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Old 06-20-2015, 02:55 PM
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How bad is Drano?

My shower drain has gotten pretty slow, and I am moving out of this place pretty soon. I tried pouring kettles of boiling water down the shower drain to unclog it, but that didn't help.

I can't let the drain just get worse and worse- I can't stand it. I have to use Drano. I tried to avoid resorting to this- I imagine the Drano just goes out into a river somewhere to result in 3 eyed fish, then onto the Gulf to cause algae blooms or dead dolphins or who knows what. Probably dead babies in India, too.

Maybe my imagination is running a little wild. If it were that bad, there would be a law, no? Just how bad is Drano, anyway?
Old 06-20-2015, 03:22 PM
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It's just corrosive.
It's not a persistent toxin.
Old 06-20-2015, 03:23 PM
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We have a bathroom drain that slows down and eventually clogs every three months or so. (I take it as affirmation that my wife and I still have hair.) I solve the problem with a quarter of a bottle of Drano.

Dolphins and three-eyed fish be damned - my drain is clear.
Old 06-20-2015, 03:34 PM
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Shower drain clogging frequently can be because of too much hair getting in it. Draino works fine in unclogging - just make sure that you don't let it come in contact with a chrome plated or similar drain strainer because it will destroy it. Also think about changing the strainer to eliminate more hair getting into the drain.
Old 06-20-2015, 03:39 PM
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The damage is usually more local than what you are thinking.

Drano is great for dissolving hair clogs. It also eats away at the insides of your metal pipes. So, while it will take away the hair, over time your pipes will get thinner and weaker until finally something breaks.

Drano also kills bacteria and stuff that live in your drain system. You might think that would be a good thing, but those bacteria break down other organics that might otherwise build up. So, by taking away the hair, you are allowing other types of clogs to form.

I personally use it as a last-ditch effort against hair clogs, but I would never use it for any kind of regular drain maintenance.
Old 06-20-2015, 03:45 PM
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I pay a rooter guy $100 generally every year.
We did use a draino like product on a slow running bathtub drain, and nothing, so far, has fallen off.
Old 06-20-2015, 03:46 PM
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Buy one of these:

http://drugstore.com/products/pr...ELAID=12014299

They sell them at Target and in the As Seen On TV aisle everywhere. I use it on my shower drain every couple of weeks and am thoroughly disgusted by what it drags back up.

My Turbo Snake has served me faithfully for a couple of years and has been well worth the $10 I spent for it.
Old 06-20-2015, 04:26 PM
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Chemical consequences to the environment are minor.

DrainO is bad because it's a band aid solution that does not resolve the root issue.

Plumbers don't hate it because it replaces them, plumbers hate it because they have to deal with sinks full of skin eating goo left behind by people who tried to fix their issue and failed.

If a drain is backing up there is a more serious issue at play than just an organic clog. Have a plumber check it out.
Old 06-20-2015, 04:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LurkerInNJ View Post
Buy one of these:

http://drugstore.com/products/pr...ELAID=12014299

They sell them at Target and in the As Seen On TV aisle everywhere. I use it on my shower drain every couple of weeks and am thoroughly disgusted by what it drags back up.

My Turbo Snake has served me faithfully for a couple of years and has been well worth the $10 I spent for it.
Yes, absolutely.

I used to deal with clogs in my bathroom sink every month or two. I bought one of these and it busts up the clogs almost every time. I don't have to use anything else more than every other year.

I also found a cheaper, generic version in a plain plastic bag at Ace Hardware. It is a stupid-simple device, but worth every penny.

I also tried the Zip-It, but it didn't work as consistently as the Turbo Snake. I am a big fan of the Turbo Snake.
Old 06-20-2015, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
I pay a rooter guy $100 generally every year.
We did use a draino like product on a slow running bathtub drain, and nothing, so far, has fallen off.
I've had stuff fall off.

The woman who owned our house before we did (it's a rancher built in 1960) was very fond of drano and used to put it regularly down the kitchen and bathroom sinks. I installed a new faucet in the bathroom, and when I went to attach the strap for the drain plug, the entire P-trap cracked in half. I seriously wondered how it hadn't leaked at all up until that point.

