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Of all sewer blockages in America, 47% occurs because of fat, oil, and grease (FOG). You would think that people would know better by now, but convenience blocks our better judgment.

The go-to solution is to grab a chemical drain cleaner and pour it down the sink. But why is Drano bad for the environment? Drano is a band-aid made from a nasty concoction of chemicals that does more long-term damage than short-term good.

Chemical solutions like Drano are bad for the environment and have adverse long-term side effects, including aquatic toxicity and destruction of bacteria. Once the chemical cleaners leave your system and make it into surrounding waters, it will change nearby water sources’ PH levels. This will cause tissue damage to wildlife and death when ingested before dilution. It also affects developmental, endocrine, and reproductive systems.

Fish washing up on shore of polluted river
Photo Credit: meen_na

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to record 36,000 sewer overflows each year and is one of our society’s primary plumbing issues. It is not only an environmental problem but also a health hazard to our pets and loved ones. It also costs our government millions of taxpayers dollars each year to clean up clogged sewer pipes.

Have you ever wondered if wood burning is bad for the environment? Find out here!

Alternatives To Drain Cleaners and Plumbers

While it may be easy to pour some store-bought solution down our drains and call it a day, there are free solutions that you should try first before buying enzyme-based or chemical-based cleaners or even getting your local plumber involved.

3 Simple, Natural Solutions Using Ingredients You Probably Already Own

  1.  Boil 16 cups of water and then let stand for 3 minutes. Pour the water down the drain slowly. This is good for grease, hair, and small in low quantities. The heat should help loosen contents from the drains enough to flush them away.
  2. Boil another 16 cups of water and then let stand for 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of salt, and stir. Sodium bicarbonate is a useful alkaline compound which can dissolve mineral deposits.
  3. Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain followed by 1/2 cup of vinegar. Let stand for 30 minutes. Then flush with 16 cups of hot water.

2 Methods For Manual Intervention

So dumping hot water didn’t work—time to pull up our sleeves and get to work before calling our local plumber.

  1. Cup Plunger – Nope, this isn’t the kind that we use for toilets. Cup plungers are designed for declogging sinks and tubs and have flat bases instead of round ones. Create a seal on the drain hole and work it up and down aggressively for about 60 seconds. The pressure should be enough to loosen the clog and allow it to go merrily down its way along the pipe.
Plunging the bathroom sink
Photo Credit: Andrey Popov
  1. Auger, aka Drain Snake – It is a long metal band inserted into the drain hole in a clockwise motion to loosen the clog. Just uncoil the snake and push down the drain.

4 Safest Drain Cleaners: Enzyme-Based and Best Equipped For Clog Prevention

The best offense is a great defense. Maintain your drains every 30-60 days using one of the following solutions to prevent build up. This is your last stand before calling your local plumber.

These cleaning products are enzyme-based, meaning that they use organic, natural bacterias to unclog your drain. Use these solutions before bed and let them sit overnight before flushing out in the morning. Always rinse for one minute.

Frequently Asked Questions

Drano and other chemical cleaners are usually lye-based, which is marketed as a quick solution for unclogging your pipes. In its crystal form, it is composed of bleach, salt, and aluminum shards. It also contains sodium hydroxide, which causes severe skin burns, damage, and corrosion. It affects the respiratory system and causes eye irritation.

It also contains surfactants, sodium hypochlorite, sodium silicate, and water.

Because Drano is a corrosive mixture, it can eat away at the pipes. It can melt PVC and weaken the glue that holds the pipes together. When that happens, the whole plumbing system can collapse, leaving you with an expense that’s much higher than what hiring a plumber would have cost you initially.

It’s also a health hazard. When you are dealing with a clogged pipe, you’re dealing with the unknown. You don’t know what other substances are trapped in there.

For instance, if there is vinegar in the trapped liquid, the bleach in the Drano compound will react with it, causing chlorine gas release.

Chlorine is toxic even in small amounts, and when it gets into your lungs, it causes fluid build-up. It erodes your airways and causes long-term lung injury.

And if you happen to be using a plunger carelessly to help unclog the pipes, the mixture could splash up the sink and burn your skin or your eyes.

Now chlorine is a reactive chemical. It combines quickly to form dioxins, which are known water pollutants. These dioxins are environmental pollutants, and when they get into our diet through contaminated fish, they can cause cancer or weaken our immune systems.

You should never use Drano if you can help it.

Most plumbers, I talked to always tell me to stay away from Drano. It’s simply not the best option to use when declogging pipes.

Sure it might help in the short term, Drano will also destroy the septic system’s healthy bacteria, which aids in the decomposition of waste.

Among other things, yeah. The main ingredient responsible for this is lye, which is strong enough to decompose grease and even keratin, which is what hair is made out of. When it combines with tap water, the chemical reaction produces heat, which helps soften the deposits inside the pipes.

Aluminum shards are there to intensify the chemical reaction. This generates heat that’s hot enough at near-boiling temperatures. All this heat is needed to speed up the organic solids’ decomposition process trapped inside the drain.

Simultaneously, the lye reacts with the heat-softened FOG residues to produce a soapy mixture that helps loosen the particles. Hydrogen bubbles are also formed as another by-product of this reaction, which helps create a space to flush everything down the drain.

Taken as a whole, it’s one whole chaotic chemical reaction that can quickly get out of control. Enough to make the situation even worse.

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