Drain cleaners are a popular solution when homeowners notice a clogged drain. But it’s also one of the most commonly misused products out there.

Any plumber will advise against its use.

Drano is one of the most-used and well-known drain cleaners on the market. So, what’s so bad about Drano, drain cleaners in general, and why do plumbers vehemently discourage people from reaching for it? 



Drano is a household cleaner comprised of several harsh chemicals. These chemicals are lye, aluminum, salt, bleach, and sodium nitrate.

It is offered in a liquid or crystal form. The product is touted as an affordable, quick-fix for plumbing problems.

The different ingredients work in tandem to create several chemical reactions. This is in an attempt to clear your blocked pipes.

First, the lye gets to work. This element is meant to rapidly decompose organic material such as hair, grease, and dead skin cells. In combination with the aluminum, the lye heats up to near boiling temperatures to speed up the decomposition process. Tap water adds to the reaction and helps create even more heat.

Lye reacts with the now softened grease to create a sudsy substance. Hot water dissolves this soapy solution and it undergoes another chemical reaction with the aluminum. This creates hydrogen bubbles. These bubbles will then loosen the clog to assist the hot water in carrying particles down the drain.

This entire process is extremely harsh on your drain. 


Drano is not only ineffective, but it’s also extremely damaging to your plumbing system.

The heat created by the chemical reaction is more than your drains are designed to take. Corroded, aging plumbing can easily breakdown. Pipes can split and the glue holding them together can disintegrate. Your toilet bowl can even crack. Drain cleaner can linger in your pipes far after even a single-use. This can open up the possibility of other chemical cleaners reacting with it and creating harmful fumes. 

The chemicals in the product can also pose a major threat to the health and safety of anyone working with it.

Drano is caustic. That means it can corrode organic tissue by way of chemical action. Direct contact with the skin can lead to irritation and burns. If you’ve already poured it down the drain and it splashes back up, it can result in irritation and injury. Inhaling the fumes can also spell trouble for your lungs.

Due to the nature of how dangerous drain cleaners can be, many plumbers won’t accept an appointment if you’ve recently used it. 

Even if everything goes off without a hitch and the cleaner flushes away without any issues, it can still cause harm outside of your home. The lye and other chemicals in Drano and similar solutions can make their way through our sewer systems and out to rivers, lakes, and the ocean. This can cause a lot of damage to the surrounding ecosystems and even our food supply. 

Finally, Drano is a hazard for those with small children and pets. As you know by now, drain cleaner contains a host of harmful chemicals that can burn the skin. Our children and pets are the most vulnerable and curious members of our families. That can be a deadly combination if they accidentally dip into your cleaning supplies. At best they can sustain chemical burns and at worst it can jeopardize their life. 


If you notice a slow or blocked drain, curb the impulse to reach for the Drano, even if it’s an emergency. There are several better alternatives to lean on instead that are much more effective:

Use a plunger. This is a tried and true remedy to a blocked drain. Sometimes all you need is some good old fashion plunging to loosen a clog. There are several kinds of plungers you can employ made specifically for different types of drains. Before you do anything else, give this trusty tool a whirl. 

woman plunging drain

Another tool to keep in your arsenal is a drain snake. This is a slender, elongated auger ideal for clearing up tough clogs your plunger can’t quite loosen. Simply insert the snake through the opening of the drain and turn the handle on the drum to uncoil it. Keep cranking until you hit the clog. Rotate the snake until you feel the clog loosen and reel it back up. You’ll likely pull out the clog. 

It’s always best to call on professionals when plumbing problems arise. This is the best way to assure your plumbing issues are addressed to the fullest extent possible. Sometimes, a clogged drain can point to underlying issues that might pose an even greater threat to your plumbing system. 

To the T Plumbing & Heating is Northern Metro Denver’s trusted service provider for all your clogged drain woes. Be sure to get in touch with us to find out how we can assist you today!