A drain cleaner is a chemical-based consumer product that unblocks sewer pipes or helps to prevent the occurrence of clogged drains. The term may also refer to the individual who performs the activity with chemical drain cleaners or devices known as plumber's snake. Drain cleaners can be classified in two categories: either chemical or mechanical.
If a single sink, toilet, or tub or shower drain is clogged, the first
choice is normally a drain cleaner that can remove soft obstructions
such as hair and grease clogs that can accumulate close to interior
Each type of drain cleaner has advantages, disadvantages, and safety considerations as described below.
1.1 History 1.2 Alkaline drain openers 1.3 Acidic drain openers 1.4 Danger and Usage considerations
2 Handheld drain augers 3 Air burst drain cleaners 4 Home remedy drain cleaners 5 Hydro-mechanical drain cleaners 6 Electric drain cleaners 7 Sewer jetters 8 Enzymatic drain cleaners 9 References
Solid Formulation of an alkaline drain cleaner.
Bottles of alkaline drain cleaners containing sodium hydroxide can dissolve greases and hair.
Alkaline drain openers primarily contain sodium hydroxide (lye) and some may contain potassium hydroxide. They may appear in liquid or solid form. Solid formulations of corrosive alkaline drain cleaners are composed of a caustic substance (often sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide), aluminum particles, and 'additives.' These additives often include wetting agents such as alkyl aryl sulfonates, but the exact nature of these additives are not known for commercial drain cleaners, as they are regarded as the trade secrets that make each drain cleaner unique to its brand. The aluminum granules that are included in the solid caustic drain cleaner is an aluminum oxide that breaks down and re-oxidizes to release hydrogen gas. The components of this reaction are shown below. Because the release of hydrogen gas is overall an exothermic reaction, the extra heat released helps to break down the greases, oils, etc. that form the clog. 1. Breakdown of Aluminum Oxide: Al2O3 + 2NaOH + 3H2O ---> 2Na [Al(OH)4] 2. Oxidation of Aluminum metal: 2Al + 2NaOH + 6H2O ---> 2Na[Al(OH)4] + 3H2 The actual breakdown of a clog occurs by reaction with the basic sodium hydroxide (lye). Clogs are often composed of natural substances such as hair, fats, oils, etc. and breakdown occurs via a saponification reaction of a base and triglycerol. Essentially, the hydroxide ions from the basic lye attack the carbonyl carbons of the fat, which eventually kicks off the hydrophobic tails of the triglyceride (tristearin/fat) to isolate glycerol. Alkaline drain openers can dissolve hair (containing proteins) and fats inside pipes via alkaline hydrolysis of amide and ester respectively:
RCONH2(amide or proteins)+ OH− → NH3 + RCOO− RCO2R’(ester or fats)+ OH− → R'OH + RCOO−
Because solid lye is hygroscopic, it is crucial that the solid granules of the cleaner are placed directly in proximity to the clog. Otherwise, the lye itself will absorb water and actually create a mass itself, exacerbating the clog issue. Liquid formulations of corrosive alkaline drain cleaners can contain sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and lye (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide) in concentrations up to 50 percent. Other corrosive mixtures come as two-part cleaners that are mixed as they are poured in the drain opening. Inside the drain the two solutions react to release a gas, and surfactants trap the gas as dense foam. The intent of this foaming action is to coat the inside of the drain pipe to dislodge more of the substances that form the clog. Because liquid alkaline drain cleaners are essentially a base dissolved in water, this is denser than water and can sink to the source of the clog. Acidic drain openers
Acidic drain cleaners usually contain sulfuric acid at a high concentration which turns a piece of pH paper red and chars it instantly.
Apart from grease and hair, an acidic drain cleaner containing sulfuric acid can be also used to dissolve tissue paper inside water pipes.
RCONH2(amide or proteins)+ H2O + (H+ or acid) → NH4+ + RCOOH
RCO2R'(ester or fats) + H2O + acid or dehydrating agent (e.g. conc. sulfuric acid) ⇌ RCO2H + R'OH
(C 6H 10O 5)n + acid → 6n C + 5n H 2O
Danger and Usage considerations Advantages of chemical drain cleaners include ready availability of some formulations through retailer stores and potential ease of use for removing soft hair and grease clogs that accumulate close the drain openings. Disadvantages of chemical drain cleaners include a lack of effectiveness for removing clogs far from the drain opening (for example, clogs that occur in toilets or in the main sewer drain), an inability to remove most solid obstructions, and the safety considerations outlined below.
