A lot of people are confused about whether or not they can pour drain cleaner down their home’s vent pipes.
Some drain cleaners are perfectly safe to pour down the toilet and can also be poured into a clogged pipe in your home if you can’t get it to drain.
However, they only provide a temporary solution so you will still want to have a professional come in and snake it out if possible.
While most drain cleaners are safe, you must be careful because some of them are actually extremely caustic and can wreak havoc.
Read on to find out other ways to clear blockages.
Table of Contents
What is a drain cleaner?
A drain cleaner is a chemical solution used to unblock or clean drains.
Oils and fats from food can usually be broken down in wastewater treatment plants.
However, if these oils and fats are not removed they can create a thick layer of scum on top of the water in drains and sewer pipes.
This can clog up a drain, sewage pipe or a wastewater treatment plant and make it difficult for waste to flow freely.
Vinegar is a very effective alternative to chemical drain cleaners. It can be poured into the blocked drain and will usually begin to clear the blockage within about 30 minutes.
Cleaning a blocked drain in this way will save you time and money, as well as helping to protect the environment.
Chemical drain cleaners are very effective at unblocking drains and sewage pipes. However, these chemicals can be harmful to the environment if they are released into watercourses.
Wastewater companies should be able to provide advice on the most effective way to unblock your drains and sewage pipes.
Common ingredients in drain cleaners
Cleaning solutions that are used to clear drains of hair, food debris and soap scum contain a number of chemicals.
Some common ingredients include:
- Abrasives, such as crushed walnut shells or ground pumice, help cut through grease and oil.
- Bad-tasting chemicals such as d-limonene add flavor to the solvent that dissolves fats and oils.
- Biocides kill microorganisms such as bacteria, which can cause stains and odors.
- Soap is included to help lubricate fat globules so they are easier to remove from the drain.
- Surfactants make the grease and oils in the clogged drain water more soluble, which helps to break down clogs.
Some solutions may include bleach, which disinfects and whitens the drain.
What to Put Under Door Threshold
What to Put Under Door Threshold
Other ingredients can be added to enhance performance. For example, a thickening agent may be included to make the solution more viscous so it does not drain out of the clogged drain as quickly.
Can you pour drain cleaner down a vent pipe?
Vent pipes are often used to channel excess gases to the outside and leave only clean air inside drainage systems.
The problem is that many people may be tempted to pour drain cleaner down the vent pipe to unblock them.
It is not uncommon for homeowners to feel that their vents are blocked by all the objects that have been washed down them over the years.
The danger of pouring drain cleaner like Drano down a vent pipe is from the fumes it produces that can be hazardous to your health.
Hazardous fumes produced from drain cleaner
Drain cleaners are strong chemicals and they are not meant to be inhaled.
Another reason why they may not act as you expect them to is that they’re not effective in resolving odors from the vent pipes because they may not fix the underlying problem that is causing them.
The reason for smelling bad gases and odors in your home is that the ventilation can be compromised or blocked and because of this, smells are caused.
Because many homeowners place objects into their pipes such as toys, cleaning cloths, and other household items, you may want to remove the obstruction first.
Also, clutter around bends or junctions in pipes, in corners, or under sinks will also cause an obstruction and you should try to remove it first using a vent brush.
A blocked pipe will prevent gases escaping and will lead to them accumulating in your house.
What is a vent pipe?
A vent pipe is a part of a plumbing system that:
1. Vents waste gases and/or steam from a drainage system and/or appliance
2. Provides an opening for air circulation to allow the drain to function properly
Consequently, a vent pipe prevents the uncomfortable build-up of foul odors and gases in a building’s plumbing system.
All vent pipes are not created equal and there are numerous types of vent pipe for different installation conditions.
There are many different types of vent pipe. The most common type is a roof mounted vent, also known as an internal chimney, which can be installed on an existing pipe or stovepipe. The most common chimney is for masonry fireplace.
Another type of venting system is called stack vents.
Stack vents are installed through a roof and protrude beyond the roof’s surface.
The purpose of stack venting is to allow for air circulation in buildings’ toilets so that the drains do not develop unsightly stains or odors.
Closed vent systems can be installed if the discharge pipe is fixed, so that no air is lost.
With this type of venting system, the pipes and fittings are installed in a way that does not allow air to enter or escape.
What could cause a vent pipe to block?
