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Are Drain Cleaners Safe for Septic Systems?

Are Drain Cleaners Safe for Septic Systems?

We have all been there, a drain is clogged in our home, and nothing seems to break the clog. You have tried all the tricks, plunging, baking soda and vinegar, and running endless amounts of hot water all trying to break the clog up so that you can get back to your routine. 

The last resort is drain cleaner which may do the trick. But is it safe for your plumbing system?


What Kinds of Drain Cleaners Are There, and How Do They Work?

Drain cleaners, such as Drano and Green Gobbler, can indeed dissolve just about anything that gets stuck in your drain and, in some cases, can be used to successfully clear a clog. Drain cleaners are comprised of different acids and bases that get the job done

Most drain cleaners utilize lye, sodium chloride, and caustic potash, which, when combined, starts a chemical reaction that breaks up the chemical bonds of whatever is built up. The caustic potash speeds up the decomposition of organic matter. This is the most commonly found drain cleaner and is typically sold as “liquid drain cleaner” in stores.

Another commonly used drain cleaner is oxidizing drain cleaner. They typically consist of household bleach, nitrates, and peroxides. This solution causes oxidation within the organic material, making it easier to free up a clog using other methods.

Finally, there are acid drain cleaners that are used only by professionals. The cleaner's main component is sulfuric acid which can be extremely dangerous if it contacts bare skin. Sulfuric acid “eats” away any organic material clogging up a drain and makes quick work of a clog. 

While drain cleaners may be the easy way out, the vast majority of them are made from harmful chemical compounds that are not great for the plumbing of your home. 

If you use a drain cleaner to clear your drains regularly, this could cause serious damage to the pipes, causing them to corrode and break down. If your home is connected to a septic system instead of a sewer line, it's a whole different ball game.

Are Drain Cleaners Safe for Septic Systems?

The short answer is no, but why? Did you know that your septic system is home to billions of bacteria that break down just about everything that you flush down the toilet or other drains found in your home? 

A septic tank is more than just a holding tank for waste. If that were the case, we would all be swimming in something that we would all like to leave in our tank. 

Septic systems work by separating solid waste from wastewater that will eventually flow into your drain field. The tank holding the waste is a microbiome, home to billions of bacteria that help break down solid waste in the tank. This bacteria also helps clean out any water so that it can go out into the drain field safely. 

The moment you introduce harsh chemicals to your plumbing system, you are interrupting an ecosystem that is breaking down waste. These chemicals can kill these important bacteria, slowing the breakdown and allowing it to build up in your tank. Eventually, the tank will overfill and need to be pumped more often than it should. Eventually, the bacteria will naturally reemerge, but only after the chemicals in the tank have been flushed out. 

Additionally, these chemicals can sometimes leech into the drain field, contaminating the groundwater and causing severe ecological problems. It is safe to say that putting drain cleaners and other chemicals down the drain is a bad idea.

How to Clear a Clog Without Drain Cleaner

Since using drain cleaners is out of the question, there are a few things to try before you call a professional to come out and work on your plumbing. For one, using the correct plunger can make all the difference when trying to break up a clog. 

Clogged toilets should be taken care of with a flange plunger. Flange plungers have a flap that fits into the drain of a toilet and allows the user to get a better seal when plunging. Cup plungers are better suited for drains with flat surfaces, such as sink drains or drains in bathtubs. 

Another method for clearing a drain is using a drain snake or drain auger.  To successfully use a drain auger, all you have to do is:

  • Insert the snake into the drain opening and turn the handle.
  • Keep pushing the snake into the drain until you feel resistance.
  • Rotate the snake against the clog until you feel it begin to feed freely past the blockage
  • Retract the snake back into the body of the auger and run the water full force to be sure the drain is clear.

One final trick is to use equal parts vinegar and baking soda. Mix them and pour them down the drain. Immediately after, pour boiling water into the drain and wait. The chemical reaction will often clean out your drain without the use of harsh chemicals. 

If none of these solutions work, it is probably time to call a plumber to take care of your clog, as it may be more than just a simple drain clog. Furthermore, if you have overused drain cleaners in the past and your septic system is not working properly, then it may be time to have your septic tank pumped.

Viking Septic Services goes above and beyond to assist when you are having issues with your septic system. Our septic professionals can take care of anything from septic inspections to full septic replacement. For more information or general inquiries, contact us today!