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The last thing you want is for your pipe-cleaning products to actually ruin them. Unfortunately for most people using them, however, chemicals can and do cause damage over time. They’ll get the pipes cleared, but that cleanliness comes at the cost of your system’s strength over time. Watch out for the four household chemicals below, as they’re both common and problematic.
Although bleach gets things clean and removes stains, it’s dangerous to your body and your pipes. As an alkaline chemical, bleach oxidizes filth in the system—that is, it forces organic material in the pipes to lose electricity and break down. Part of this process is creating heat, which is where the danger to your pipes comes in. Whether your pipes are plastic or metal, bleach will either weaken the plastic or break down corroded piping.
Also known as caustic soda or lye, alkaline sodium hydroxide also breaks down material with heat for easier flushing. Caustic cleaners like sodium hydroxide have the added benefit of being heavier than water, which allows them to easily reach clogged surfaces through pooling water. Sodium hydroxide still eats at your pipes as it eats away the blockage, however.
Acids are on the other end of the pH scale, but they still do a similar job. Sulfuric acid works by “stealing” electrons from clogging material, forcing other atoms to take their place. The resulting reaction causes heat as a basic chemical would, and also melts remaining grease in the pipes. Some sulfuric-acid containing cleaners are only sold to professionals, clearly indicating their level of threat.
Although commonplace in batteries, fireworks, and your stomach, hydrochloric acid will erode almost everything it touches. It’s often used to process both plastics and metal, so it constitutes a threat for either piping type. It comes in high amounts in chemical cleaners, so great precaution is necessary. Fortunately hydrochloric acid isn’t common in stores.
Instead of turning to any of these damaging chemicals, try natural biological cleaners or a plunger. If neither of those work, plumbing services like Clearwater Plumbing can help. They might be more expensive than a bottle of cleaner, but they'll get rid of the clogging with no extra damage done. Professionals will also alert you if the clogging indicates a bigger problem, saving more than your pipes.
It’s good to be aware of threats in the home, especially with their abundance in the market. These four chemicals might be commonplace, but they’re damaging to pipes and people. They get worse over time, too, whether you realize it or not. Take advantage of alternatives and watch what you’re putting down the drain.