Acid for drain cleaning?

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I am going to meet with a friend of mine in a couple of hours to see if I can help him with a clogged/slow drain issue. I haven't seen it yet, but so far, he seems to be saying that it is mostly a bathtub (and maybe a sink in the same bathroom) that has a slow drain problem. I think he said he tried to unclog it before but had some problems with it, and he wants to know if by looking at it if I could figure out how to correct the problem.
Of course, we'll be doing the routine stuff -- using a plunger, a snake, one of those plastic hair-cleaning gadgets, maybe Liquid Plumber, etc.
But, I was wondering if anyone has ever tried using acid -- probably not something too strong, but maybe diluted acid or whatever. I know about keeping acid off of porcelain, and I know about adding acid-to-water and not water-to-acid from chemistry classes and past experience. And, since it is someone else's house, I don't want to mess up their drain lines with too much or too strong of acid.
Any thoughts or experiences on the acid idea and any specific suggestions would be appreciated.
Again, I am going there in a couple of hours, but I'll check here beforehand just in case anyone gets to respond before then.
Also, I may just pass on the whole acid idea unless someone here has any suggestions that we may want to try.
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On 8/5/2012 10:50 AM, TomR wrote:

Don't do what I did the first month after I moved into my house: I failed to check for copper drains before adding not so diluted acid into a slow/clogged drain.
Lost part of a nice fibreglass acoustic suspended ceiling from the floor underneath the copper drain about 4 hours later. The acid ate a hole in the 44 year old copper pipe but the water from the first shower afterwards didn't leak straight down from the hole, it trickled and ran along a 16 foot support tee that held up the ceiling, so that about 8 or 9 ceiling tiles soaked up the water and stained the next day.
Don't be like me: Stay in school and never take the hard way to learn...
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I have a bathtub drain that is slow on occasion. Snaking it doesn't help a bit. Drano is not all that effective either. The system has a long horizontal part to the drain that collects silt and stuff. Theonly thing I have found to really work is plugging the tub's and sink's overflow openings and then to use a toilet plunger really hard, with hot water running. It loosens all the sludge and rinses it down the drain.
In a bathtub system, you deal with hair and other proteinaceous stuff. While alkali (DRano etc) can dissolve this, acid will NOT, unless you really heat it up. So the acid is standing in the pipe and eating it (metal, PVC excepted of course) as Duesenburg found out. Of course you're free to test this yourself.
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Han
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No, do *not* use acid. Acid will damage any metal parts in the system and won't do help any plastic parts. Drain cleaners are basic. Use something meant for the task or call a plumber. After using an acid strong enough to do any good, you surely will.
I've never had any luck with the liquid drain cleaners. The crystals (sodium hydroxide, IIRC) work well, though. I've found that some brands are better than others (concentration?). Remove any standing water, add the crystals directly to the drain, and add hot water until the drain is full. BE CAREFUL SO YOU DON'T SPLASH WATER and don't breathe the vapors. If it's draining slowly, you can add some more water and crystals. The instruction often say to let stand for a half hour. With stubborn clogs (we had a bathtub drain that the hair and soap would do in) I've left it stand overnight. Then rinse completely.
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i had a slow shower drain, fortunately it leaked one day and that showed me the issues.
the drum trap was rusting bad but stated to leak.... the main leak was from a long copper drain line that failed after i used liquid plumber....
that line didnt have enough fall, and the lines interior was a pencil sized.....
after looking at the job i paid a plumber to do it...
all new line from just under the roof to the basement, plumber resloped line, and a standard trap replaced the drom trap.
900 bucks well spent, no more leaks, no more clogs.
i took all the old copper line to the scrap yard which paid 100 bucks back.......
if theres a repetive problem sometimes its best to dig in and tear down cielings and walls where necessary.
my main cast iron soil stack is showing signs of failure, its over 70 years old, and the main terracota underground line is tree root infested as well.....
when homes age things wear out
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TomR wrote:

