Even your favorite products, though excellent for one purpose, will do more harm than good if you sub them in where they don't belong. For instance, you may love peanut butter, but you wouldn't use it in place of hair gel, now would you? The popular bathroom drain cleaner Drano has its uses, and sometimes nothing works better. When your interior plumbing is plugged, Drano can feel like a superhero coming to the rescue. But using it to clear your gutters can be a real disaster. Bottom line is: Don't use Drano on your gutters.
Why Drano is Dangerous When Used in Your Gutters
If you are a natural-products fan, you may not use Drano at all, but many people do. In crystal form, this is a chemical agent, made of sodium hypochlorite, sodium nitrate, salt, and aluminum shards, used to burn away clogs (like clumped hair) in plumbing pipes. The liquid form has lye and, like the crystal form, generates heat to clean out pipes plugged at inaccessible spots.
It may seem that all this unclogging power would be great for cleaning out nasty gunk from gutters. In fact, you can find all kinds of instructions on the internet for doing just that. But there's a big difference between outdoor gutters and indoor pipes that it pays every citizen of the world to remember: Outdoor gutters are outdoors and products put into gutters are not contained there very long.
What happens to the rain in rain gutters? Rain passes down the roof, hits the gutters, and finally is dumped to the ground or into rain collection barrels. Clearly you don't want sodium chemical compounds in your drinking or garden water, so if you collect rain water, it's pretty obvious that using Drano in gutters in a non-starter.
But even if you don't, all products in rain gutters ultimately fall to the ground thanks to gravity. That means disaster for any plants or animals in the area, including kids who play outside the home, pets, and wildlife. And the product can easily leach into the groundwater supply too, causing a toxicity that can last a long time and spread farther than you can imagine.
So if someone suggests that you use Drano to clear your gutters, just say no. Your kids, pets, plants, and neighbors will be better off without more chemicals in the yard.
Other Bad Drano Ideas
While using Drano to clean your gutters is a very bad idea, it's not the only one floating around out there. Have you heard of using Drano to determine the gender of an unborn child? If you hang out on social media you've probably come across it. The idea is that if a pregnant woman pees into a cup of Drano, it will turn brown if its a boy, blue if a girl. Needless to say, this is a total hoax and doesn't work.
Some home maintenance experts caution against using regular Drano to unclog a toilet. They say it heats up the area too much and can easily crack the toilet's porcelain bowl, soften plastic pipes, or damage corroded pipes. Instead, they suggest using a plunger, a drain snake, or natural enzyme products (like Bio-Clean) that use natural bacteria and enzymes to digest organic waste found in your plumbing. Note that even Drano advises you not to use their regular drain cleaner in the toilet.
If you decide you'd like to use a more natural product in your indoor pipes too, it's really not that hard to come up with an unclogger from products you have in the house. You can try salt alone for small clogs, or an equal mix of baking powder and vinegar for more serious problems. If that doesn't work, mix one cup of each, pour it into the drain at night, and you may no longer have a problem by morning.
From Alaska to California, from France's Basque Country to Mexico's Pacific Coast, Teo Spengler has dug the soil, planted seeds and helped trees, flowers and veggies thrive. A professional writer and consummate gardener, Spengler has written about home and garden for Gardening Know How, San Francisco Chronicle, Gardening Guide and Go Banking Rates. She earned a BA from U.C. Santa Cruz, a law degree from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall, and an MA and MFA from San Francisco State. She currently divides her life between San Francisco and southwestern France.