The Pros and Cons of Liquid Drain Cleaners

liquid drain cleaner

Many people use over the counter chemical drain cleaners for bathroom or kitchen sinks that are running slowly or will not drain at all. These products may seem like a good choice but they all have definite pros and cons that the homeowner needs to be aware of.

Types of Drain Cleaners

There are many types of commercial chemical drain cleaners available. They come in many forms such as liquid, powders or gels and create a chemical reaction that produces heat as a byproduct. The oxidizing drain cleaners use bleach and nitrates to break down and oxidize organic material, making it a good choice for food-based clogs found in kitchen sinks. Caustic drain cleaners dissolve difficult substances like grease, making them a better choice for heavy duty clogs. Licensed plumbers have access to acid drain cleaners that are not available over the counter in stores. These cleaners are very dangerous to your health and your pipes and should only be used by professionals.

Drain Cleaner PROS

The majority of chemical drain cleaners will clear your clog in one application in a very short amount of time. You can typically clear your sink or tub drain in less than an hour. They are also easy to use. You simply open the bottle, pour it down the clogged drain and then rinse with water. You do not need any special training, skill or tools. They are also relatively inexpensive, with most bottles costing less than ten dollars.

Drain Cleaner CONS

Along with the PROs mentioned, there are many CONS when considering to use drain cleaners. Although chemical drain cleaners can often clear away and break up clogs caused by food, grease, and hair they cannot clear clogs caused by mineral buildup or foreign objects. They are also not a good idea to use them for clogged toilets because the solution is heavier than water. This means that the cleaner would rest at the bottom of the toilet instead of going up to the clog in the siphon curve.

These cleaners can also be very dangerous to use. Chemicals such as Lye in certain cleaners can be harmful to your eyes and skin if they make contact with them. Chemical drain cleaners can also create harmful fumes that are dangerous to breath in. They can also contaminate your groundwater and soil if you have a leak in your sewer pipe.

Chemical drain cleaners can also damage plumbing pipes and fittings, especially if used repeatedly. PVC pipe can soften with repeated use of some drain cleaners. If pipes are currently corroded then the use of chemical drain cleaners can cause further damage. Repeated use of these cleaners can also cause residual buildup that can trap debris and cause more clogs.


There are many situations when you should NEVER use chemical drain cleaner. You should never pour it into a garbage disposal because it can cause damage to the unit. The chemicals can also splash back out the next time you use the disposal. If a drain is completely blocked, you should not use chemical drain cleaner. It will cover the clog in chemicals and will require the plumber to get rid of the water to clear the drain. Chemical drain cleaners can also damage septic tanks and should not be used with them.

Allow our professionals at Richardson Plumbing of Florence, KY to help you with alternatives to using liquid drain cleaners to ensure your safety and the safety of your plumbing. Contact us as we proudly serve Northern, KY and Cincinnati.



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