Is Pouring Bleach Down Your Drains Effective (and Safe)?
Clogged drains can be a frustrating and messy problem. When faced with a clogged drain, it may be tempting to turn to common household chemicals such as bleach as a quick and easy solution. If it’s safe to use bleach to disinfect surfaces or remove stains from your toilet bowl, it has to be safe to clean drains with bleach too, right?
Newsflash: pouring bleach down blocked drains is not effective in every situation and can have negative consequences for your pipes, your health, and the environment.
In this article, we will examine the pros and cons of using bleach to unclog drains, as well as suggest alternative methods for resolving clogs.
Whether you’re dealing with a hair-clogged bathroom sink or a slow-draining kitchen sink, we will provide you with all the information you need to unclog your drains in a way that’s both safe and effective.
Bleach and Drains: Key Takeaways
- Bleach can be effective in unclogging drains in certain situations, but it’s not always the best solution.
- Using bleach to unclog drains can damage your pipes and the environment.
- Safety precautions must be taken when using bleach on drains, such as wearing gloves and avoiding mixing it with other household cleaners or cleaning agents.
- Alternative methods for unclogging sink drains include physical removal with a plunger or drain snake, store-bought drain cleaner, household items such as baking soda and vinegar, boiling water and dish soap, or calling in professional plumbing services.
- A clog can be caused by a variety of items, including hair, soap scum, grease and oil, sanitary products, foreign objects, solid waste, and tree roots.
Can Bleach Unclog Clogged Drains?
Bleach is a strong alkaline solution that can dissolve organic materials such as hair, grease, and food particles, which are common causes of a blocked bathroom or kitchen drain.
When poured down the drain, bleach reacts with these materials, breaking them down and allowing them to flow down the drain.
- Simple and easy to use
- Inexpensive compared to other drain cleaning solutions
- Can effectively dissolve organic materials
- Can damage pipes if used excessively or incorrectly
- Can cause unpleasant odors
- Can be dangerous if not handled properly
- Should never be used if you have a septic system
- Not effective on all types of clogs, especially those caused by foreign objects
While bleach may be ineffective at removing certain objects, it can be particularly catastrophic on certain materials used in your plumbing system. And while it is effective at killing germs, it is equally proficient at killing “good” bacteria such as those that are necessary for your septic system to work correctly.
The bottom line? If you do decide to use bleach to unclog a drain, please do so with care.
Safety Instructions When Using Bleach to Unclog a Drain
Due to the potentially deadly consequences of misuse, please always abide by the following safety precautions.
- Always wear gloves and protective eyewear when handling bleach
- Hold the bottle neck near the drain to reduce splashing and use a damp rag to wipe any excess away
- Never mix bleach with other cleaning products that can give off chlorine gas, and especially those containing ammonia – these can produce chloramine gas, which attacks your respiratory system and can be deadly
- Do not use bleach on brass fittings, aluminum, or cast iron pipes as it can cause corrosion
- Use diluted bleach in moderation, as excessive use can cause damage to pipes and the environment (there’s no such thing as “eco-friendly bleach!)
- Always ensure you have flushed the bleach out of the system before using other chemicals as unintentional mixing can have disastrous effects
How to Safely Use Chlorine Bleach to Unclog a Clogged Drain
If you decide that cleaning your tub or shower drain with bleach is the best way to go, then please follow all the safety instructions above before trying the following steps.
- Pour 1 cup of bleach down the drain
- Let the bleach sit for 10–15 minutes
- Pour boiling water into your kitchen or bathroom drain and then let the warm water run for several minutes.
- If the tub drain doesn’t drain clear, then repeat the process
Avoid using undiluted bleach frequently, as excessive use can cause damage to pipes and the environment.
Alternative Methods to unclog Drain Clogs
If bleach doesn’t effectively unclog your drain, if you have a septic system, or if you want to try something else, there are several alternative methods to try, including:
- Physical removal using a plunger, drain snakes, or even a bent hanger.
- Using baking soda and vinegar. This method uses a chemical reaction to break down clogs (if you don’t have vinegar to hand most window cleaners contain vinegar).
- Using hot water and dish detergent: This method is particularly good at dissolving grease and oil clogs.
- A commercial drain cleaner.
If all else fails, then a professional plumber has the tools and expertise to safely and effectively remove clogs and repair any damage to your fittings and fixtures.
How Does a Drain Clog?
The formation of drain clogs can be attributed to a variety of causes, ranging from everyday items such as the following:
- Hair: Hair is a common cause of blocked drains, particularly in shower drains and bathroom sinks.
- Soap scum: Soap residue can build up and cause clogs.
- Grease and oil: Pouring oil and grease down the sink can cause a clog as it cools and solidifies.
- Foreign objects: Foreign objects such as jewelry, toys, sanitary products, and food waste can become lodged and cause clogs.
- Tree roots: Tree roots can grow into pipes and cause clogs.
It’s important to be mindful of what you put down your drains and to regularly maintain them to prevent clogs.
Conclusion: Does Bleach Unclog Drains?
Although bleach can unclog drains, it’s not always the most suitable or sensible option. While it can provide temporary relief, it also has the potential to damage both your plumbing and the environment.
Rather than using bleach, there are alternate solutions available to unblock a sink drain that are much safer and more sustainable. These include physically removing the clog, using household or store-bought cleaners, or opting for professional plumbing services.
Ultimately, the best solution for unclogging a drain will depend on the specifics of the situation and what caused the blockage in the first place.
If you’ve enjoyed our article or have any questions or further suggestions, we’d love to hear from you. Drop us a line in the comments section below!
Can You Pour Bleach Down the Drain FAQs
Does Bleach Dissolve Hair?
Yes, as bleach is a base and hair has acidic properties, it can dissolve hair, but it may not be the most effective method for removing a hair clog.
What Happens if I Add Acids After I Pour Bleach Down My Bathroom Sink Drains?
Mixing bleach with acids can release toxic fumes and should be avoided.
Are Drain Cleaners the Same as Bleach
No, drain cleaners are not the same as bleach. Drain cleaners often contain chemicals specifically formulated for unclogging drains.
Is Vinegar & Baking Soda Better Than Bleach at Unclogging Drain Pipes?
It depends on the cause of the clog. Baking soda and vinegar can be effective for removing grease and oil clogs, but may not be effective for removing other types of clogs.