Strong (full-strength) muriatic acid (HCL) is great for taking mineral film off porcelain. It won't harm it one bit.
But as a drain un-blocker, it's completely stupid to use for that.
Buy a can of draino crystals and dump 1/4 or 1/3 of the can down the drain, add about a cup of hot water while you're doing that so the water carries the crystals to the site of the blockage. Then cap the drain with a plug and close the bathroom door and open a window and give it 8 to 12 hours and then flush the tub (or sink) with a lot of water.
That will ALWAYS work.
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Acids are used for calcium based drain clogs. Alkalai (Hydroxide) cleaners are used for grease, soap, hair.
Bathroom sink clogs are usually grease, soap, hair.
If the clog is calcium based, then vinegar should help. Just pour it in, acetic is a mild acid by nature.
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .
I am going to meet with a friend of mine in a couple of hours to see if I can help him with a clogged/slow drain issue. I haven't seen it yet, but so far, he seems to be saying that it is mostly a bathtub (and maybe a sink in the same bathroom) that has a slow drain problem. I think he said he tried to unclog it before but had some problems with it, and he wants to know if by looking at it if I could figure out how to correct the problem.
Of course, we'll be doing the routine stuff -- using a plunger, a snake, one of those plastic hair-cleaning gadgets, maybe Liquid Plumber, etc.
But, I was wondering if anyone has ever tried using acid -- probably not something too strong, but maybe diluted acid or whatever. I know about keeping acid off of porcelain, and I know about adding acid-to-water and not water-to-acid from chemistry classes and past experience. And, since it is someone else's house, I don't want to mess up their drain lines with too much or too strong of acid.
Any thoughts or experiences on the acid idea and any specific suggestions would be appreciated.
Again, I am going there in a couple of hours, but I'll check here beforehand just in case anyone gets to respond before then.
Also, I may just pass on the whole acid idea unless someone here has any suggestions that we may want to try.
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On Sunday, August 5, 2012 7:50:12 AM UTC-7, TomR wrote:

I never use acid and I have been doing plumbing for many years. Acid WILL eat through the pipes no matter what it says on the bottle. Once you can get a snake to go through the point where a clog is at then you dont need acid. You have to have patience and persistence when running the snake. If you dont want to bother with frequent snaking install a strainer in the tub or shower drain and make sure its the kind that cant be easily removed by someone too lazy to clean it. As for a lavatory sink make sure the pop-up plug is in place after you clear the drain or they do make strainers that fit lavatory drains also and tell people to place a towel or newspaper over the sink when combing their hair. You can use copper sulfate on the main sewer line to kill roots but thats as far as you should go with using any chemicals.
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NOT NOT NOT if you've tried Liquid Plumber or Drano first!!! NEVER EVER mix alkali and acids!
When I was in junior high school, one of our shop teachers learned about that the hard way. Some knucklehead student dumped a bunch of sawdust down the sink drain in the wood shop, which of course clogged it. Teacher poured some Drano in there. No effect. Next thing the teacher tried was muriatic acid. The [entirely predictable] reaction with the alkali that was already there blew the acid back in his face. He wasn't wearing safety goggles, either. Fortunately for him, the wood shop was next door to the boys' locker room; couple of students dragged him in there and threw him in the shower -- the doctors said that's what saved his sight. But it wasn't quick enough to prevent some really horrible scarring.
And consider this: why do you suppose that commercial drain cleaning products such as Drano, Liquid Plumber, and so on are alkaline? If acids worked better, wouldn't these products use acid instead?
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On 8/5/2012 5:12 PM, Doug Miller wrote:

Stormin got it right. It takes alkaline to remove hair. I cringe at some of these drain cleaners. A 1% caustic solution in the eyes can cause blindness. It is a good idea to protect eyes when using these products.
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email.me:

Yes. Alkali dissolves protein (cornea). Acid denatures protein, making a "protective" layer, but it doesn't keep on eating away at the eye. I got a very small droplet of "chromic acid" (an excellent glassware cleaning solution, long since banned because of the carcinogenity of chromium compounds). It hurt like hell, but I barely remembered a day later. I think it was my right eye, and ever since (and before) I have been a leftie ...
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Best regards
Han
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Han, we all knew that. ;-)
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email.me:

I knew you'd pay attention, Keith!
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Han
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I can read. ;-)
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Thanks, glad to hear a good word, now and again.
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .

Stormin got it right. It takes alkaline to remove hair. I cringe at some of these drain cleaners. A 1% caustic solution in the eyes can cause blindness. It is a good idea to protect eyes when using these products.
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TomR wrote:

Thanks everyone. Here's the outcome:
I checked all of the responses that were posted before I left to go there. The one about Drano caused me to also try checking out the Drano.com website to see what they say. Basically, the Drano website said to use Drano Gel if the tub doesn't drain at all, or Drano Foaming-something if the problem is a slow drain and not a completely clogged drain. So, I bought those on the way there.
When I got there, it was two tubs -- one on the second floor and one on the first floor below that. The upper tub would not drain at all and the lower one was a slow drain.
The good news was that each one had an access panel in the wall behind the tub plumbing fixtures. By opening those, we could see the way in which the tub drain lines ran. For both, the overflow pipe ran straight down past where the drain ties into that pipe, and continues straight down to into a regular "U" trap and then continued on to the rest of the drain line. That meant that we could take off the overflow cover, take out the piece that is used to plug the tub drain, and drop a 1/4-inch snake in there and easily snake it out. We also used one of those cheapie plastic drain hair cleaner devices in each drain but no real hair etc. came out. So, the clogs were in the regular drain line and not right at the tub drain itself.
The upstairs one could only be snaked out about 2 feet in and then hit a clog or obstruction. The downstairs one was easy to snake out completely.
Snaking out the downstairs one solved that problem right away.
After trying to snake out the upstairs one and hitting a clog or obstruction, we then did some serious plunging while sealing off the overflow and that cleared that clog.
For both, we ran lots of hot water while snaking and plunging.
We ended up not needing to use any drain cleaner, and definitely not acid. I read enough here to give up on the whole acid idea both before and after going there to do the job.
So, thanks again. Problem solved, and I now know to delete all of the acid thoughts that I was conjuring up in my brain beforehand.
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OP-
I guess it's all moot since you;ve got the clog cleared.
But surprising as it may seem... there are several acid based drain cleaners.
This may seem contrary to "common knowledge" but acid based cleaners can clear drains without harming pipes. I'm not suggesting the use of plain acid but acid based drain cleaners are very effective (and surprisingly stinky)
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
http://www.alpharubicon.com/kids/superdraino.htm
Nearly 30 years ago my dad helped me clear a clog with a product, as I recall, named "Mule Kick". I believe it was sulfuric acid based and it worked great but stunk up the house.
cheers Bob
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I never never never recommend any acid or alkali based drain cleaners. I always recommend using a snake. The reason is that acids can weaken rubber washers on drain connections causing leaks. Strong acids can eat pipes. Alkalis (such as Drano) are extremely dangerous if they "flash back" at you, and they also tend to cake at the bottom of the trap, sometimes forming a cement-like plug.
Snakes not only are great for clearing organic blockages, but they can also find things that have gotten stuck such as toothbrushes, and other items.
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"Strong acids can eat pipes." This statement is true....(about some pipes) but acid drain cleaners are not merely strong acids.
Saint Joseph's Hospital (Orange, CA) used that acid based drain cleaner (Mule Kick) for years with no ill effects.
Chemical drain cleaners are generally safe for drain plumbing materials. "No-Hub" rubber connectors can easily withstand the minimal exposure to any kind of drain cleaners they reasonably encounter. Check out the Fernco website for chemical resistance.
Just as drain cleaners that are improperly used, an inexperienced snake operator can damage drain plumbing just as well.
cheers Bob
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I also have a tub with a slow drain. I've tried them all, including an acid based drain cleaner sold by True-Value. It's called Rooto Professional Drain Cleaner and it's sulfuric acid based. Comes in a white/red 33 oz bottle fer about $12. It didn't seem to work much better than one of the drain cleaner gels you can get at any supermkt. Temporarily Improves drainage, but not as much as I like to see. I know for a fact the tub has a rather horizontal run, so I may try cleaner along with some of the other suggestions I've read.
nb
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