I checked everything under the kitchen sink and it was all just as corroded on the inside. I replaced everything with PVC.

Everything looked fine from the outside. It was just the inside that was eaten away.

The damage isn't something that happens overnight. Use it enough though and eventually you'll have a problem. Or maybe the poor sot who buys your house many years from now will have a problem.

I also don't think drano really does any harm to PVC, but I'm not sure about that one.
Old 06-20-2015, 05:50 PM
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Just pull the hair out.
Old 06-20-2015, 06:40 PM
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I have a rooter guy in about once a year. For bathroom clogs, he suggests pouring a whole bunch of liquid dish soap down the drain, pouring a pot of hot water after it, and going to bed (unless you do it in the morning or midday, I guess...) I've tried this and it seems to work better than Drano, and I prefer it because if Drano doesn't get the clog, I worry that the water backing up into the sink/shower will be contaminated with corrosives.

OP says he is moving soon so this is probably not an answer to his problem, but my shower drain used to run very slow and nothing seemed to help. When I had some other plumbing work done, the plumber told me that because the house had settled, the pipe leading from the tub drain was almost horizontal. He re-did the pipe so that it sloped more and that drain hasn't been a problem since.
Old 06-20-2015, 07:05 PM
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I use this in all my drains, once a month. It's concentrated, so just mix with water, pour down the drain, and let it stand overnight.
Old 06-20-2015, 07:41 PM
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Originally Posted by actualliberalnotoneofthose View Post
Just pull the hair out.
Hard to do when it is twelve feet downstream.

What is the acid only available to "real" or licensed plumbers?
Old 06-20-2015, 07:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by carnivorousplant View Post
Hard to do when it is twelve feet downstream.

What is the acid only available to "real" or licensed plumbers?
Muriatic (Hydrochloric).
But, anyone can buy it - just go to a pool store.
Old 06-20-2015, 07:48 PM
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I used to use Drano every 3-4 months. It always seemed to help but only temporarily. The drainage would almost immediately start slowing down and I'd have to use it again. I went to Home Depot and the worker there led me to a plain-looking white bottle with red writing on it. I can't remember the name but it cleared up the drain so well that I never had to use it again. It's been a year or so. I feel like they make Drano just strong enough that it helps but forces you to use it again. This other product seemed to be more of a long-term solution.
Old 06-20-2015, 11:26 PM
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I have a sink that starts draining very slowly occasionally. What I found was that the Drano enzyme formula works better than the corrosive type. Does not harm pipes and the active ingredients are enzymes and bacteria and does not contain phosphorus so no environmental concern. You leave it in overnight to allow it to do its thing.

Also, I highly recommend this mini plunger. Perfect for sinks and I would think shower drains as well.
Old 06-21-2015, 04:34 AM
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First, plunger (get the deluxe model - easily 3x as efficient as the half-cup cheapies).
Then snake - this is where hair clogs should come out

Then, maybe, chemistry.

If you use ANY chemical and STILL have to call a plumber:

TELL HIM/HER WHAT, HOW MUCH, AND WHEN

That stuff can be a nasty surprise.

Last edited by usedtobe; 06-21-2015 at 04:35 AM.
Old 06-21-2015, 06:30 AM
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Domestic plumbing can be an awfully big adventure.

The water in the handbasin of my bathroom drained away very, very slowly. It was blocked. How to fix it?

The local chapter of the plumbing mafia have a reputation for being long on charges, and short on skills. Surely, with my superior computing and internet surfing skills, a blocked drain would be no problem?

I started by spending some time looking at the pipes and the U-bend water trap under the basin. How it connects from the basin sink to the drainage pipe. Maybe the blockage was in there, so out comes to the toolkit and I set about taking it all apart. After spilling lots of smelly water, I caught the rest in plastic food boxes, I retrieved the U-bend piping and decided to take it all apart and give it a thorough clean in my kitchen sink. There was a bit of bacterial slime, but no great hair ball or other gunk that could cause a blockage.