Sewer vent pipes are designed to channel gaseous waste that is produced in the flat or industrial unit and take it outside of the building.
Normally, the waste in these pipes consists of odors, gases and other flammable substances.
Lighter than air, the substances move upwards through the vent pipe by buoyancy.
Some of these substances, especially methane and hydrogen sulfide gases, can be explosive and flammable.
For this reason, it is essential that every vent pipe is kept clear and free from obstruction.
Any build up of gases in the vent pipe, either from blockages or simply a buildup of odoriferous waste matter, can be dangerous.
In order to ensure the safety of both residents and employees in a building, every vent pipe must be inspected regularly.
Read More: Home Inspector as a Side Job: Pay, Pros, Cons, Qualification
There are a few things that can contribute to the blockage and build up of toxic gases or other waste matter in the vent pipe:
- Debris from the roof of the building.
- Rodents and other small animals.
- Rocks, poles or sticks can easily get lodged in the pipe.
- Icing, snow and dampness in cold weather.
- Toys, or other materials like fluffy lint, or a sock
- Contamination of the vent pipe by fumes from other buildings nearby.
- Poor building maintenance or faulty parts in the vent pipe.
How to unblock a vent pipe
A blocked vent pipe is not something you want to deal with in your house, especially a dryer vent pipe.
Odds are if your vent pipe is blocked, then you can’t dry anything.
The problem with a vent pipe is that it’s a very flexible piece of pipe, so if something gets in it, then you’re going to have a tough time unblocking it.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and if you’re trying to unblock a vent pipe then you’re probably going to have to be pretty inventive.
A vent pipe can get clogged in a number of different ways as we have seen.
If you get a vent pipe blockage then it’s best to take care of it right away.
Try flushing the vent pipe out first.
A plumber’s snake is a tool that you can use to unblock the pipe.
If the blockage is removed then flush out the pipe again with your hand over the pipe opening to confirm there’s suction.
You can also use a plunger to unblock the toilet if flashing alone does not work.
Unblock vent pipes safely!
You should not pour drain cleaner down a vent pipe.
At least, not if you can avoid it. For one thing, it just won’t do much good as already stated.
You never know what could go wrong if you do.
Sure, the drain might receive a deep cleaning that it desperately needs.
And the pipes that go up the roof probably need to be cleaned out anyway.
So it seems like a good idea, right?
Don’t do it for the sake of air quality and safety.
Hire a professional plumber to take care of the job.
Nasty fumes and toxic chemicals are not items that should be taken lightly.
Proper ventilation needs to be in place if you decide to clean a clogged drain with a caustic chemical like drain cleaner.
Jumping down into a hole that you’ve created with the drain cleaner could cause serious injuries.
Cleaning the pipes from the roof is the best chance that you have at ensuring that no toxic fumes will be present in the crawlspace.
It will save you from the causative factors of vent pipe blockage such as rodents, sticks, snow and many other foreign objects that get in there.
Can I pour drain cleaner down my vent pipe? ›
You might need to run a drain cleaner through your roof vent if it's clogged, or if this is the easiest way to access a clogged main drain. Slow draining and gurgling plumbing fixtures could be a sign of a clogged roof vent.Can you spray water down a plumbing vent? ›
Adjust the nozzle to its most powerful setting and spray water down the pipe. Spraying the hose will help remove any remaining debris in your vents and potentially get your plumbing system back on track. Continue spraying water into the pipes to push everything down your sewer line.What happens if you pour water down a vent? ›
Pouring water into your vent will cause it to go down into the pipes and cause leaking.Does drain cleaner destroy pipes? ›
Drain Cleaner Can Damage Your Pipes
Drain cleaner is caustic, meaning it will eat away at your pipes — even the tougher types. If your home employs plastic pipes, use the solution sparingly, if at all. It can even eat away at metal pipes. Use the solution once to break up a clog, and you could be safe.
- Bird nests.
- Bird or rodent carcasses.
- Leaves, small branches, trash, or other debris.
- Tennis balls or baseballs.
- Gurgling toilets and drains.
- Strong sewage smells.
- Sluggish drains.
The vent pipe is usually connected to the largest pipes in the system, but it is usually the small pipes that get clogged up most frequently. Pouring Drano into the vent is the equivalent of pouring it “down the drain.” It won't get to the clogs in the system.How do I know if my air vent is clogged? ›
- Temperatures varying drastically between rooms.
