When you discover a drain that is slow or clogged, calling a plumber might not be your first reaction. After all, using a bottle of commercial liquid drain cleaner is cheaper and requires minimal effort, so why call for professional help?
There are plenty of reasons, actually: your pipes, your health and the often poor performance of liquid drain cleaners, just to name a few.
Mind the Pipes
Most liquid drain cleaners work by creating a chemical reaction right inside your drain pipe, often with the help of hydrochloric acid. These reactions typically generate heat, and that heat can do some irreversible damage to the pipe itself.
This is especially true if the cleaner doesn’t do a quick or complete job of dissolving the clog, because the liquid chemicals will just sit on top of the clog while the chemical reaction is concentrated on one small section of pipe.
If the pipe is plastic, the high heat could partially melt and deform the material. Metal pipes are more resilient, but the heat can weaken the metal in such a way that cracks and leaks become more likely down the line. This is especially true for older pipes.
Protect Your Health
If drain cleaner chemicals can do that kind of damage to your pipes, just imagine what they can do to you. The fumes released from the use of these products may prove irritating to the eyes, nose, throat and lungs.
Though not all drain cleaner formulas are the same, some may cause burns if you accidentally get them on your skin. Even worse is if you accidentally get some in your eyes, which is why it’s a good idea to always wear safety goggles and avoid splashing if you use these products.
Get Your Money’s Worth
Even if you manage to avoid damaging your pipes or compromising your health, there’s never a guarantee that a drain cleaner will be effective. And if your clog is caused by anything other than a simple hairball or grease buildup, drain cleaner is unlikely to help at all.
One of the greatest advantages of calling a plumber to clear a drain is the ability to diagnose the cause of the clog. If there’s a break in a pipe that’s allowing other material to push inside, or if the root cause is located deeper in your drainage system, using a liquid drain cleaner is a complete waste of money.
Try Elbow Grease
Instead of resorting directly to the jug of liquid chemicals, try clearing a clogged drain the old fashioned way: use a plunger. Just be sure to practice proper plunger technique for the best possible results.
If that doesn’t work, you may be able to clear the drain on your own using a plumbing snake. There are scaled-down versions that can be powered by almost any electrical drill. They aren’t quite as powerful as the ones plumbers use, but they’re more than enough for your usual hair or grease clogs.
Do you have a clog that needs clearing? Try the plunger or snake if you’re the DIY type, but resist the urge to choose the chemical solution. If you can’t extract the obstruction on your own, relying on the expertise of your local plumbing professional is always the preferred option.