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What Acid Do Plumbers Use to Unclog Drains?

Clogged drains can be very stubborn at times. House drains can clog in case gunk, such as soap scum, dirt, hair, skin flakes, mud, and other debris accumulate. Once a lot of gunk has built up, it reduces water flow or stops it completely. For this reason, we term the drain as clogged. You can identify a clogged drain by checking how fast the water drains. If it’s slow or still, you need to unclog the drain.
There are several ways to unclog a drain. If the gunk is recent, you can use DIY methods such as baking soda and vinegar. But if it’s a much harder gunk that has accumulated for a long, then you need to use an acid. Acid is the most common as it’s instantaneous and effective in getting rid of the gunk. It is what most plumbers use. This article will discuss the acid plumbers use to unclog the drain. We will also identify other alternatives that you can use.

The most common acid used by plumbing companies to unclog sewers

Hydrochloric Acid

HCL acid, also known as muriatic acid, is the same component in the human digestive system. When you combine HCL with water, you get Hydrochloric acid. It is the most effective clog drainer. But, to unclog drains, you need to buy the concentrated version of Hydrochloric acid.
Besides plumbing applications, HCL acid is common in many other industries. For example, fireworks, battery manufacturing, photoflash bulbs, and steel production.


You can buy two types of HCL acid in a home improvement store or hardware. The first option is dilute hydrochloric acid. This is the pure form of the acid. The second option is the less pure form with a low concentration. It is common in commercial draining products. In some instances, the plumbers may use concentrated muriatic acid. Note that this requires handling experience as it’s the most dangerous.


The muriatic acid can be dangerous if exposed to bare skin or sensitive parts such as the eyes. Also, when you inhale the vapors, it can cause choking and coughing. The vapors can also damage the respiratory tract. Thus, it is important to use protective gear. For example, you can wear glasses, long sleeves, a fBesidesnd gloves. Also, it is advisable not to mix it with other chemicals as it may react and cause fire or explosions. This might end up inflicting serious physical injuries. It is important to use the right concentration. Especially in damaged and old drawing systems. Using concentrated acid can corrode the pipes hence causing more damage.

Sulphuric Acid

Like muriatic acid, Sulphuric Acid can unclog drains. It can digest and dissolve the scum blocking the pipes hence providing a clear way for water flow. Some plumbers will use this acid to drain your bathroom if the gunk is stubborn.

Although sulphuric acid is effective, you must handle it with great care. Concentrated sulphuric acid can cause burns on your skin or cause blindness. For this reason, it is important to wear protective gear before handling it. If you have no plumbing experience, it’s best to call a professional. They know enough concentration to avoid corroding the shower drain pipes.

Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide, also known as Caustic Soda, is the third most used chemical to unclog drains. It is a strong base that reacts and dissolves residues blocking the pipes. Besides, it is an active ingredient in most commercial formulas. Like the other chemicals, sodium hydroxide needs to handle with care. When stirring this chemical, it is advisable to use a plastic or wooden spoon. A metallic spatula can cause a chemical reaction. There are three types of reactions that help Sodium Hydroxide to unblock drains. These reactions are:

  • Saponification: This is the process that creates soaps. Saponification takes place when sodium hydroxide reacts with triglycerides. The shower drain blocks most of the time because of hairs, dirt, fats, and grease. These gunks contain some form of triglycerides. Once they react with sodium hydroxide, the residues get converted into soap. This is then dissolved by water hence unclogging the shower drain.

  • Exothermic reaction: When sodium hydroxide dissolves into water, it breaks down into ions. These are the Na+ and OH- This process releases a high-pH caustic solution. Mixing water and sodium hydroxide creates an exothermic reaction. As a result, it helps to unclog shower drains. This is because the heat can melt the gunk fast.
  • Aluminum reaction: Most of the shower drains contain small pieces of Aluminum. When sodium hydroxide reacts with Aluminum, it produces small bubbles of hydrogen gas. The bubbles can help dismantle the gunk hence helping to unlock the drains.

Sodium Hydroxide can be dangerous when it dissolves in water. Because of the exothermic reaction. This can cause burns or blindness if it jumps in your eyes. As a precaution, use gloves, mask glasses, and protective clothing.

Other Alternatives

Apart from concentrated acids, plumbers may pursue other options. Some of these alternatives may be best together with the acid to enhance the process. You can use others alone in case the gunk is moderate. This section will examine the acid alternatives used by plumbers and their pros and cons.

