Clean and sustainable groundwater is the water we drink and the water we use to grow our food. Groundwater is essential for both our health and the health of our environment and is the largest source of usable, fresh water in the world. In fact, about 27 trillion gallons of groundwater are withdrawn for use in the U.S. yearly.
What we do at home has an impact on groundwater and the environment. Did you know that drain cleaners are actually among the most toxic home cleaning products? While you think you are unclogging your drains, you are actually harming your pipes, your health and the environment.
The Dangers For Your Health
Drain cleaners often contain bleach, sodium silicate, lye or caustic soda. Bleach and ammonia can harm your lungs, eyes and respiratory system in general, as a combination of the two can produce toxic gases. This can happen even if you unknowingly dump an ammonia based cleaning solution after cleaning your floors down the sink, which might still contain drain cleaner.
Furthermore, lye requires the production of heavy metals and can cause irritation when breathed in or when it comes into contact with the skin.
Repeated contact with these hazardous chemicals can have serious repercussions on your health and lead to serious conditions and even poisoning. If swallowed, drain cleaners can even cause death.
The Dangers For The Environment
Bleach can combine with surface water to create a number of toxins which can represent a hazard to the environment. Lye is also dangerous for the environment, as it can modify the pH of water and in turn can affect the animals and plants living in lakes, streams and rivers.
Even the packaging is dangerous and should be treated as hazardous waste and cannot be recycled, as it still contains toxic chemicals and the residue from drain cleaners can be dangerous and have detrimental effects on the environment.
The Natural Alternatives
Clogs often are the direct result of dumping fat, oil or grease down the sink; these substances may come from dirty dishes or certain soaps. Even natural soaps may contain drain-clogging vegetable fats. Keeping your sinks, toilets and bathtubs clean with drain traps or by discarding what you can instead of pouring it down the drain can help your pipes last longer and benefit the environment.
If your drains do get clogged, you can use hot water as an immediate solution. In fact, hot water melts soap scum and grease and enough hot water will flush the melted grease out of your pipes. It can even help with particles such as eggshells or hair, as it will melt the grease surrounding those particles. Be sure to check the temperature of the water however, as boiling water can actually melt your pipes.
A plunger can also be an effective solution, as sometimes the change in pressure is sufficient to move the clog to an area of the pipe where it is easier to rinse it away. A strong seal around the edge of the plunger is necessary for best results.
Other effective solutions include a combination of baking soda and vinegar, which produces carbon dioxide and dissolve residues, and natural enzyme drain cleaners, which employ enzymes to eat the organic material stuck in your drains.
Prevention is the Key
The best way to keep your pipes clean and help the environment is to try to avoid clogs in the first place. This is easy if you follow a few simple rules:
- Place a hair trap in showers
- Let grease solidify and throw it in the trash; do not pour it down the drain
- Do not put fruit and vegetable peels or cheese in the garbage disposal
Unclogging your drains using harsh chemicals can be dangerous to you and the environment, but by keeping your drains clean and using natural solutions, you can avoid the negative effects of chemical drain cleaners.
Sally Phillips is a freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.