A lot of people are confused about whether or not they can pour drain cleaner down their home’s vent pipes.
Some drain cleaners are perfectly safe to pour down the toilet and can also be poured into a clogged pipe in your home if you can’t get it to drain.
However, they only provide a temporary solution so you will still want to have a professional come in and snake it out if possible.
While most drain cleaners are safe, you must be careful because some of them are actually extremely caustic and can wreak havoc.
Read on to find out other ways to clear blockages.
What is a drain cleaner?
A drain cleaner is a chemical solution used to unblock or clean drains.
Oils and fats from food can usually be broken down in wastewater treatment plants.
However, if these oils and fats are not removed they can create a thick layer of scum on top of the water in drains and sewer pipes.
This can clog up a drain, sewage pipe or a wastewater treatment plant and make it difficult for waste to flow freely.
Vinegar is a very effective alternative to chemical drain cleaners. It can be poured into the blocked drain and will usually begin to clear the blockage within about 30 minutes.
Cleaning a blocked drain in this way will save you time and money, as well as helping to protect the environment.
Chemical drain cleaners are very effective at unblocking drains and sewage pipes. However, these chemicals can be harmful to the environment if they are released into watercourses.
Wastewater companies should be able to provide advice on the most effective way to unblock your drains and sewage pipes.
Common ingredients in drain cleaners
Cleaning solutions that are used to clear drains of hair, food debris and soap scum contain a number of chemicals.
Some common ingredients include:
- Abrasives, such as crushed walnut shells or ground pumice, help cut through grease and oil.
- Bad-tasting chemicals such as d-limonene add flavor to the solvent that dissolves fats and oils.
- Biocides kill microorganisms such as bacteria, which can cause stains and odors.
- Soap is included to help lubricate fat globules so they are easier to remove from the drain.
- Surfactants make the grease and oils in the clogged drain water more soluble, which helps to break down clogs.
Some solutions may include bleach, which disinfects and whitens the drain.
Other ingredients can be added to enhance performance. For example, a thickening agent may be included to make the solution more viscous so it does not drain out of the clogged drain as quickly.
Can you pour drain cleaner down a vent pipe?
Vent pipes are often used to channel excess gases to the outside and leave only clean air inside drainage systems.
The problem is that many people may be tempted to pour drain cleaner down the vent pipe to unblock them.
It is not uncommon for homeowners to feel that their vents are blocked by all the objects that have been washed down them over the years.
The danger of pouring drain cleaner like Drano down a vent pipe is from the fumes it produces that can be hazardous to your health.
Hazardous fumes produced from drain cleaner
Drain cleaners are strong chemicals and they are not meant to be inhaled.
Another reason why they may not act as you expect them to is that they’re not effective in resolving odors from the vent pipes because they may not fix the underlying problem that is causing them.
The reason for smelling bad gases and odors in your home is that the ventilation can be compromised or blocked and because of this, smells are caused.
Because many homeowners place objects into their pipes such as toys, cleaning cloths, and other household items, you may want to remove the obstruction first.
Also, clutter around bends or junctions in pipes, in corners, or under sinks will also cause an obstruction and you should try to remove it first using a vent brush.
A blocked pipe will prevent gases escaping and will lead to them accumulating in your house.
What is a vent pipe?
A vent pipe is a part of a plumbing system that:
1. Vents waste gases and/or steam from a drainage system and/or appliance
2. Provides an opening for air circulation to allow the drain to function properly
Consequently, a vent pipe prevents the uncomfortable build-up of foul odors and gases in a building’s plumbing system.
All vent pipes are not created equal and there are numerous types of vent pipe for different installation conditions.
There are many different types of vent pipe. The most common type is a roof mounted vent, also known as an internal chimney, which can be installed on an existing pipe or stovepipe. The most common chimney is for masonry fireplace.
Another type of venting system is called stack vents.
Stack vents are installed through a roof and protrude beyond the roof’s surface.
The purpose of stack venting is to allow for air circulation in buildings’ toilets so that the drains do not develop unsightly stains or odors.
Closed vent systems can be installed if the discharge pipe is fixed, so that no air is lost.
With this type of venting system, the pipes and fittings are installed in a way that does not allow air to enter or escape.
What could cause a vent pipe to block?
Sewer vent pipes are designed to channel gaseous waste that is produced in the flat or industrial unit and take it outside of the building.
Normally, the waste in these pipes consists of odors, gases and other flammable substances.
Lighter than air, the substances move upwards through the vent pipe by buoyancy.
Some of these substances, especially methane and hydrogen sulfide gases, can be explosive and flammable.
For this reason, it is essential that every vent pipe is kept clear and free from obstruction.
Any build up of gases in the vent pipe, either from blockages or simply a buildup of odoriferous waste matter, can be dangerous.
In order to ensure the safety of both residents and employees in a building, every vent pipe must be inspected regularly.
There are a few things that can contribute to the blockage and build up of toxic gases or other waste matter in the vent pipe:
- Debris from the roof of the building.
- Rodents and other small animals.
- Rocks, poles or sticks can easily get lodged in the pipe.
- Icing, snow and dampness in cold weather.
- Toys, or other materials like fluffy lint, or a sock
- Contamination of the vent pipe by fumes from other buildings nearby.
- Poor building maintenance or faulty parts in the vent pipe.
How to unblock a vent pipe
A blocked vent pipe is not something you want to deal with in your house, especially a dryer vent pipe.
Odds are if your vent pipe is blocked, then you can’t dry anything.
The problem with a vent pipe is that it’s a very flexible piece of pipe, so if something gets in it, then you’re going to have a tough time unblocking it.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and if you’re trying to unblock a vent pipe then you’re probably going to have to be pretty inventive.
A vent pipe can get clogged in a number of different ways as we have seen.
If you get a vent pipe blockage then it’s best to take care of it right away.
Try flushing the vent pipe out first.
A plumber’s snake is a tool that you can use to unblock the pipe.
If the blockage is removed then flush out the pipe again with your hand over the pipe opening to confirm there’s suction.
You can also use a plunger to unblock the toilet if flashing alone does not work.
Unblock vent pipes safely!
You should not pour drain cleaner down a vent pipe.
At least, not if you can avoid it. For one thing, it just won’t do much good as already stated.
You never know what could go wrong if you do.
Sure, the drain might receive a deep cleaning that it desperately needs.
And the pipes that go up the roof probably need to be cleaned out anyway.
So it seems like a good idea, right?
Don’t do it for the sake of air quality and safety.
Hire a professional plumber to take care of the job.
Nasty fumes and toxic chemicals are not items that should be taken lightly.
Proper ventilation needs to be in place if you decide to clean a clogged drain with a caustic chemical like drain cleaner.
Jumping down into a hole that you’ve created with the drain cleaner could cause serious injuries.
Cleaning the pipes from the roof is the best chance that you have at ensuring that no toxic fumes will be present in the crawlspace.
It will save you from the causative factors of vent pipe blockage such as rodents, sticks, snow and many other foreign objects that get in there.