The short and simple answer to this question is that a drain cleaner can either be an acid or a base. Regardless of the acidity or basicity of your drain cleaner, they pretty much work in the same way.
However, this post shall delve deeper into this topic by trying to uncover which drain cleaners are the best, and how to choose them.
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What Causes Blocked Drains?
Drains could become clogged from various substances, the most common ones being insoluble solids. Examples include hair, tree roots and leaves, as well as other solid substances.
Other common causes of drain blockage include food particles. These range from oils and fats that mix with grease and then solidify on the inner surfaces of the drain. Other food material such as flour, fine-grain cereals, tea bags and even scum from soaps could cause drain blockages.
The last common cause of clogged drains is dirt or corrosion of the drainage system. This especially happens in drain systems that are not regularly maintained, or ones made up of cheap, corrosive materials which easily attract mineral buildup.
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What Are Some Of The Most Common Drain Cleaners?
As we have already mentioned, drain cleaners can be divided into either acids or bases. Common acids include Hydrochloric acid [HCL] and Sulphuric acid [H2SO4]. The following are some of the most popular bases that can be used as drain cleaners.
1. Sodium Hypochlorite [NaClO],
2. Sodium Bicarbonate [NaHCO3],
3. Sodium Hydroxide [NaOH],
4. Potassium Hydroxide [KOH],
5. Calcium Hydroxide [Ca [OH]2] and
6. Ammonium Hydroxide [NH4[OH]
Distinguish An Acidic And A Basic Drain Cleaner?
Before we get to distinguishing between the acidity and the basicity of drain cleaners, it is important to begin easy by understanding what these terms are.
An acid refers to a sour-tasting, corrosive substance that turns litmus paper red. On the other hand, a base refers to any substance that when reacted with an acid, gives water and salt as the only products.
Basic drain cleaners are mostly those whose chemical formulae end in O or OH. When the last letter is an O, it basically means the substance is an oxide.
When used as a drain cleaner, such substances mainly get rid of the blockage through oxidation. On the other hand, the drain cleaners with chemical formulae ending in OH are also known as alkalis. They are bases that easily dissolve in water, and are often recommended for that very trait.
In order to distinguish between an acidic and a basic drain cleaner, you may need to apply your knowledge of the pH scale. pH, which stands for the power of hydrogen refers to the concentration of hydrogen ions in a substance or compound. The pH scale has values ranging from 0 to 14.
On this scale, cleaners with values closer to 0 are considered strong acids with values closer to but not greater than 7 considered weak acids.
On the other hand, strong bases are located on the opposite end of the spectrum, usually assigned values between 12 and 14. Weak bases are located closer to but not less than 7. Compounds with a value of 7 are considered to be neutral, with water being a common example.
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How Do You Choose An Ideal Drain Cleaner?
Whether basic or acidic, there are certain factors you should put into consideration when choosing your ideal cleaner.
Obviously, you need a drain cleaner that is effective at unclogging all manner of drains. The effectiveness of a drain cleaner will depend on the acidity or alkalinity of the substances primarily clogging your drains.
The cleaner should be able to deal with all manner of blockages, from soapy residues to oils and fats, as well as grease and various protein-based deposits.
You might also want to go for a cleaner that, besides unclogging your drains, also kills fungi, bacteria and other harmful microorganisms that could potentially be hazardous to the drains.
Another point of consideration is the bleaching and deodorant effects of the drain cleaner. A cleaning agent like sodium bicarbonate is lauded for its great deodorant effects while sodium hypochlorite has powerful bleaching properties.
You might also want a drain cleaner that is fairly available. Availability has direct effects on the overall cost of such cleaners. However, when looking for high-end drain cleaners, cost should come at the very bottom of your list of factors to consider.
Last but not least, insist on drain cleaners that leave minimal damage to the environment. First, it should be a cleaner that does not cause any allergic reactions to you, your kids or even your pets.
Sulphuric acid has been shown to cause damage to PVC pipes. That does not only make them less cost-effective, but the damage could see toxic gases released into the environment.
As a result, you could suffer from respiratory or cardiovascular diseases, not to mention the increase of carbon footprint.
Whether you go for acidic or basic drain cleaners, remember that your choice of the most ideal one depends on what you are looking for in a cleaner. Thankfully, there are lots of cleaners in the market, each coming with its strengths and weaknesses.
As the user, be sure to read carefully on the ingredients as well as how to use a drain cleaner. Especially pay attention to any caution notes. This will help avoid any accidents like corrosion. And at the very least, always have protective gear when using any drain cleaner.