Lye is a powerful drain cleaner that has a variety of industrial and domestic applications. Most of the chemical drain cleaners available in the market have lye or sodium hydroxide as a chief ingredient. Some of them are liquid, while a few are in powder form. In most cases, the powdered chemical drain cleaners are a combination of aluminum and sodium hydroxide. Lye drain cleaners belong to the caustic clan of chemical drain cleaners. This is because of their hazardous properties which can cause severe injuries and fatal conditions when inhaled, contacted or ingested by humans. Since lye has the potential to corrode everything it comes in contact with (like sulphuric acid), chemical drain cleaners made of lye should be handled with care.
Lye drain cleaners – Do’s and Don’ts: You use a drain cleaner to unclog your drains. Though it looks pretty easy and simple, it is not so. You need to take a lot of precautions and consider several things before rolling up your sleeves and getting down to the actual cleaning job.
Handling a chemical drain cleaner with safety in mind will prevent you from getting hurt. Below are a few do’s and don’ts with caustic chemical drain cleaners like lye:
- Do read all the instructions and literature enclosed before handling your lye drain cleaner
- Never handle lye drain cleaners without protective gear.
- Wear eye covering (goggles), heavy-duty rubber gloves and if possible (in case you have respiratory problem) a mask or respirator while drain cleaning.
- Don’t ever inhale the fumes that lye makes with water. Completely avoid touching lye with your hands. If you suspect an inhalation, move to fresh air environment and breathe in fresh air.
- If you suspect contact with lye on your skin, wash with copious amount of water or milk. Never try to rub with your hands as it can spread the damage to your hands too.
- If you suspect contact with eyes, flush immediately with water for 15 minutes and remove contact lenses after 5 minutes to avoid irritation. Contact an eye specialist if you have further irritation.
- If you ingested lye drain cleaner, drink copious amount of water and never ever try to induce vomiting. Drinking milk is also a good option. Rush to the poison control center immediately.
- Change your clothes immediately after a contact and avoid touching any thing or contacting children or pets.
- Ensure if your pipes can withstand the effect of lye before using the drain cleaner. Some metal pipes or pipes made of other materials cannot withstand the corrosive effect of lye. To avoid this, check with your plumber before unclogging your drain. Though PVC pipes do withstand, a higher concentration can spoil the game.
- Lye is effective in dissolving hair and other cosmetic substances clogging your drain, so pour it straight down your drain for good cleaning.
- Wash your drains several possible times to ensure that there is no more lye in the pipes
- Higher concentration of lye can mean more toxins. Ensure that you use approved levels of lye in your drains. Because apart from spoiling your pipes, you may harm the environment if you go for a higher concentration
- Lye drain cleaners form a reaction with the hydrogen ions in which the alkaline in lye converts the grease into a soapy substance that is easy to remove. So, there would be bubbly reaction even after the cleaning operation is over. Never go near the drain for a few hours to avoid inhalation of fumes.
- Store the unused lye chemical in a container or place that has child-proof and pet closure. Lye can be very hazardous on children and pets.
- Never use lye drain cleaner on a garbage disposal. This is because, the chemicals can stay in the disposal and can splash on anyone who turns it on.
- Never use lye drain cleaners with other chemicals. Explosions can occur if you mix lye cleaner (alkali) with an acid cleaner. Avoid mixing two cleaners at all costs.
- Don’t use lye on a completely clogged drain. The lye will remain on top and further increase the difficulty of removing the clog.