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The Differences Between Cleaning and Clearing a Drain

drain cleaning

Many people have experienced residential drain problems in the past. Whether it’s a slow drain, foul smell or line backup, it’s a nuisance to say the least. Most people assume the only way to rectify a dreadful drain is to clear it entirely, but that’s not always the case. In some circumstances, cleaning a drain rather than clearing it may be enough to solve your problem. Whereas other times, clearing may be the better option. Here are some key differences so you can make the right choice.

Drain Cleaning

Drain cleaning primarily eliminates foul odors, stains and minor clogs in your drains and lines. Drain cleaning is often done with some kind of cleaning formula – like a liquid, gel or powder – that’s heavier than water so it can reach the clog through pooled water. Even DIY drain cleaners made from vinegar and baking soda can adequately quell a rotten stench or loosen hardened grease. In short, drain cleaners kill off the bacteria and germs that live in your drains.

There are several varieties of drain cleaners often found at home improvement stores, including:

Caustic drain cleaners – This is one of the most common drain cleaners. They primarily use lye and other alkaline chemicals to release heat and corrode organic materials, which clears some obstructions.

Oxidizing drain cleaners – These cleaners are made up of bleach, nitrates and peroxides. The compounds work together to oxidize organic matter and cause it to lose electrons.

Acid drain cleaners – These kinds aren’t often sold in stores, as they contain powerful sulfuric and hydrochloric acid. The chemicals pull electrons from the clog and generate heat that breaks down the blockage.

It’s worth mentioning that since these formulas rely on harsh chemicals to do their job, they sometimes do more harm than good. The heat generated by the chemical reactions can soften or even ruin PVC pipes, and it can corrode older, metal pipes if not used correctly. Plus, they’re very harmful for humans if ingested, and they burn the skin and eyes if handled without caution.

Drain Clearing

Just as it sounds, when you clear your drains, you physically remove a blockage rather than soften or corrode it. Drain clearing is a great way of preventing small issues, like a shower that becomes a bath after a few minutes, from becoming larger ones, such as raw sewage backing up through your appliances.

There are a few ways your drains can become clogged. Food is often the primary culprit in the kitchen, whereas hair and soap scum are common obstructions in the bathroom. In other, more serious cases, your home’s main line can become clogged with infiltrating tree roots or sewage buildup.

The most common method of clearing blockages is “snaking” the lines. A snake is a long, flexible metal or plastic tool that is used to push or sometimes pull a blockage out of the line. Usually, operating a snake should be done by a professional. If an amateur begins poking around their line with a metal tool, there’s an increased risk of damaging or even rupturing the line.

Does Your Drain Need an Expert’s Touch?

If you’re dealing with a drain clog of any kind, don’t wait until it becomes a bigger issue – it’s best to allow a professional to do what they do best. South West Plumbing has decades of experience clearing clogged drains and lines. Our certified plumbers are experienced in sewer line camera inspection and hydro jetting technology so they can quickly identify and rectify drain problems of any size.

For more information about clearing or cleaning your drains, call (206) 932-1777 or visit us online to schedule a service appoint today!

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