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Do chemical drain cleaners damage pipes?

When faced with a clogged drain, it can be tempting to rely on chemical drain cleaners. Although these products may appear to get the job done, they can also lead to severe plumbing problems. Here are some things to consider next time you reach for the drain cleaner.

How do chemical drain cleaners work?

Chemical drain cleaners can be purchased as a liquid, gel or powder. The most common types are caustic and oxidizing. As their name indicates, chemical drain cleaners rely on chemical reactions to clear clogged drains.

When caustic drain cleaners react with grease or oil, the reaction releases heat and dissolves the clog. Oxidizing drain cleaners, which contain bleach and peroxides, produce heat and gas that forces a blockage down the drain.


Can chemical drain cleaners damage my pipes?

Yes. Plastic pipes and old plumbing are particularly susceptible to chemical drain cleaners. The heat generated by these chemical reactions can soften and warp PVC pipes. Additionally, the corrosive property of these chemicals can further degrade old plumbing, eventually creating cracks and leaks.

A clogged drain is a common plumbing problem, and repeated use of chemical drain cleaners will exacerbate their harmful effects on your pipes. If the product sits in your drains for too long because of a tough clog, the chemical reaction can generate more heat and gas than even newer pipes are designed to withstand.

If your home has a septic system, the harsh chemicals in these products can kill the bacteria that keeps the system functioning smoothly and odourlessly.

Are there safer alternatives?

You can take preventive measures to minimize the risk of a clogged drain, but if the issue does arise, there are several ways to unclog a drain that don’t require the use of harsh chemicals.



  • Suggestion to use a soda on fine finishings in sinks, bathtubs, ceramics, brass etc. should be avoided as soda is very abrasive and can damage faucet finishes when they are left in contact with soda.
  • A sink plunger can be an effective tool if used correctly. Make sure the bottom of the plunger remains sealed to the drain. 
  • Enzymatic drain cleaners use bacteria or enzymes to decompose organic material, such as hair and food, that may be clogging your drain.


Contact your local plumber

Whether you’re struggling with a tough clog or need to repair a pipe damaged by a chemical drain cleaner, Hillcrest Plumbing & Heating Ltd. is here to help. We offer 24/7 emergency repair service to customers in Burnaby, Langley, Surrey and beyond. To speak with a plumber or learn more about our plumbing supply store in Vancouver, contact us today.

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