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Does caustic soda for drains really work for unblocking drains?

When dealing with blockages, conventional wisdom says that using caustic soda for drains is just as effective as specially designed drain unblocker products, while also often being significantly cheaper. However, there can also be negative consequences to using this and other DIY unblocking methods – namely that in some cases, pouring something down a blocked sink can make the blockage worse, and using harsh chemicals can damage your pipes and drainage system in a way that can lead to much bigger problems later down the line.

Here, the drainage experts at Lanes Drainage Services UK explain what to do if your drain is blocked, which DIY methods are the best to use in an emergency, and how to take care of your drainage system so that it stays in perfect working condition for the foreseeable future.


Should you use caustic soda for drains?

You should not use caustic soda for unblocking your drains. It is a corrosive substance, which means that it can be effective at burning through blockages in an emergency, but there are a number of reasons why it is best not to use caustic soda or other DIY methods (like bicarbonate of soda or baking soda) to unblock sinks and drains.

The first is that, because these substances are corrosive, they can damage your pipes and eat away at your drainage system at the same time that they are eating through blockages. Needless to say, this can create far bigger problems later on. While a blockage can be annoying to deal with, fixing a leak or relining a pipe system is a much bigger job, and can be far more expensive, so it’s best to avoid any actions that could damage your pipes in the first place.

Because of this highly corrosive nature, caustic soda can also damage the person using it. You should wear gloves when using caustic soda and ensure you only do so in a well-ventilated area. If the substance gets stuck in your drains it can release chemicals that are harmful to your lungs, and cause you burns if you breathe them in.

What happens to a blockage when you use caustic soda?

Caustic soda creates a chemical reaction that breaks down food, hair and other organic materials, which are the primary causes of many blocked drains. By reacting and breaking down these materials, caustic soda can clear areas where they have built up and thereby remove the blockage.

However, it is difficult to know how much caustic soda to use. Using a lot will fully clear the blockage, but can release dangerous chemicals into your home. Using a smaller amount will be safer, but may not completely clear the blockage. This can be a serious problem and is another reason why it is not recommended to use caustic soda for drains.

When the blockage is broken up and water starts to run down your drain again, it might seem as though the problem is taken care of. In fact, large pieces of food, oil, grease, dirt or other materials that were causing the blockage might have escaped intact, and be washed further down into the drainage system. When this happens, these pieces can build up into what are known as ‘fatbergs’.

A fatberg is a large blockage made of fat, oil, and grease combined with things that people incorrectly dispose of in their drains – food scraps, sanitary products, and more. These substances combine and harden over time, and can become so large that they cause blockages in sewer pipes. It is not only time-consuming, difficult and expensive to remove these, but they can cause significant problems within the water system in your area, and are certainly best avoided. As well as refraining from using caustic soda to unblock your drains, you should take care not to dispose of fat, oil, grease, food scraps or anything else in your drains, to help to avoid the growth of fatbergs.

If you are concerned about a blockage and need a quick solution, the best way to approach this is to hire a professional like the experts at Lanes Drainage Services UK. They can remove most blockages quickly and efficiently, and ensure that the material causing the blockage is permanently removed from the system and disposed of responsibly, helping to avoid problems arising in the future. They can also provide advice and guidance on effective maintenance habits that can keep your drains in good working condition for the future.

For alternative, safer ways to unblock your drains, read our article on the best way to unblock drains.

If you have a stubborn blockage in your drains and need help from a professional, call Lanes Drainage Services UK today on 0800 526 488.

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