A homeowner once told us that kitchen sink clogs can be prevented by using Drano twice a year. We wondered if this was sound advice. Googling ‘Should I use Drano?’ tells you everything you ever wanted to know about the Drano Gender Test (myth) and the Drano Bomb (not recommended). When it comes to household usage, however, even our most trusted sources are at odds with one another. Some swear by it, others call it liquid fire. To bring you professional advice on the most commonly (mis)used household plumbing product, we spent hours getting the lowdown on Drano from our top Jiffy plumbers, who have been in the biz for decades.
What is Drano? Drano is lye-based household drainage cleaner product sold in several forms, consisting in variations of sodium hydroxide (lye), sodium hypochlorate (bleach), sodium nitrate, sodium chloride (salt) and aluminum.
How it works: When Drano is poured down a drain, several chemical reactions happen at the same time. Drano’s main ingredient is sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye, a substance that decomposes most organic matter. Hair and grease included. The lye is mixed with small shards of aluminum, creating a strong reaction that generates heat at near-boiling temperatures. The high heat effectively speeds up the decomposition process. Tap water, too, reacts with the lye to produce more heat, softening deposits lining a dirty drain. Lye then reacts with the softened grease, creating soap that the hot water dissolves, and again with the aluminum to form hydrogen bubbles. The bubbles loosen the clog particles, creating space for the hot water to carry it all down the drain. In just one slosh you’ll get intense heat, soap making, bubble forming, dissolving proteins and fat breakdown. In other words, more than enough for a drain to handle.
Why Drano is risky:
Drano damages plumbing systems. Drano sits in a pipe until the clog dissolves, continually reacting and generating heat. Toilet bowls can crack. PVC pipes can soften and eventually break. Old, corroded pipes can be easily damaged, and Drano can quickly eat away at the glue holding pipes together.
Drano is unpredictable if combined with other products or equipment. When using plumbing tools, like a plunger or an auger, Drano can splash up and burn your skin, and get into your eyes and lungs. If even a small amount of Drano remains in the drain, and you use a chemical cleaning product soon after, the two products might react unfavourably to create toxic fumes. You never know what kind of chemical reaction you might get when introducing Drano to a plumbing system.
Drano can burn skin, irritate eyes, and hurt lungs. Drano is caustic, meaning it has the ability to burn or corrode organic tissue by chemical action. When a Jiffy plumber gets called in to to fix a clogged drain, they typically ask the customer if they've tried Drano already. If so, the plumber comes back 24 hours later because Drano makes their working conditions unsafe.
Maybe you're taking this advice with a grain of salt. Of course plumbers don't like Drano, they want more business! Rest assured Jiffy plumbers are not here to rip you off. Keep on reading.
How to use Drano safely to minimize risks:
Drano can work for partial blockages, if used very sparingly. So long as there is some water flow in the clog, Drano can be effective at eating away foreign objects stuck in drains. The partial water flow dilutes the drano and helps flush the strong chemicals out of your plumbing system. As a preventative measure, you can always dilute the drano in a ⅔’s water, ⅓ drano mix prior to using it. However, even with dilution and water flow, Drano can still damage your drains and if it doesn’t fix the clog properly (likely), the problem will soon return.
If you have a complete blockage, do NOT use Drano. With no water flow and chemical dilution, the damage will happen very quickly.
Read the instructions carefully for safe usage. Some products require you to wear protective goggles, pour in only a certain amount of liquid, and so on.
Be sure to NEVER use a plunger after using Drano.
The final word? Our plumbers don't use Drano in their own homes because they've witnessed the extensive damage it can cause. It’s dangerous for you, harsh on your plumbing system, and bad for the environment. Keep in mind that Drano is always quick fix, not a long term solution. Proceed with caution!