- Dirty air coming from vents.
- Unusual spikes in electric bills.
- Air is not coming out of some vents in your house.
- Air coming from vents is warm.
While you can't stop the creation of septic and sewer gases, you can eliminate the odor that is caused as they exit the roof vent pipe or septic tank vent by installing a Wolverine Brand® carbon filter on top of your sewer vent.Can a clogged vent pipe cause sewer smell? ›
Bad smells – If your vent line is clogged, water may not flow properly through your drain system. As a result, the p-traps under your sinks or toilets may become dry and sewer gas may accumulate, causing a foul odor throughout your home.
Why would there be water in a vent pipe? ›
A clogged vent won't let air through and into the pipes, so the water remains stagnant in the plumbing system. Stagnant water can then accumulate in the pipes until the pipes can no longer contain them. This can then result in the water flowing back up and out of drains.Can you snake a vent pipe? ›
Drain snake with a camera
Grab your snake drain and gently feed it down your vent pipe. We recommend using a snake drain with a camera and flashlight, as this can give you insight into what type of blockage you are facing and the overall condition of your pipes.
Rain water that runs down a plumbing vent pipe at the roof goes into the house drain system at a point past the traps at the plumbing fixtures that keep sewer gas out of the home, and heads harmlessly out to the sewer or septic tank.Can you pour bleach down heat vents? ›
Aside from dust and pet hair, mold and mildew can also plague your HVAC system. However, these have more serious health effects and can spread quickly throughout the ductwork. You can use a mixture of water, baking soda, bleach and borax to disinfect any mold infested parts of the ductwork.What drain cleaner will not harm pipes? ›
Our top pick is Drano Max Gel Clog Remover, which is also a favorite among cleaning experts. Its powerful gel formula is safe for most drains and pipes and capable of quickly clearing up the toughest clogs in bathtubs, sinks, garbage disposals, and septic systems.When should you not use drain cleaner? ›
Direct contact with drain cleaners can irritate your eyes, burn your skin, and cause shortness of breath. Mixing drain cleaners, even accidentally, with other cleaning products can result in deadly gasses. Drain cleaner should never be used in standing water in toilets or clogged showers.Are liquid drain cleaners safe for pipes? ›
The chemicals in the cleaner can not only damage you, but your pipes as well. Hydrochloric acid used in most cleaners eats through the enamel and other layers within your plumbing system. After extended use, the chemicals could actually cause leaks or create small holes in the pipes.Can a clogged vent pipe make you sick? ›
Don't let a blocked sewer vent make you sick. Clogged vents can lead to sewer gas backup, which can make you or your family ill. As people in this region work through one of the coldest winters on record, homeowners should take time to review safety measures to prevent illness from sewer gases.Do vent pipes need to be cleaned? ›
The pipes that carry away the gases are called vent lines, and it's important that they remain unobstructed to avoid plumbing problems. If your plumbing vents become clogged, it impacts your entire plumbing system at home or at your business.Does Drano destroy PVC? ›
Because of its corrosive nature, Drano can cause toilet bowls to crack, PVC pipes to melt or break and the glue that holds pipes together can be eaten away. If any of these things happen, you're going to be left with an inoperable plumbing system and costly repairs.
Why is my return air vent so dirty? ›
Here are some of the most common culprits: Your air ducts are leaking. Cracked or damaged air ducts can allow contaminants to enter your system and cause your filter to clog up. They can also significantly increase your energy bills.How often should vents be cleaned? ›
Experts advise having your air ducts cleaned every 2 to 3 years to prevent many maintenance and health problems before they start. However, homes with pets or children with allergies should have their air ducts professionally cleaned more frequently than the recommended average.Why does my house smell like sewer at night? ›
One of the most common issues of drain odor is due to blockages and clogs. Any type of blockages, whether they are partial or full, can prevent waste water from properly leaving your home. Over time, this stagnant water sitting in the pipes can build up bacteria and produce pungent odors throughout the night.Why does my house smell like sewer when the wind blows? ›
In many cases, the vent isn't tall enough. When a gust of wind comes along, it can blow those smelly gases across your roof and into your yard. The wind can even blow methane gas back into your house through a window or back down the vent. This isn't just a problem for older homes; it can happen in new construction.Why does my bathroom smell like sewer at night? ›
A dry P-trap is one of the most common causes of sewer smell in your bathroom. The P-trap is a U-shaped pipe located under the sink or drains. It is used to trap water beneath the drain, preventing sewer smells from reaching the bathroom.How many drains can be on one vent? ›
A horizontal wet vent could have as few as two fixtures or as many as ten fixtures but not more than two fixtures of any type can be connected to the system. Each wet vented fixture drain shall connect independently to the horizontal wet vent.Does rain go down roof vents? ›
Most air vent styles prevent direct intrusion of water. But some roof air vents sit fairly flat to the roof, with a mushroom style hood and unprotected sides. And on occasion a hard driving rain with whipping wind will cause roof vents to leak water.What is the code for plumbing vent pipe? ›
Vent pipes shall be not less than 11/4 inches (32 mm) in diameter. Vents exceeding 40 feet (12 192 mm) in developed length shall be increased by one nominal pipe size for the entire developed length of the vent pipe.
