Learning more about the common ingredients in many commercial cleaning products can help you to better understand how these products work and which products are the most effective. When it comes to drain cleaning, caustic soda is often used, both on its own and mixed with other cleaning ingredients, because of its ability to break down hair and other organic matter.
About Caustic Soda
Caustic soda, or sodium hydroxide, is a chemical compound that causes a reaction when it comes in contact with certain substances, including organic materials (hair, dirt, food, etc.), turning them into a water-soluble liquid substance that is easily dissolved. Commercial applications for caustic soda include cleaning, paper manufacturing, textile processing and aluminum production.
Because of the unique properties of caustic soda that allow it to rapidly break down common sources of drain clogs, many products designed to dissolve drain clogs contain caustic soda. Commercial-grade cleaning products, used by businesses and by professional plumbers, contain higher concentrations.
Health and Safety Issues
Because of its corrosiveness, caustic soda can cause burning and swelling if it comes into direct contact with eyes and skin, and it can cause vision impairment as well. If swallowed, caustic soda can cause chemical burns and more serious side effects, including ulceration of the gastrointestinal tract and death. As with all types of chemical compounds, you should wear the proper protective equipment when using it and store it securely when not in use.
Purchasing Caustic Soda
Caustic soda can be purchased in concentrations of 50 percent and higher from stores that sell commercial and industrial cleaning supplies. When purchasing caustic in high concentrations, keep in mind that it is extremely corrosive and that it is not necessary to use very much to dissolve drain clogs. In most cases, drain-unclogging products containing caustic soda are strong enough to unclog and clean drains.
If you are faced with a clogged and dirty drain that does not respond to the application of household cleaning products, make sure to consult a professional plumber before attempting to purchase higher concentrations of caustic soda on your own. A plumber will be able to assess the situation and offer professional drain-unclogging and cleaning recommendations.