Clearing Drains With Boiling Water: Bad Idea
You’ve probably been told by some people that they pour boiling water, sometimes with baking soda added, down a slow drain.
In fact, it’s easy to find plumbing advice on the Internet that recommends this procedure. Well, that’s a bad idea for several reasons. If you’re a do-it-yourself plumber and you think boiling water is okay for your home’s plumbing system, you need to read the rest of this article.
The Universal Plumbing Code
The UPC advises against the introduction of water hotter than 140 degrees Fahrenheit/60 degrees Celsius into a waste or vent system of any kind without some kind of cooling-off station.
Using enough boiling water sufficient to unclog a drain could damage your pipes. Unless you use a LOT of boiling water, it’s going to cool off – to the point of being ineffective – as it flows down your plumbing system. Too much boiling water will distort drains and seals, leading to expensive problems.
Also, pouring boiling water down a porcelain fixture (toilet or sink) can fracture the fixture. You don’t want to have to deal with that now, do you?
Should You Use Baking Soda?
No! Baking soda is actually a kind of salt and it can be very bad for cast iron pipes and even plastic pipes.
Particularly dangerous is the practice of pouring a mixture of baking soda and boiling water down a drain after having uses a chemical drain cleaner. This can cause an explosive chemical reaction that would throw the boiling water and drain chemical back in your face, a most unpleasant experience sure to mean a trip to the hospital. So don’t run the needless risk of a severe scald or burn from steam or chemicals.
Hot Water Is The Answer
Hot tap water, that is – not boiling. As long as it’s below 140 degrees, you can use as much water as you want! If a couple of sinks full of hot water don’t unclog the drain, then it needs to be snaked. And, when you (or a plumber) put a cable in the drain, you won’t risk getting dangerous chemicals on you.
An Ounce Of Prevention
Running hot water down a drain once a week – or even monthly – can help to prevent drains from clogging in the first place. It softens up fats that build up on the pipe walls and will help keep the pipes clear. Even water at a lower temperature will help keep your drain clear – it just takes more of it. If this seems wasteful, consider how much more time and money you could waste or how using boiling water could result in a trip to the hospital.
So play it safe: no boiling water or soda goes down your drains! If lots of hot water doesn’t work, then try a plumber’s snake. If that doesn’t work, you’re probably better off to call a plumber at that point.