When dealing with a clogged pipe, most people turn to Drano or another chemical drain cleaning product in an effort to clear the clog. There is no doubt that using a drain cleaner can be an effective method for eliminating clogs and blockages. Still, if you have a septic system, you may be wondering whether you can still use Drano. To answer this question, let’s look at how drain cleaners work and what effects they can have on your septic system and plumbing.
How Does Drano Work?
Drano and other chemical drain cleaners can contain bleach, aluminum, lye, sodium chloride, and sodium nitrate. The specific concentration and type of chemicals depend on the type of cleaner, i.e., whether it’s a liquid, gel, crystals, etc. When you pour the cleaner into the drain, these substances create a strong chemical reaction that quickly decomposes and dissolves organic matter like hair, fat, and food particles. When these chemicals encounter organic matter, the reaction produces a huge amount of heat that helps to speed up the decomposition process. The lye in drain cleaning products also reacts with fat, grease, and oil to create soap bubbles that help to further loosen the clog. The combination of these different reactions is what makes drain cleaner so effective at quickly eliminating even major clogs.
The Importance of Septic Bacteria
Your septic system is designed, so that toilet paper and solid waste settle at the bottom of the septic tank. The liquid inside the tank then drains out into the leach field, where bacteria in the soil break down any waste in the water. There is also bacteria inside the tank that breaks down solid waste into sludge, and this is what gets removed every time the tank is pumped out.
Septic tanks usually only need to be pumped out every three to five years. If you have a large number of people using the system, you may need to pump it every other year or so. Still, the biggest determining factor is the health of the bacteria inside the system.
Maintaining the bacteria inside the tank is vital for the health of the septic system. Without this bacteria, the solid waste would quickly build up and make it so that you’d need to have the tank pumped out much more frequently. Otherwise, the tank would quickly start to overflow and flood the area with sewage. This is why most experts recommend that you never put any type of chemical into the septic system. It is also a good idea to regularly use enzyme treatments in the system to encourage healthy bacteria growth.
Drano and Septic Systems
The makers of Drano claim that all of their drain cleaning products are 100% septic safe. However, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever find a professional plumber or septic expert that will ever agree with this claim. In fact, most plumbers recommend that you never use Drano or any other type of chemical drain cleaner in any type of plumbing system. The reason is that the extreme heat from the chemical reaction that they cause can weaken your pipes and potentially lead to more serious plumbing issues. The chemicals can also start eating into your plumbing.
Drano claims that it will not harm the bacteria inside your septic tank, but this claim seems dubious at best. Think about it this way. If the chemical reaction caused by Drano is strong enough to break down solid organic matter like food and hair, it is obviously also strong enough to kill the bacteria inside your tank.
This is especially true of liquid and gel drain cleaners as the active ingredient in most of these products is sodium hypochlorite, also known as bleach. Bleach is one of the worst things that you can ever put in a septic system due to the fact that it contains chlorine. Chlorine has extremely powerful microbial properties. This is precisely why it is used to treat and clean drinking water, as it quickly kills the vast majority of bacteria and pathogens.
You should generally never put bleach in a septic system, but the drain cleaner is far worse. Studies have shown that it would take somewhere around two gallons of bleach to completely destroy all the bacteria inside a septic tank, but only one teaspoon of drain cleaner to have the same effect. Even worse, bleach and other chemicals can potentially sterilize the bacteria in your leach field. Should this happen, it will be necessary to dig up and replace the entire leach field.
To avoid these issues, it is vital that you never use drain cleaner, bleach, or any other harsh chemical products in a septic system. Even antibacterial soap is a bad idea since it will also destroy much of the bacteria inside the tank.
Alternative Methods for Unclogging Your Pipes
Although drain cleaner offers a quick and easy solution for unclogging your pipes, there are several other methods that can be just as effective without harming the bacteria inside your septic tank. One obvious option is to attempt to use a plunger to dislodge the blockage. A sink plunger is always a good thing to have on hand since it can be an easy and effective method for unclogging your kitchen or bathroom drain.
If your drains are draining slowly or partially clogged, another option is to use a combination of white vinegar and baking soda to loosen the clog. Although this method obviously won’t work if there is standing water in the sink, it can still be effective and won’t negatively impact septic bacteria. All you need to do is pour a cup or so of baking soda down the drain, followed by one to two cups of vinegar. Let this sit inside the drain for 15 to 20 minutes, and then flush the drain with hot water to see if this clears the clog.
If neither of the previous two methods was effective, the final option is to use a pipe snake if you have one. This is the same type of tool that professional plumbers use, and it can be extremely effective against even the worst clogs. A snake is essentially a metal coil that winds down into the pipe in order to grab ahold of and break up clogs. Although a snake is a great option, you need to be careful when using it as. Otherwise, you could damage your plumbing.
There are also a number of drain cleaning products on the market that are actually septic safe. However, you should always check the ingredients before using any drain cleaning product to make sure it doesn’t contain any chemicals that could harm your septic system.
Expert Septic System Services
If you’re experiencing issues with a clogged pipe or any other problems with your septic system, Express Septic Pumping is here to help. We offer a full range of septic system services for customers in Nampa, Boise, and other nearby communities. This includes pumping, repair, and installation of septic tanks and leach fields. As well, we offer 24/7 services in case of any emergency, and our team can inspect your septic tank and leach field to ensure everything is working properly. We also offer enzyme treatments and preventative maintenance to make sure your septic system continues working as it should for years to come. Whatever type of septic service you need, give us a call today.