damage your pipes. The acids and other chemicals present in these drain cleaner liquids can eat away at your pipes, particularly if the pipes are older or made of certain materials like PVC. Continuous use of these chemicals can weaken the pipes and lead to leaks or even a burst pipe. The chemical reaction caused by drain cleaner liquids creates heat, which can melt plastic pipes. In some cases, if it doesn’t effectively clear out a clog, it can actually contribute to creating a worse clog. Residue left behind can continue to accumulate over time, leading to recurrent clogs.
  • Environmental impact. The harsh chemicals flushed down the drain can enter waterways and ecosystems, causing pollution and potentially harming aquatic life.
  • Health risks. The chemicals in liquid drain cleaners can be hazardous to your health if mishandled. They can cause skin and eye irritation upon contact and can release potentially toxic fumes. If these chemicals can harm your pipes, imagine the harm they can do to you.

How Best To Unclog Your Drains

Clogs can cause water to sit on top of them, which over time can lead to leaks. They can also impair your quality of life. Hair and other organic matter that collects in your pipes can attract flies that eventually make their way up through your drains and into your living space.

Drains clogged with rotting food cause unpleasant odors. In addition to the smell, these can also cause health problems in your home, due to rotting material. The odor is unpleasant enough, but the rotting material can cause health problems, especially in people with asthma or allergies.

One of the best ways to address these issues is to prevent clogs in the first place. Don’t pour grease down your drains. Use drain covers to keep organic matter such as food scraps and hair out of your pipes.

But even the most vigilant homeowners may nevertheless experience a clogged drain at some point. Try using an enzymatic drain cleaner liquid or a homemade vinegar and baking soda solution. If that doesn’t clear the clog, try using a plunger or plumbing snake to physically free up the matter causing the clog and then flush the drain with hot water.

If you’re dealing with persistent or severe clogs, it’s best to consult a professional plumber to address the issue effectively without causing further damage to your plumbing system. If you need a helping hand unclogging your drains, Call us or book an appointment online. Our experienced plumbers use safe cleaners and methods to address all kinds of drain clogs.