The acid in drain openers reacts with aluminium oxide on the surface of some pipes.
Danger arises from chemical drain cleaners' potential to injure eyes,
lungs, and skin; and damage to clothing and household materials such
as wood, paint, aluminum, and fiberglass.
Handheld drain auger
Handheld drain augers are typically designed to clean portions of a
drain within 8 metres (25 ft) of the drain opening. The cable of
a handheld drain auger is driven into a drain by the mechanical force
created when the operator rotates a drum that anchors the cable.
Many handheld augers have cables that are thin enough to pass through
common sink traps, though some manufacturers do not recommend using
handheld drain augers in toilets because of their potential to scratch
ceramic surfaces. Instead, a special closet auger (from "water
closet") should be used.
Similar to handheld augers, drain rods can be used for clearing
blockages in long, straight pipes.
Advantages of handheld drain augers include low relative cost and
ready availability through hardware stores. However, drawbacks include
a reach that is normally limited to 8 metres (25 ft), and the
potential for the twisting cable to scratch the ceramic surfaces of
plumbing fixtures. They are also only effective on small-diameter
pipes – 40–50 mm rather than main sewer pipes of 110 mm.
Safety considerations include a requirement to wear protective gloves
and eye protection, and to practice good hygiene after coming into
contact with drain fluids.
Air burst drain cleaners
Air burst drain cleaners use accelerated carbon dioxide, air or other
gas to rupture the clog membrane. Accelerated gas creates a force on
standing water that can dislodge clogs that accumulate close to drain
Advantages of air burst drain cleaners include the potential to
immediately clear clogs and slow-running drains, in contrast to
chemical cleaners that can take more time to work. Air burst cleaners
can dislodge obstructions that are further away from drain openings
than can a plunger, and in contrast to a drain augers do not risk
scratching the ceramic surfaces of sinks, bathtubs and toilets.
Disadvantages of air burst drain cleaners include a limited cleaning
range in pipes that do not contain standing water and, in general,
ineffectiveness for unclogging blocked main sewer drains.
Safety considerations for air burst drain cleaners include a
requirement to wear eye protection and, when using an air burst
cleaner that uses compressed gas cartridges, careful handling of
Home remedy drain cleaners
Home remedy drain cleaners include boiling water poured into drain
openings to clear soap and hair clogs; or, baking soda (sodium
bicarbonate) poured into a drain, followed by vinegar.
Frequently suggested home remedies of mixtures of baking soda (a weak
base) and vinegar (a weak acid) are ineffective but not particularly
hazardous. The use of baking soda to saponify fats in the line,
followed by vinegar to neutralize is fine, but typically ineffective.
It takes the strength of lye to turn a vegetable or animal fat to
soap. The use of stronger agents together, for example lye (sodium
hydroxide) and hydrochloric acid or sulfuric acid is a bad strategy.
The two agents do not complement each other, but neutralize each other
making the combination ineffective. The mixture will generate a lot of
heat, which can destroy pipes. Certain combinations are extremely
Electric drain cleaner
Electric drain cleaners, also called plumber's snakes, use the mechanical force of an electric motor to twist a flexible cable or spring in a clockwise direction and drive it into a pipe. Electric drain cleaners are commonly available with cable lengths of up to 40 metres and can go as far as 80 metres. Advantages of electric drain cleaners include the ability to clean long sections of sewer drain, the ability to remove solid objects such as tree roots and jewelry, and ready availability through hardware stores and tool rental counters. Machines using springs can easily negotiate multiple 90-degree bends while maintaining their effectiveness and without damaging the pipe. Disadvantages of electric drain cleaners include high relative cost and weight, and the considerable physical effort that may be required to control the cable. Safety considerations for electric drain cleaners include the requirement to wear work gloves and eye protection, to carefully control the cable during operation to avoid overstressing it, to use appropriate caution when working around rotating machinery, and to use properly grounded electrical outlets. Sewer jetters
Pressure Washer Sewer Jetter Attachment, Nozzle End
Sewer jetting is the process of shooting high powered streams of water
through the drain, down into the sewer in order to blast away any
debris blocking the passage of water. This is more effective than
using a snake, blades, or even drain rods because, first the water is
shot at such a high intensity that the force isn't even comparable to
manual labour, secondly the water is much more capable of bending
around curved or angular pipes to reach all the tight spots.
