As a Chicago property manager, you will probably do all you can to prevent and remedy clogs in your drain lines as quickly as possible. Your efforts probably include providing your residents with information on items that should never be put down drains, including eggshells, coffee grinds, grease, oil, kitty litter, and any paper product that isn’t toilet paper. If you do get a full or partial clog, you may instruct your maintenance staff to remove the clog using a plumbing auger (snake) or drain cleaner. While a plumbing snake is reasonably safe for plumbing pipes, if you know how to use it, drain cleaner isn’t safe for your pipes or the employee putting the cleaner down the pipe.

Why Isn’t Drain Cleaner Safe for Residential and Commercial Plumbing Pipes?

To get drain cleaner, all you have to do is go to your nearest grocery or hardware store, grab a jug and take it back to your building. Once you have it, you read the directions, pour it down the clogged drain, wait for the prescribed time and turn on the water to clear the rest of the clog and remove any residual drain cleaner. It’s simple, cheap and on the surface, it’s easy to use.

Chemical Drain Cleaner and Your Employees

Unfortunately, drain cleaner does not contain SMART technology. It can’t tell the difference between a clog and your plumbing pipes. It just starts eating away at everything from the moment it leaves its container. This can be dangerous for both your plumbing pipes and your employees.

To use drain cleaner safely, your employee should be wearing thick rubber gloves, eye protection, and possibly a mask to prevent inhaling the fumes. The chemical can cause burns to the skin and damage clothing. Inhaling or coming into contact with the fumes can cause eye, nose, throat, and lung irritation.

Chemical Drain Cleaner and Your Plumbing Pipes

Since your liquid drain cleaner doesn’t contain nanobots that deliver the chemical directly to the clog, it simply starts eating away at everything it touches. This includes your drain pipes, any solder used to connect two pipes, pipe fittings, and the clog. If it’s left in the pipe long enough, it will eventually eat a hole through the pipe, sending it to other areas of your building or into the ground where it can kill plants and contaminate groundwater. Not to mention, since the chemical is caustic, it can etch your pipes, leading to pinhole leaks or breaks in the future.

Caustic Drain Cleaners and Plastic and Metal Plumbing Pipes

Even if you purchase a drain cleaner that’s specifically designed for your specific types of plumbing pipes, it can still cause damage.

  • Plastic Pipes – If your drain lines are PVC or another type of plastic, never use a liquid drain cleaner. The drain cleaner can eat through the plastic, allowing the caustic chemical outside of the pipe and onto other surfaces, even if you thoroughly rinse the pipe after using the chemical.
  • Metal Pipes – If you have old metal pipes, you should also avoid the use of caustic drain cleaners. Old metal pipes typically have corrosion and pits in the metal where the cleaner could enter and not leave, and once the cleaner is in an area where water cannot easily flush it, it will continue to eat your pipes, causing further corrosion and leans.

What Happens if the Chemical Drain Cleaner Fails to Clear the Clog?

If the chemical drain cleaner fails to clear the clog, there is no best-case scenario. If the cleaner leaves the pipe through a hole it created (or a hole that’s already there), it can start causing damage below the pipe. If the clog isn’t cleared, running water into the drain can cause splashback, resulting in injuries.

Additionally, once you put drain cleaner down a drain, you can’t use another method, like a plunger or auger due to the risk of exposure to the caustic chemical. Instead, you must call a professional plumber to deal with the stubborn clog and the drain cleaner that’s still in the pipe.

Alternatives to Caustic Chemical Drain Cleaners

Instead of using a caustic drain cleaner on your drain lines, consider having them cleared by a professional plumber. If you get frequent clogs in your plumbing pipes, there could be a more serious issue, like roots in the line or severe corrosion and deterioration of the pipe. In these instances, you want to have your drain lines visually inspected with a camera. The camera allows the plumber to see any corrosion or damage to the pipes as well as locate any partial or full clogs so that they can be successfully cleared via hydrojetting or with an electric plumbing auger. You may even want to consider the installation of a pipe liner to deter further corrosion and ensure your pipes are completely clean and that water flowing through the pipe is maximized.

Plumbing Pipe Assessment and Epoxy Lining for Clean Drain Lines

Here at Nu Flow, we perform plumbing pipe assessments via a camera inspection. This allows our pipe lining technicians the ability to see all the corrosion, debris, and partial or full clogs in your pipes, explain the findings to you, tell you if your drain lines would be good candidates for pipelining and provide you with an estimate for lining your pipes.

To schedule a plumbing pipe assessment to see if epoxy pipe lining would be right for your commercial or residential building, contact us at 815-790-9000.