So, the blockage must be further down the drainage pipe that goes into the wall and wends its way to the outside drain. I would need a long pipe cleaner to deal with that and it goes around a lot of bends. It would have to be very long....there must be an easier way. So I investigated the lethal world of drain cleaning products.

I went to my local plumbing store and browsed a shelf of bottles of drain cleaner. There seem to be a couple of types. The alkaline fat dissolving types and the rather more fearsome acidic ones. One of the acide types looked particularly dangerous, it was called 'Bullit' and seemed to be a mixture of strong acids. It was in a protective mesh and boxes padded with straw. Having just seen a particularly grim episode of 'Breaking Bad' I had visions of this stuff eating through the floor. So I wimped out and bought another product that was only about 20% hydrochloric acid. But the was bad enough lots of dire warnings about protective clothing, googles and so on. Fumes seeped out threateningly when I twisted off the top of the bottle.

Now....having removed pipes between the basin and the wall, I just have a drainage pipe going to the wall. How to get this stuff into the pipe whilst crouched under a sink. Back to the local DIY store...I bought a few feet of clear plastic flexible pipe, whose diameter was just a bit smaller than the drainage pipe and pushed it inside and taped it in place. The other end, I taped to the out side of the basin, so that it was vertical and put a plastic funnel into it and taped that up.

Then wearing old clothes, protective glasses, rubber gloves and having run the bath, so it was full of water, I felt confident enough to unscrew the top of the drain cleaner. I poured the evil looking green liquid down the clear pipe a bit at a time. There was a violent bubbling as it reached the blockage in the drainage pipe. Gas splutter out, then died down. I tipped a bit more in and there was some more bubbling. I did this several times, and then the acid filled the plastic pipe.......and stayed there.

So....a pipe full of acid held in place by tape. This was worrying, what if it ate through the tape? I left it a while and noticed a few big bubbles coming up the pipe and it slowly drained away. I poured lots of water down the funnel to wash the acid away, but it went down quite slowly, so the blockage was still there! Maybe I would have to get a set of long pipe rods and try to push it out....

I then had an idea....I have a vacuum cleaner, why not put it on blow and try to push the blockage out. The vacuum cleaner pipe was about the same size as the clear pipe so more tape. Then, for good measure I put it on suck instead of blow and there was as great clattering in the pipe as a whole bunch of small bits of plaster, tile chips and other builders rubbish scuttled into the vacuum cleaner.

That was the problem. The guys who fitted the bathroom had washed a lot of their building waste down the sink and it must have clumped together, been trapped in the drainage pipe, restricting the flow. The acid had loosened it and broken it up so the vacuum cleaner could suck it up.

It attached the clear pipe to the drainage pipe and used the funnel to pour down water. It drained straightaway, very fast. I then spend the next hour or so cleaning up and putting all the pipes back in place. My bathroom sink has drained very well ever since.
Old 06-21-2015, 10:17 AM
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filmstar-en, have you done any electrical work we’d enjoy hearing about?

The next home project you undertake, film it and put the video on Youtube, with director’s commentary.
Old 06-21-2015, 02:47 PM
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Drano crystals is just sodium hydroxide (lye) with aluminum chips. There may be slight amount of other stuff in there, but it is mostly lye. When wet, the lye dissolves, eats the aluminum, creating a lot of heat and bubbles. The Liquid Drano (and similar products) are caustic solutions that have been jelled to help them "pour through standing water and get to the clog". Very similar to the crystals, but there isn't any aluminum and the water is already added. When used as directed, the caustic should be safe for pipes.

I can believe engineer_comp_geek's anecdote about it eating pipes. I have seen it. Nickel-Plated brass pipes. These were very popular P-traps about 50 years ago. Lye will corrode the brass, but it takes a long time. The directions for Drano call for allowing to sit for 30 minutes and flushing with cold water for 15 minutes afterwards. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that in his example, the Drano was added in the evening and allowed to sit overnight before flushing, regularly. This will corrode the brass pipe.

