Which Industrial Chemicals Will Hurt My Pipes?

Which Industrial Chemicals Will Hurt My Pipes?
Monday, April 22, 2024
drain care

Which Industrial Chemicals Will Hurt My Pipes?

When you know you’re dealing with older pipes, it can be a little daunting to select chemical drain treatment. It would be one thing in a brand-new building, but as your facility ages, it’s reasonable to worry that chemical drain care may do you more harm than good.

Here at State Chemical, we’ve been selling chemical drain openers and maintainers for decades. We understand that these products can be a little intimidating what with their grocery list of instructions and warnings, especially when it comes to your facility’s wellbeing.

To give you peace of mind, we’ve written this overview of which products will hurt which drains. After reading, you’ll know what’s safe for your specific pipes so that you can determine your next step of treatment.

What Kinds of Pipes are Most at Risk for Chemical Damage?

Before deciding what’s safe for your pipes, it’s important to understand what kinds of pipes are in danger of being damaged.

Corroded or Rusted Cast Iron Pipes

If your building was built before 1980, you’re likely to have corroded or rusted cast iron pipes. Especially if you’ve never used preventative drain maintenance, cast iron pipes are likely to wear down. Where your pipes may have originally been four inches wide, there may now only be two inches of usable space due to corrosion.

This corrosion and/or rust buildup causes the pipes to swell, and sometimes, the rust spreads through the pipes so completely that the entire pipe becomes rust. It depends on your situation, but acids are not the solution for worn-down pipes.

Plastic Pipes, Including PVC and ABS

In another way, plastic pipes are types that you’ll want to be careful with when selecting a drain chemical. Acids will eat through these kinds of pipes, and while some heat-generating drain openers are safe, others can melt through plastic piping.

Drain Hoses

Chemical drain openers are not intended to be used with drain hoses. If you use a chemical in a place with too much rubber or polyurethane, these materials will melt. When dealing with drain hoses, it’s best to explore non-chemical options.

What Chemicals Will Hurt My Pipes?

So, if you need to be careful with these kinds of pipes, what specific chemicals will hurt them?


The most harmful chemical on this list is acid. Ordinary pipes shouldn’t be negatively affected by acid used in situations of need (assuming you aren’t repeatedly using acid in a short span of time), but when it comes to older pipes, plastic pipes, and drain hoses, acid should not be used.

If you use acid on a corroded or rusted cast iron pipe, it will eat through the corrosion, as it’s intended to do to clear your drain. However, for badly corroded pipes, this could expose a weak spot in your piping and blow a hole through it. You can imagine how a badly rusted pipe could be quickly worn down by such an intense chemical.

A similar effect will occur with plastic piping and drain hoses. In these cases, the pipes’ materials are too weak to hold the acid, and the acid will eat through them, just as it would a plastic blockage in your drain. The only real thing that acid won’t burn through is metal, so it should only be used in non-corroded metal pipes.

Heat-Generating Chemicals

Most of the time, heat-generating chemicals are safe for drains if used as directed. However, they should not be used with drain hoses. The heat these chemicals generate will melt rubber and polyurethane. Otherwise, heat-generating chemicals should be safe for the average drain if used as directed.

What Products Can I Use Instead?

So, if your pipes fall under these risky categories, what are your remaining options? Depending on your issue, you should explore the following:

Manual Drain Openers

If you’re dealing with pipes at high risk of chemical damage, it’s a good idea to look into manual drain openers, like drain snakes or services provided by a plumber. In the case of corroded pipes, manually removing the corroded material may yield more effective results than chemicals, which could cause more damage than anything else. Similarly, with plastic pipes and drain hoses, you can eliminate the risk of melting by simply using a manual opener rather than a chemical.

Even then, a manual opener can’t solve every situation, but if you’re worried about the state of your pipes, it might be a good idea to try a manual opener before moving on to heavy-duty options.

Biological Drain Maintainers

If you would still like to use a liquid, biological or bacterial drain maintainers could be another solid option. Composed of bacteria, biological drain maintainers function by releasing bacteria that digests organic buildup into water and air. They pose no risk to pipe health and are even considered safer for the user since they cannot cause chemical burns or fumes.

An important note is that biological drain maintainers will not break down rust buildup or corrosion, but they can prevent organic buildup from further blocking pipes, including corroded pipes. They are not a permanent solution if your pipes are already worn down, but if your pipes are simply the wrong material for intense chemicals, biologicals can be a great way to prevent clogs and other future issues.

Reline or Replace Your Pipes

If you’ve explored option after option and your pipes are just in such bad shape that they can’t handle the severe intervention they need, it may be time to replace your pipes. There are a lot of methods you can try, but at a certain point, there’s nothing more you can do.

Depending on your issue’s severity, you may be able to reline your pipes rather than fully replace them. This is an effective way to prevent continued corrosion and keep your pipes in functioning condition. If this cannot happen, biting the bullet and replacing your pipes will be worth the headache once you have functioning drains again. Pipes aren’t meant to last forever, so if there’s nothing left to be done, replacement is your only option.

Summary: If You Have Weakened Pipes, Plastic Pipes, or Drain Hoses, Avoid Harsh Chemicals

Your concerns about harm to your pipes are valid given the many different risks depending on pipe type and chemical type. You now understand what risks there are to your pipes and which treatment option may be best for you. From here, your next step is to explore some of the best products to unclog your drain.