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What Happens When I Use Liquid Chemical Drain Cleaners?

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Have your sinks, tubs or showers been draining slowly lately? Or maybe the basement floor drain has been backing up. Though it may be tempting as a quick fix, here’s why it’s crucial that you don’t dump liquid chemical drain cleaners down to try to address the problem.

What Not to Do

First, let’s look at what not to do. No matter what kind of drain or pipes you have, whether or not you know what’s causing the backup, or how quickly you need it fixed, do not reach for the liquid chemical drain cleaner. These products are harsh and corrosive and will damage your drain and pipes regardless of what they’re made of. In a cast iron or galvanized steel pipe — the type you’ll find in older houses (those built prior to 1970 in Calgary) — the chemicals are extremely corrosive. As the pipes corrode, they will eventually start to crack and then fail completely. In more modern ABS (Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene — or, the white plastic pipes) or PVC (polyvinyl chloride — black plastic) pipes, these chemicals still wreak havoc, causing the plastic to become brittle over time.

It might not be so bad if you could use one bottle and be done with it, but because it only chemically eats through any blockage and doesn’t deal with the root of the issue, you end up using it again and again. Think of it this way: it’s like going on a long road trip and ending up with the front grille of your car plastered in bugs, and using sandpaper to clean them off. Again, and again.

Alternatives to Chemicals

Though pipes wear out over time, and ground-level drains suffer as the ground shifts through the freezing and thawing of seasonal changes, you can prolong their life with proper care and maintenance.

The alternatives to harsh, corrosive chemicals are enzymes; sending a drain auger down; or jetting out the pipe with a stream of high-pressure water. It’s inevitable that with use over time, you’ll see a build-up of sludge in your pipes — a slimy collection of all that stuff we wash down the drain, and this will eventually slow things down. The cheapest, easiest, safest and most effective way to prevent these blockages from causing long-term damage is to first send a camera down to make sure it’s not something serious, and then use a drain auger to clear the blockage. We can also use a jet of high-pressured water to scour out the pipe.

We can come out and do this at any time — call us before you pour any chemicals down there!

As a regular preventive measure, we highly recommend a liquid enzyme product like Bio-One. These liquid enzymes not only eat their way (naturally) through whatever is blocking the drain, they stay in the pipe and eat away at what follows. When used on a regular basis, this is a healthy, non-corrosive way to keep your pipes clear!

George Pinel
George Pinel

These blog posts are brought to you from George Pinel & the Instant Plumbing team.

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