When you discover a drain that is slow or clogged, calling a plumber might not be your first reaction. After all, using a bottle of commercial liquid drain cleaner is cheaper and requires minimal effort, so why call for professional help? The two biggest reasons are, actually: your pipes and the often poor performance of liquid drain cleaners.
Most liquid drain cleaners work by creating a chemical reaction right inside your drain pipe, often with the help of hydrochloric acid. These reactions typically generate heat, and that heat can do some irreversible damage to the pipe itself.
This is especially true if the cleaner doesn’t do a quick or complete job of dissolving the clog, because the liquid chemicals will just sit on top of the clog while the chemical reaction is concentrated on one small section of pipe. If the pipe is plastic, the high heat could partially melt and deform the material. Metal pipes are more resilient, but the heat can weaken the metal in such a way that cracks and leaks become more likely down the line. This is especially true for older pipes.
There’s never a guarantee that a drain cleaner will be effective. And if your clog is caused by anything other than a simple hairball or grease buildup, drain cleaner is unlikely to help at all. There’s no way for you to tell what’s going on in your pipes, unless you resort to DIY measures, but there’s no need to do that when you can simply get a plumber.
One of the greatest advantages of calling a plumber to clear a drain is the ability to diagnose the cause of the clog. If there’s a break in a pipe that’s allowing other material to push inside, or if the root cause is located deeper in your drainage system, using a liquid drain cleaner is a complete waste of money.