A drain cleaner is a chemical based consumer product that unblocks sewer pipes or clogged waste-water drains. The term may also refer to a mechanical device such as a plumber’s snake, drain auger, toilet plunger, etc. An effective drain cleaner can remove soft obstructions such as hair and grease, accumulating near the fixture’s drain inlet.
If several plumbing fixtures are clogged then electric drain cleaners, battery powered drain cleaners, sewer jets or such mechanical devices are usually required to clear obstructions along the entire length of the drain piping system, that is, from fixture drain inlets though the main building and lateral piping outside the building to the collector sewer mains.
Alkaline drain openers primarily contain sodium hydroxide and some may contain potassium hydroxide. They may appear in liquid or solid form. Solid formulations of corrosive alkaline drain cleaners are composed of a caustic substance, aluminium particles, and additives. These additives often include wetting agents such as alkyl aryl sulfonates, but the exact nature of these additives are not known for commercial drain cleaners, as they are regarded as the trade secrets that make drain cleaner unique to its brand.
The aluminium granules that are included in the solid caustic drain cleaner is an aluminium oxide that breaks down and re-oxidizes to release hydrogen gas. Because the release of hydrogen gas is overall an exothermic reaction, the extra heat released helps to break down the greases, oils, etc that form the clog.
The actual breakdown of a clog occurs by reaction with the hydroxide ions generated by the cleaner. Clogs are often composed of natural substances such as hair, fats, oils, etc. and breakdown occurs via a saponification reaction of a base and triglycerol. Essentially, the hydroxide ions from the dissolution oflye in water attack the carbonyl carbons of the fat, which eventually kicks off the hydrophobic tails of the triglyceride to isolate glycerol and fatty acid salt.