4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Liquid Drain Cleaners

When you’re faced with a stubborn clog or an annoying slow drain, you might wonder if a liquid drain cleaner is the answer. As your friendly neighborhood plumbing experts, we’re here to tell you that the answer is a resounding “No”. Liquid drain cleaners tend to do more harm than good, and can cause problems that you’ll end up paying for in the long run.

So, before you reach for a liquid drain cleaner, make sure you understand the risks. Read on to learn about the problems these cleaners can cause, and what you can use instead.

Liquid drain cleaners: Ingredients and problems

Liquid drain cleaners cause an intense chemical reaction. It results in heat, bubbles, protein dissolution, and fat breakdown. Most common liquid drain cleaners contain slight variations of the same formula:

  • Sodium hydroxide (lye)
  • Sodium hypochlorite (bleach)
  • Sodium nitrate
  • Sodium chloride (salt)
  • Aluminum

The ingredients in liquid drain cleaners are harsh, and the process is very unforgiving to plumbing systems, the environment, and even your health. Here are the top four hazards caused by these harsh chemicals:

1.      Damage to plumbing

Liquid drain cleaners cause both internal and external damage to your home’s plumbing system. The caustic chemicals in drain cleaners also eat away at the finishes of your sinks and toilets. For example, drain cleaners can settle onto the porcelain of your toilet’s bowl and cause cracks. Cracks in a toilet bowl can cause leaks that spill onto your bathroom floor. Replacing a cracked toilet can be expensive, and repairing it is rarely an option.

Plastic or PVC pipes are especially vulnerable to corrosion caused by the chemicals in liquid drain cleaners. Pipe corrosion can lead to dangerous complications like burst pipes. A burst pipe is a major plumbing emergency that can cause catastrophic flooding.

Plumbing in older and historic homes

Old pipes are one of the many plumbing problems you may come across in an older home. When it comes to pipes that have endured decades of wear and tear, the last thing you want to do is degrade them further with liquid drain cleaners. This is especially true of Orangeburg pipes, which are common in homes built before the late 1970s. Liquid drain cleaners can speed up the damage that can make a full sewer line replacement necessary.


2.      Kills “good” bacteria

Liquid drain cleaners kill all the bacteria that live in your home’s drainage system. While this may sound like a good thing, there are certain kinds of bacteria that work to break down organic matter in drains. Without the presence of “good” bacteria, larger blockages can occur.

3.      Health hazard

Contact with liquid drain cleaners can burn your skin, irritate your eyes, and hurt your lungs. It’s dangerous to mix drain cleaners with other cleaning products, even accidentally. You should never use liquid drain cleaners on standing water, such as in a sink of toilet that won’t drain. This is because you run the risk of splashing the drain cleaner onto your skin or clothing. Any direct exposure such as this is an emergency situation.

When called to fix a clog, plumbers often ask homeowners if they’ve used liquid drain cleaners recently. If the answer is yes, plumbers take extreme caution. The chemicals present in liquid drain cleaners can make their working conditions unsafe. If the professionals don’t feel safe around liquid drain cleaners, then it’s a good reason that you shouldn’t take the chance either.

4.      Only a temporary fix

Sure, a liquid drain cleaner may fix a clog here and there. But if you’re noticing frequent, recurring clogs, all the cleaners in the world won’t address the root of the problem. In fact, you may be literally pouring money down the drain by continuing to rely on a drain cleaner for a quick fix.

At Chas Roberts, we offer various drain cleaning options to get to the bottom of tough clogs for good.

Video inspection

Before remedying major clogs and blockages, a video drain inspection allows our plumbers to see what the problem is firsthand. With clear video footage, we can spot even the smallest problems.

Drain snakes

Also known as sewer machines, these snakes mechanically remove difficult blockages that aren’t fixable with plunging alone.

Hydro jetting

This powerful tool uses a high-pressure water stream to clear tough recurring clogs and blockages. It can also remove grease, limescale, and other debris that build up in pipe walls over time.


There are several ways you can safely unclog a drain in a pinch. While these tips may buy you some time, it’s best to contact a plumber for any serious or recurring clogs.

Baking soda and vinegar

The trusty non-toxic combo of baking soda and vinegar can dissolve clogs naturally. Add one cup of baking soda to the clogged toilet or slow drain, then wait a few minutes. Follow with two cups of vinegar. Listen for bubbling and sizzling noises to indicate that the mixture is working.

Wait another couple of minutes before flushing the toilet or running water down the drain. If you still notice issues, repeat the steps again.

Hot water and dish soap

Heat up a gallon or so of water on the stove. While the water is heating up, squirt some dish soap into the sink or toilet. Shampoo can also be used instead of dish soap. Then, take the very hot, but not boiling, water and carefully pour it in. Wait several minutes and then try flushing the toilet or turning on the sink. You should find that the soap and water softened the clog, allowing it to pass. If not, you may have to repeat the process again.

Enzyme-based cleaners

If you must use a liquid drain cleaner, look for one labeled “bio” or “enzyme-based”. Instead of using caustic chemicals, these cleaners use bacteria cultures and concentrated enzymes that naturally eat away at organic matter. When they enter your pipes, these organisms feed on everything from hair and waste to mold and algae. After consuming whatever’s blocking your pipes, these organisms reproduce, spreading “good” bacteria throughout your plumbing system.

While enzyme-based cleaners often need to sit overnight to work, they’re much safer on your plumbing system than conventional drain cleaners.

Clean your drains the right way with Chas Roberts

Whether you’re dealing with a slow drain or a complete clog, our expert plumbers can get to the bottom of the problem with the help of our drain cleaning services. Even the toughest problems are no match for our video inspection, which allows our plumbers to get a firsthand look at exactly what goes on in your pipes. Contact us to get started.