PVC pipe is fantastic for many different applications, and it is even sometimes used for duct and venting applications, but there are a few reasons why PVC pipe is not a great choice for dryer vents. For one, PVC has a rather low maximum operating temperature.Can you use PVC for exhaust vent? ›
Suitable materials for the vent and condensate pipes include PVC (polyvinyl chloride), CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride), and ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene) plastic pipe, depending on the furnace's specified exhaust gas temperature.
Why does toilet gurgle when shower runs? ›
Here's the longer answer: Your shower and toilet most likely share a drain line and a vent stack (this setup is called wet venting, more on that later). If either the line or the stack has a clog or blockage, air is forced either up or down your toilet, making the gurgling noise you're hearing.How hot does a vent pipe get? ›
To make it simple, the typical combustion gas temperature for a 90+% efficient furnace should be in the 100 to 130 degree F range. This usually equates to a median pipe material temperature value of 86 to 100 degree F.Can I pour vinegar in my vents? ›
While you can put a little bit of white vinegar in your condensate line in order to prevent it from clogging and causing odors … it's one of those things that if you're not 100% sure how to do it, it's safer to call in the professionals!Can I put baking soda down my vents? ›
Baking soda is an ideal fix for odor coming from air conditioning vents, as it naturally absorbs all sorts of smells. If the AC smells bad and the odors are coming from inside the ducts, you may have to put the baking soda inside the ductwork for maximum effectiveness.Can you spray vinegar in air vents? ›
Yes, in a nutshell, you can use vinegar to wash the air conditioning unit coils because it is the best DIY cleaning solution for this purpose. Furthermore, you can also combine white vinegar and plain tap water to make it cleaner.Can you run a drain into a vent pipe? ›
Individual vents must rise above the overflow line of the topmost plumbing fixture in the house before you can tie it to the main vent stack. This is a precaution that prevents the vent from becoming a drain if that fixture's drain gets blocked.Do vent pipes need Cleanouts? ›
Cleanouts shall be provided in the vent piping so that any blockages in the vent piping below the flood level rim of the fixture served can be cleared into the drainage system.How do you clean vents fast? ›
Vacuum the vents to remove most of the dust and dirt. Take a damp microfiber cloth to wipe the outside of the vent, as well as the wall and ceiling around it. Do not use water or cleaning chemicals, as these will smear the dirt around and make it more difficult to remove buildup!How do you clean pee out of a vent? ›
- First of all turn off the heater.
- Take a long handled sponge or mop and dampen it with urineFREE and insert it into the ducting and mop out.
- Let air dry, then rinse the sponge or mop with water and insert into the ducting again to remove any residue.
- Let dry again. ...
- Repeat if necessary.
In short, it is possible to connect the toilet drainage line and the shower drainage line, as long as they both have separate waste trap arms. However, do note that combining them may also lead to blockages, which can cause smells to come from certain drains.
Where should drain cleanouts be placed? ›
A cleanout shall be installed above the fixture connection fitting, serving each urinal, regardless of the location of the urinal in the building. Exceptions: (1) Cleanouts shall be permitted to be omitted on a horizontal drain line less than 5 feet (1524 mm) in length unless such line is serving sinks or urinals.How often should plumbing vents be cleaned? ›
As we mentioned above, the general rule of thumb is to clean your vents every three to five years. For many homeowners, that's too long to wait. Here are a few signs that indicate you need to call out a professional right away: Musty odors—Often caused by mold, musty odors are a sure sign that your ducts need cleaning.