Bleach is one of those things that rarely has a place in your drain. It doesn’t work well as a substitute for tackling clogs and can be quite problematic in homes with septic tanks. Although bleach can be an excellent solution for tackling pungent odors wafting from your drain, you might want to think twice before dumping the liquid down the drain.
In This Article
What Does Bleach Do When You Pour It Down The Drain?
Some plumbers recommend pouring small amounts of bleach down the drain every once in a while to tackle tough odors. The sheer strength of bleach does an exceptional job of killing the odor-causing bacteria hanging out in your drain.
So, instead of smelling like rotting food, your drain will take on the smell of a chlorine pool for a while. However, although bleach is a good disinfectant, it’s not the best choice for a few reasons.
Bleach in your drain is problematic for a few reasons, one of which is the potential fumes. When you pour bleach down your drain, the majority of it washes away and flushes into the waste line and sewer. However, a small portion remains in the P-trap, where it sits until you flush it with water or more chemicals.
The problem here is the potential combination of chemicals. For example, let’s say you noticed a powerful odor coming from the drain and decide to tackle it with bleach. Your roommate noticed the same thing but came along a while later and decided to clean the counters and sink with an ammonia-based cleaner.
The combination of ammonia and bleach creates a poisonous chloramine gas that can make you and your family or roommates sick (or other people in or around your home), even if you’re nowhere near the sink.
The gas can move through your home via the plumbing pipes, circulating it to other bathrooms and drains in your home. Although the P-traps in those drains will prevent the gas from emerging, the gas may leave your home via vents. This releases it into the air around your home, which can be problematic.
Harmful For Septic Systems
Millions of homes in the United States, especially those in rural areas, function using septic systems. If your home uses a septic tank, you need to be especially careful of what you put down the drains in your home.
Septic tanks function using a finite balance of bacteria, and any disruptions with these bacteria can cause varying issues with the system. Bleach is known for its bacteria-killing abilities, which makes it an unwelcome additive to your septic tank.
The septic tank is full of beneficial bacteria that work nonstop to keep your septic system running smoothly. Without them, regular functions in the system would come to a screeching halt, causing multiple issues. The bacteria help move things along by digesting the waste you put into the tank (by flushing the toilet, draining the sink, etc.).
If you kill the bacteria, the undigested waste can clog the system, creating a messy problem. While minimal amounts of bleach every now and again shouldn’t cause significant issues, a steady diet of bleach can wreak havoc on the system.
Aside from what bleach can do to your septic system and create when mixed with other chemicals, it’s essential to consider bleach itself. The Household Products Database at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) states chlorine bleach is corrosive to the eyes, harmful if swallowed, and injures the skin and mucous membranes on contact.
So, if you get the mixture on your skin, you might deal with mild to severe skin irritation. Or, if the mixture splashes and gets into your eyes, it can be quite corrosive.
You need to be careful when handling it, pouring slowly to avoid splashes and wearing the necessary protective clothing (like rubber gloves) to protect your hands and arms.
What Should I Do If I Poured Bleach Down My Drain?
If you accidentally poured bleach down your drain, there’s no need to worry. Try to flush the drain immediately with hot water from the tap. Allow the water to run for a few minutes to move the remnants of bleach from the drain trap and main sewer line.
Running water ensures you don’t have leftover bleach hanging out in places where it could react with other chemicals, like ammonia. Don’t let the sink or tub overflow if the drain is clogged. However, moving forward, avoid using additional chemicals to unclog the drain, as they could react with the bleach and release fumes.
Instead, opt for a different approach, like a drain snake or a plunger.
Small amounts of bleach, especially diluted bleach, usually don’t cause immediate damage or issues. Of course, you need to avoid mixing chemicals accidentally by following the bleach with a different chemical. On top of that, try to steer clear of using concentrated bleach in excessive amounts, as it can cause issues for your septic tank/plumbing.
Does Bleach Dissolve Clogs In My Drain?
No, bleach will not dissolve the clogs blocking your drain. Although it works well against smelly germs, it’s powerless against tough clogs (like hair, food waste, and grease). So, avoid using large amounts of bleach to tackle clogs. Instead, choose a more appropriate option, like a drain snake or plunger.
What Else Can I Use To Get Rid Of Odors In My Drain?
Getting rid of the overwhelming fumes wafting from your drain can be tricky, especially with specific natural approaches. However, before you reach for a strong chemical cleaner or disinfectant, consider using an easier method.
Most folks have baking soda and vinegar on hand, but if you don’t, you can easily find both at your local grocery store. All you need to do is pour a few tablespoons of baking soda down the offending drain, then follow up with vinegar. Pour enough vinegar down the drain so that all of the baking soda reacts.
The combination acts as a disinfectant, targeting the smell-causing areas and leaving your drain fresh and clean. In some cases, the combo can even help tackle clogs.
If you have a garbage disposal, you can toss a few chopped citrus peels, like lemon or orange peels, into the drain. Then, run the disposal, allowing it to crush the peels and release lovely-smelling oils that freshen the disposal.