What to look for in a drain cleaner

Drain cleaners come in four different varieties — acids, alkalis, oxidizers and enzymatics — and their job is to get rid of blockages in drains, most commonly in kitchens and bathrooms. Compared to mechanical drain cleaners, chemical and enzymatic cleaners are easy to use, but chemical cleaners have the potential to harm the user if instructions aren't followed exactly. Enzymatic cleaners have a slower, biological reaction and are thus safer to use than chemical cleaners.

What to look for in a drain cleaner

1. Acids and alkalis

  • These are the most popular of the drain cleaners for removing blockages of hair, grease, soap and other wastes.
  • Some of these drain cleaners, particularly the faster-acting ones, cause bubbling that can splash harmful chemicals back out of the drain. So stand back once you've poured in the drain opener.
  • Never use muriatic acid (a diluted form of hydrochloric acid) to clear blocked drains. It's a highly dangerous substance.

2. Oxidizers

  • These chemicals react and combine with the blocking material, breaking it up and disintegrating it (rather than dissolving it).
  • The majority of commercial cleaners are a combination of caustic (alkaline) and oxidizing components, meaning the cleaners work in two ways.

3. Enzymatic drain cleaners

  • These are slower-acting as they consume or digest waste blockages, but they're easier on your pipes than acids, caustics and oxidisers (which is more of a concern with old plumbing).
  • They're also thought to do less harm to septic systems.

4. Prevent drain clog-ups

  • Protect your kitchen sink with this once-a-month treatment using household products: pour 250 ml (1 cup) of bicarbonate of soda around the kitchen sink drain opening.
  • Rinse the bicarbonate of soda into the drain with250 ml (1 cup) of hydrogen peroxide. The bubbling and fizzing action helps to clear away the residue clinging to your pipes.

5. Where to get them

Drain cleaners are available from a variety of places — supermarkets, discount stores, hardware stores, home improvement and plumbing supply stores.

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