Every homeowner experiences the occasional clogged drain in a kitchen or bathroom sink. When a faucet is turned on and the water in the sink bowl inches north instead of draining southward, many homeowners head directly to the store to purchase a commercial drain cleaning product. But is this always the best solution? And can these products cause damage to pipes?
A Look at Commercial Drain Cleaners
The most common materials used for the pipes underneath sinks these days are PVC and copper, but galvanized steel or iron pipes still exist in some older homes. Regardless, commercial drain cleaners are relatively safe for most types of pipes, as long as they are not overused.
However, some homeowners believe that the more drain cleaner they use, the more successful their drain cleaning endeavors will be. This philosophy is not correct! In fact, pouring excessive amounts of these cleaners into sink drains can have a negative effect on piping, and may very well lead to more severe plumbing problems.
Most commercial drain cleaners either use enzymes or caustic chemicals such as lye (sodium hydroxide) to dissolve or eat away at clogs caused by hair, soap scum, mineral deposits and other materials. Some of these products work faster than others, but for relatively minor clogs they can be effective.
But using more than the recommended amount of caustic chemical drain cleaners can weaken PVC piping, and can also cause damage to metal pipes, especially if any corrosion is already present. Additionally, these products can prove to be rather impotent on larger, more stubborn clogs.
Before running out to the store in search of a commercial drain cleaner at the first sign of a clog, there are other unclogging methods that a homeowner can try. Among these are using a good old-fashioned plunger to attempt to dislodge the clog, or using a plumbing snake or “auger,” if one is available.
Homemade solutions such as pouring a mixture of vinegar, baking soda and boiling water into a stopped up drain and letting it sit overnight has also been known to work out some clogs. But if all else fails, and the clog seems to be winning the battle, it may be time to call in the professional plumbers to address the problem and prevent the possibility of further damage.