A sewer jetter is composed of a controlled high-pressure water source
such as a pressure washer or reciprocating displacement pump, a
flexible high-pressure line (called a jetter hose which connects the
high-pressure engine to the mini-reel) of up to hundreds of metres
(several hundred feet) in length, the Mini-Reel (a hose reel which can
be taken a distance from the engine) and a nozzle that uses hydraulic
force to pull the line into sewer drains, clean the sides of pipes,
and flush out residue. High-pressure sewer jetters can be mounted on
trolleys, inside vans or on trailers. The power of a sewer jetter
ranges from 1,000 psi (68 atm) to 5,000 psi
(340 atm). Sewer jetter nozzles come in different sizes and
applications; a bullet-type nozzle with a streamlined profile can
clear a hole for the larger root cutting nozzle. Root-cutter nozzles
are designed to cut roots with a spinning nozzle that shoots a jet
stream horizontally inside the pipe. High pressure sewer jetters with
root-cutting nozzles can clear a hole through the center of a
root-infested sewer line and with its rear-facing jet streams cut the
roots and clean the pipe walls, flushing the root debris through the
sewer line. The sewer jetter has been labeled as a technological
advancement of the plumber's snake (also known as an electric eel)
drain clearing method.
Portable sewer jetters and pressure washer sewer jetter attachments
are primarily used by service personnel and homeowners to remove soft
obstructions throughout the length of a building's sewer drain and to
prevent the recurrence of clogs by cleaning the sides of drain pipes
and flushing out residue.
Advantages of sewer jetters include the relative ease of penetrating long sewer lines and the ability to remove residue that accumulates along the sides of sewer pipes, thereby reducing the need for subsequent drain cleaning. Disadvantages of pressure washer sewer jetter attachments and many portable jetters include an inability to extract tree roots and other hard obstructions. Disadvantages of truck- and trailer-mounted sewer jetters include high relative cost and weight, and the requirement for extensive training to comply with manufacturers' safety guidelines. Safety considerations for sewer jetters include a requirement to wear protective gloves and eye protection, to avoid contact with sewer drain fluids, and to ensure that the jetter nozzle operates only inside the sewer pipe. Furthermore, larger truck- and trailer-mounted units that operate with sufficient power to cut tree roots require extensive training and strict adherence to manufacturers' safety guidelines to avoid serious injury. Enzymatic drain cleaners
Enzymatic drain cleaner
Enzymatic drain cleaners contain bacteria cultures and concentrated enzymes that react with organic residue that builds up on sewer pipes, dissolving the residue to help prevent slow-running drains. Most enzymatic drain cleaners are intended for general maintenance to maintain proper flow and are not intended to clear fully clogged drain pipes. Advantages of enzymatic drain cleaners include relative safety for use in a wide range of plumbing fixtures, low environmental impact, low cost and ease of use. Disadvantages of most enzymatic drain cleaners include longer cleaning times compared to most other drain cleaners. Because enzymatic cleaners rely on liquid flowing through the pipe to disperse, they are also generally not intended to open completely clogged drains. Safety considerations for enzymatic drain cleaners include a requirement to avoid contact with eyes and prolonged contact with skin. A 1997 blind study of 48 septic systems with three additives, The Effect of Bacterial Additives on Septic Tank Performance  found no statistically significant difference in performance from an untreated system, including the buildup of sludge and scum. References
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Combined sewer Decentralized wastewater system Drain-waste-vent system Effluent sewer Force main Gravity sewer Outfall Sanitary sewer Simplified sewerage Storm drain Vacuum sewer
Biogenic sulfide corrosion
Blackwater (waste) Greywater Industrial wastewater Sewage Sto