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The Dangers of Drano

Posted May 7, 2020

When you have a clogged bathroom or kitchen drain, reaching for a bottle of Drano to solve the situation can seem like a no-brainer. While products like Drano can help remove a clog, they are a temporary fix that could cause bigger problems down the road. Before using Drano in your home, it is important to understand the full scope of what Drano actually is, how it works, and why it can be dangerous.

An overflowing sink and bathtub.

What is Drano?

Drano is a household drainage cleaner made from either sodium hypochlorate (bleach), sodium hydroxide (lye), sodium chloride, sodium nitrate and aluminum.

How does it work?

Once poured down the drain, Drano works to create a chemical reaction to decompose organic matter causing the blockage. Chemicals mix together to create heat at near boiling temperatures that are supposed to speed up the decomposition process. Furthermore, when mixing with grease and water, the chemicals in Drano create soap and bubbles to loosen the clog.

Why is Drano Dangerous?

  1. Damages existing plumbing: The combination of dissolving proteins, hot temperature and bubbles forming is a lot for drains/pipes to handle. The harmful chemicals in Drano can end up being corrosive to your pipes. Drano has been known to cause toilet bowls to crack, soften and break PVC pipes and break older corroded pipes. Over time, the continued usage of Drano can lead your pipes to corrode, crack and eventually fail.
  2. Dangerous for your skin, eyes and lungs: Since Drano’s purpose is to dissolve organic tissues, if Drano comes into contact with your bare skin, eyes, or mouth, it can cause rashes and even burns if left too long. You must be sure to wash it off as soon as possible and keep your hands away from your face after using it.  It is important to keep all Drano and similar products in areas inaccessible to children and pets.
  3. Septic Tank Damage: Drano’s chemicals are harmful to septic systems because they kill all bacteria – even the “good” bacteria. These “good” bacteria aid in the decomposition and break down of the sewage located in the septic tank. Without the presence of these bacteria, larger blockages can occur, causing homeowners unnecessary stress and financial burden down the road.

What are the Alternatives? How to safely unclog Drains yourself!

Does all of this mean that you cannot unclog your drains yourself? No – there are several other solutions that you can try which are much better for both the environment and your plumbing system.

Minor clogs can be remedied with coarse salt. Combine ½ cup of salt with 4 liters of water. Pour the salt solution down the drain and let it sit for 15 minutes. Pour hot water down the drain. The salt will help dissolve the clog while the hot water will further soften the clog and eventually unclog the drain.

A Milani technician clearing a bathtub drain.
A clogged drain being unclogged with baking soda and vinegar.

For larger problems, using baking soda and vinegar can be helpful – the chemical reaction which happens when the vinegar and baking soda combine helps to loosen the blockage. Remove as much water as possible from the problem area and then pour the solution down the drain. If it’s bubbling, that means it is working. Cover the area and then let sit for about 15 minutes. When the bubbling subsides, you can pour hot water down the drain. If you have plastic pipes, do not use boiling water as it can melt them.

If those two alternatives are not quite getting the job done, Milani Plumbing offers drain cleaning services. We use a drain auger device to manually remove and pull out the clog in your drain. Give us a call or schedule online for more details. 

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