Caustic drain cleaners will clear hair clogs (common in the bathroom) by dissolving the proteins. Strong caustics do a good job of dissolving proteins, which is why they are so dangerous to handle, as your skin is also made of proteins (as is just about everything else in your body) and dissolving them is not generally a good idea.

Caustic drain cleaners will also clear grease clogs (common in the kitchen), by saponifying the oils (turns them to soap).

The acidic drain cleaners I have dealt with are sulfuric acid based. While dangerous to handle, I am less concerned about strong acids than strong caustics. Both are bad, but the caustics are generally thicker and are more difficult to wash away. Both will create fumes that will irritate your eyes and nose, but the casutic will blind you if if gets into your eyes. The acid will, too, but you have a chance to save your sight if you wash it out quickly enough. Not so with the caustic. Strong acid is bad. Strong caustic is worse.

So, to answer the OP, yes, Drano should be be safe if you use it as directed. I would not use it if the drain is completely clogged. If it just drains slowly, it should be OK. Be sure to rinse well after the recommended rest time and there should be no lasting damage. Once diluted, lye (sodium hydroxide) poses no environmental danger.
Old 06-21-2015, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
Muriatic (Hydrochloric).
But, anyone can buy it - just go to a pool store.
Last time I checked, Walmart had it—but it was in the hardware section, not with Drano and the other household cleaning supplies.
Old 06-22-2015, 05:44 AM
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My aunt was complaining about a slow drain in her bathtub, and I just unscrewed the pop-up drain plug and was able to remove the hair.

OP, have you looked to see if there is an easy way to open the drain to remove the hair that is probably plugging up your drain ?
Old 06-22-2015, 05:58 AM
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Originally Posted by dba Fred View Post
filmstar-en, have you done any electrical work we’d enjoy hearing about?

The next home project you undertake, film it and put the video on Youtube, with director’s commentary.
My tendency towards adventurous exploration of domestic technology has indeed covered the wonderful world of electrics and my attempts to reverse engineer the curious arrangements of wires used around the home.

However, it will not be televised. Tinkering is a long, drawn out process of fumbling and improvising as you figure out how something is supposed to work and what has gone wrong with it, then work out how to fix it. Much of it is boring and would be difficult to film. Though it is not without moments of trepidation and excitement.

So if I end up ascending to the pantheon of the terminally misguided who grace the Darwin awards, it will be left to some other fellow to deduce the fatal steps.

Working out how some dodgy tradesman has screwed up the work on your home and then fixing it all yourself is very empowering.

For that, you need 'the straight dope' in a world that is full of half-truths and misinformation.
Old 06-22-2015, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by simple homer View Post
OP, have you looked to see if there is an easy way to open the drain to remove the hair that is probably plugging up your drain ?
It has one of those rotate-to-lock-open drain caps, not sure how to take it off.

But that was moot, in the end I went with the Drano gel. I used 1/5 bottle as recommended and followed it up a half hour later with a kettle of boiling water. Bang, that was it, drain unclogged.

I noticed that the area around the drain where the Drano has pooled was shiny and clean as could be. So I used an extra dollop of Drano gel to scrub the rest of the shower. It wasn't quite as effective as it was not standing in a shallow pool across the whole bottom of the shower, but now my shower is almost completely clean.

I'll move out of this place before I have to worry about that drain again. I will own the next place, so I suppose I should invest in the magic snake for the sake of the pipes, and save the leftover Drano for when the shower gets really grimy. But I'm not a bad person for using Drano after all- thanks, 'dope.
Old 06-22-2015, 03:04 PM
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Muriatic (Hydrochloric) acid is the standard fix for mineraled up toilet channels.
Old 06-22-2015, 10:33 PM
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My cheapo snake was like, $25 at HD, and it's never encountered a clog it couldn't get.
Old 06-23-2015, 11:07 AM
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Zip-It has worked for my occasional shower or sink clog. It's just a simple piece of plastic, but zoom in on it, the little teeth really grab hair and pull all sorts of gook out.
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