While most people rely on pre-mixed drain and clog cleaners sold in most retail stores, what they do not know is that these cleaners are not very effective. They are more or less a band-aid solution to a more complicated problem. Because these chemicals are suspended in a liquid or gel form, the active ingredients are less than what they would be if you just poured the individual dry chemicals into the drain. If you want to know what these chemicals are, where to buy them, and how to use them, the following information should help.
Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
Lye, or sodium hydroxide, has been used for centuries as a soap cleaner. While concentrated lye can be dangerous, you can still buy lye online and at some professional/commercial cleaner stores.
To use the lye, you only need a tablespoon or two of the powder. You should have a respirator mask on, as well as gloves. The mask will prevent accidental inhalation of the lye flakes, while the gloves will protect your skin as you pour the lye into the drain.
Be sure to lock up the box of lye powder/flakes after each use because it is highly poisonous and could cause some serious damage to children if played with or swallowed.
Potassium Hydroxide (Pot Ash)
Potassium hydroxide, more commonly known as pot ash, is in the same family of alkaline chemicals as sodium hydroxide/lye. The chemical reactivity of pot ash is different from lye, and that is how people can tell these two chemicals apart. Pot ash, when combined with an acidic liquid, such as lemon juice or vinegar, quickly erupts into a frothing chemical cleaner and eats through a blockage both by force and by chemical reaction.
Use pot ash in the same way as the lye. Be sure to use slightly less pot ash, such as a few teaspoons versus the tablespoon of lye, due to the chemical reaction that will occur. It helps to get the potash as far down into the drain as you can. Once you add your acidic liquid, stand back. Keep all bare skin covered and wear a face shield to protect against splatters. Never use a plunger after you have used either of these chemicals in your drains.
Sulphuric acid is extremely potent and the most devastating to proteins like hair, fats, etc. Bodies have been known to dissolve in vats of this stuff. Ergo, if you can buy a tiny bottle of sulphuric acid (1 or 2 ounces), you will need to run water into the drain as you pour in the acid. Its potency against clogs will still be effective. The dilution of the flowing water is more about preventing it from eating through the pipe material.
If you are concerned about using chemicals yourself, you can also contact professional drain cleaning companies, such as Rapid Rooter Inc, that will use these chemicals and other methods to fix your drain problems.