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  • Writer's pictureAbdul Trent


Almost every homeowner has dealt with slow drains or unpleasant smells because of a clog. Most of us don't think twice about taking care of the problem ourselves. However, sometimes the issue is much worse than you might realize, requiring attention from a professional.

While it could be as easy as using a drain cleaner, plunger, or quickly snaking the drain, do-it-yourself solutions aren't always as effective. Not to mention the impact your activities could have on your plumbing system.

Before busting out the drain cleaner under your sink, consider why cleaning your drain yourself could be a bad idea.

1. Aggressive drain cleaners can be dangerous and cause damage.

A professional plumber or drain-cleaning service understands the correct use of drain cleaners to ensure optimal performance. It's essential to use a safe drain cleaner that will not damage the drain, especially old cast iron or galvanized types. That's because an overly aggressive cleaner could compromise the joints in the piping and may be corrosive to metals.

While an aggressive drain cleaner will remove a blockage, it could also remove scale buildup that helps conceal a weak drain. A professional would know to use cleaners that are safe for all types of kitchen and bathroom drains.

Another consideration is that most chemicals need some flow to reach a blockage. As it flows through the line and potentially reaches a full blockage, there is a chance the chemicals could mix with the standing water. The contaminated water can then adhere to your drain snake or cause harm when a professional tries to service the line and doesn’t realize you used chemicals.

Safety is another major concern. Drain cleaners can cause severe skin burns and eye damage. Professional plumbers understand the dangers of using chemical cleaners and own all the necessary equipment to get the job done safely.

If you opt to use a drain cleaner, do not breathe mist. Wash all exposed external body areas thoroughly after handling the drain cleaner. Wear protective gloves, protective clothing, eye and face protection.

2. Plumbing snakes or drain-cleaning machines can be dangerous.

Suppose you have no experience using a drain-cleaning machine or a plumbing snake. In that case, you run the risk of compromising your safety. Working with drain-snaking machines can be dangerous, because the cable could get wound up in a clog or even whip back, potentially leading to an injury.

Your inexperience in using a drain snake can also damage your pipes, because you won't be able to recognize when something is going wrong. Especially if you have an older home, once you start getting into your drains with a metal rod and it starts whipping around, it could damage your pipes at their weakest points.

In multi-family buildings, there have also been instances where a drain snake is fed in the wrong direction leading to the neighbor's fixtures — something most of us would want to avoid.

3. Your plumbing issue could be worse than you realize.

Have you ever successfully unclogged your bathtub drain just to encounter that same slow-draining problem a few weeks later? Well, that's probably because the issue is worse than you realize.

Even if you get through a clog, it is usually a temporary fix. Meanwhile, there's something larger going on that needs attention. You might be dealing with root intrusion or even a collapsed mainline, but you don't realize it because of inexperience.

On the other hand, a professional plumber would quickly recognize signs of a larger issue and ensure that it is addressed appropriately.

4. You could use the wrong drain cleaner.

There are so many drain cleaners to choose from today. However, a specific cleaner capable of dissolving each clog’s unique collected matter should be used to open a stopped drain quickly and effectively.

Once it is determined if emergency relief is needed (a completely blocked drain), or if the drain still has flow and is only partially blocked, plumbing professionals usually choose the product best-suited to resolve the issue. The severity of the clog will determine whether a fast-acting solution is needed or one designed more for maintenance.

For example, if you have a bathroom clog, a professional will know to use a drain cleaner ideal for bathrooms, because it will be formulated to eradicate clogs containing hair and soap scum.

Another major factor to consider is whether you have a septic system. Septic system care is critical, because replacing a failed system is costly. Bacteria are what make a septic system function properly, so a septic system is designed to keep bacteria busy working inside the tank or in the drain field. A septic system needs occasional 'pumping' to remove this sludge from the tank to avoid blockage and buildup.

But once a system gets pumped out, all the bacteria that break down organic material are lost. In addition, many drain cleaners will kill beneficial bacteria in the tank.

Once a septic tank is emptied, and wastewater starts draining into it, you usually must wait for the bacteria to begin to develop again. A professional will know to use a drain cleaner that will restore good bacteria.

While it may be tempting to unclog your drainage system yourself, an experienced plumber will ensure that the issue is handled both quickly and appropriately, while also identifying any major issues you are unaware of — saving you money and time down the line.

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