Commercial Anti Clog Solution

Commercial anti-clog formulas are very common in the industry. Depending on the company, some use acids, while others use natural ingredients. The formulas can be in gel form, which reaches the residue. Others can be in liquid, crystal, or powder form. The liquid and gel types of commercial anti-clog formulas are the most common.

Formulas containing acids such as hydrochloric and sulphuric acid are the most effective. But, they may kill all living organisms, such as earthworms. Thus, there are more suitable solutions for nature lovers. But it is the right choice for people who need to unclog their shower drains fast.

Anti-clog formulas that contain natural enzymes are effective for moderate clogs. The enzymes break down the residue blocking the drain until they dissolve completely. It is a safe and natural way of dealing with clogs. Sometimes you may need a few tries before it can break down and dissolve the clog. Enzyme cleaners use non-pathogenic bacteria to digest the residue blocking the drain. It is also referred to as any cleaner that uses biological methods. The enzymes also get rid of the odor through a natural process. To unclog the drain using enzyme cleaners, you can leave it overnight or over the weekend. This will give the enzymes time to digest and dissolve all the residue.

DIY Solutions

There are several DIY solutions that you can try depending on the materials that you have. The best thing about DIY solutions is that most of them are nature friendly yet very effective. For example, you don’t have to use bleach or acids. Sometimes, you don’t need to buy expensive commercial products. You can rely on the available material. Here are some of the best DIY shower drain anti-clogging solutions that you can try.

Hot Water

Hot water is the simplest and most affordable solution for small blockages. Hot water can loosen or dissolve the buildup. It is efficient, especially if it’s grease causing the blockage. Besides, it can also cause smaller expansions of the pipes. It allows the blockage to loosen up and flow. This method works best in ceramic and metallic drains. hot boiling water can melt PVC drains. When handling hot boiling water, handle it with care and use protective gloves. Hot water can cause burns if it pours on your skin.

Drain Snake

A drain snake is a professional anti-clogging tool used by plumbers. You can find this device from the hardware. It is a snake-like cable that you can insert in shower drains. It features a rotating coil at the tip of the cable. The coil spins to break down material that has built up. Once this material becomes loose, it removes them as you pull the cable back. The drain snake can be effective, especially when combined with other methods. For example, you can soften the junk using hot water. It will make work easier for the drain snake.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking Soda is a naturally occurring mineral that can break down organic matter. Vinegar, on the other hand, is a solvent that can dissolve soap scum, dirt, and grime and helps remove the odor. The kitchen may have two essential products to solve your shower drain problem. Baking and vinegar have been used for ages to solve general household problems. When these two ingredients react, they form a powerful chemical transformation. You can use the mixture to remove difficult buildups that block shower drains. The main advantage of baking soda and vinegar mixture is that it’s cheaper than commercial formulas.

Baking soda can be combined with salt and boiling water if you don’t have vinegar. Alternatively, you can use vinegar with salt as a substitute for baking soda. The application process is easy. Mix one part of baking soda, salt, and vinegar. Dump the mixture inside the shower drain and let it sit overnight. Flush your drain with hot water to complete the process.

Wire hanger method

Hair clogs are the main culprit when it comes to blocking shower drains. Luckily, you can use a simple coat wire hanger to remove them. Simply take the wire hanger and make it straight. Next, make a hook at the tip end of the wire. Now insert the hook slowly into the shower drain. Shake it around the drain to catch the clog. Lastly, pull it out. You will notice that the clog has been hooked.

Drain Plunger

A drain plunger is one of the easiest solutions to unclog sinks, showers, and toilets. It uses suction to remove the gunk clogging the drain. This is a handy tool that everyone should keep in their house.

When you place it on top of the shower drain, the cup creates a vacuum in the shower drain. The water moves up and down at high pressure when the handle is thrust. Hence it removes the blockage, allowing the water to flow freely.

Final Thoughts

Shower drain clogging is a common household issue. Everyone has experienced a clogged drain in one way or another. Sometimes the clog can be easy to remove by using simple DIY solutions. But if the clog has settled in the drain for some time, it may be difficult. For this reason, you will have to use acid or get help from professionals.

For nature lovers, you can use non-abrasive methods. For example, enzyme anti-clogs or tools such as a drain snake or plunger. By using a high-quality drain, you minimize the chances of clogging. YZDRAIN is a modern design shower drain manufacturer with over 18 years of experience. We offer quality products at an affordable price. In addition, we offer customization services such as color and material to match your aesthetics. Contact us via this form for any queries or to receive a free quote.

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