4 Safe Alternatives To Dangerous Chemical Drain Cleaners

How do you deal with clogs in your sink or bathtub drains? If your first response to a drain clog is picking up a chemical drain cleaner from the nearest store, it may be time to rethink your approach. While chemical drain cleaners are fast acting and effective, they have some serious health and environmental drawbacks. Learn why you should avoid chemical drain cleaners and how you can clear your drains using substances that are safe for you and your family.

Drawbacks of Chemical Drain Cleaners

You're probably aware that these harsh cleaners are toxic if ingested and can cause burns if they come in contact with your eyes and skin, but chances are that you think there are no problems as long as you use them safely. The problem is that chemical drain cleaners are not only potentially dangerous to you – they can also be harmful to the environment. Not all of the harmful chemicals in these cleaners are fully broken down in the sewage treatment process. The chemicals that remain make their way back into the waterway, where they can cause harm to fish and wildlife.

What's more, these remaining chemicals that are in the waterway can eventually find their way back to your home's water system, where they can cause harm to you and your family. Chemical drain cleaners have been linked to hormone disruptions that can cause things like birth defects in children and lowered sperm count in men. Components in these cleaners are also linked to some types of cancer, including breast cancer.

1. Vinegar and Baking Soda

The combination of vinegar and baking soda is one of the most commonly used natural drain cleaners. Do you remember making volcanoes that really erupted back in elementary school by mixing vinegar and baking soda? This is the same concept, but instead of looking cool in a paper mache volcano, all those bubbles will be cleaning out the clogs in your drains. Just pour in a cup of baking soda followed by a cup of vinegar, and follow that up with some hot water.

For a little-known twist on this method, substitute lemon juice for vinegar. You'll get the same results, but with a real lemony scent. There's a good reason why commercial cleaning product manufacturers so often attempt to add a lemony scent to their products. Real lemon is a pleasant smell. Use this method for the same drain cleaning power of vinegar with a smell that won't chase you out of the room.

2. Borax

Borax is somewhat controversial as a natural cleaner, but it's certainly less potentially harmful to the environment than the usual chemical drain cleaners. Don't confuse borax with boric acid. Borax is sodium tetraborate, a salt that can be mined from the earth. Boric acid is a combination of borax and sulfuric or hydrochloric acid, and is much more likely to have harmful effects.

To use borax as a drain cleaner, start by dumping ¼ cup of salt down the sink, followed by ¼ cup of borax. Follow that up with ½ cup of vinegar. Plan on giving this method about an hour to work. It's effective, but slow.

3. Enzymatic Drain Cleaners

You may have to do a little legwork to find enzymatic drain cleaners, but if you have green or organic stores in your local area, you should be able to find some. These cleaners rely on naturally occurring enzymes and bacteria that eat through the materials that cause drain clogs. Again, these products can be slow to work, but they're highly effective. Regular use of enzymatic cleaners can also help prevent clogs from occurring in the first place.

4. A Pipe Snake

A list of natural drain cleaning alternatives would be incomplete without mentioning that sometimes, no combination of products is going to be enough. If the clog is too big and too firmly rooted in your drain, you're going to need to use a pipe snake to manually clear the drain.

If you're unable to clear your drain using natural drain cleaners and you can't reach the clog with a pipe snake, you still shouldn't resort to chemical cleaners. Call in a licensed drain cleaning service who will have the tools and experience to get the drain cleared safely. 

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