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Clog Tests Send Chemical Cleaners Down Drain

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Drain cleaners are among the most toxic chemicals stored in people's homes.

Americans spend $150 million a year on Drano, Liquid Plumr and other chemical drain cleaners. But in the past year alone, more than 2,000 people were hurt using such products.

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    Consumer Reports recently tested chemical drain cleaners, as well as plungers and other mechanical devices for clearing clogged drains. Testers gummed up drains with common culprits, such as fat, soap, hair and toothpaste.

    The tests showed that most chemical drain cleaners weren't very effective, even though they contain strong chemicals. Crystal drain cleaners did better, but the chemicals in those are even more dangerous.

    "They're quite caustic. They produce a gas and a vapor, and the pipes themselves actually get hot" said Bob Karpel, a tester with Consumer Reports.

    Testers said mechanical devices are much safer and quicker-acting.

    Top ratings went to the $20 Drain King VIP 1. The device can be hooked up to a hose and uses water pressure for fast results.

    A a canister of compressed gas is another good choice, according to Consumer Reports. Putting the $20 CLR Power Plumber Pressurized Drain Opener Plunger Kit over the drain and releasing a burst of air busts up clogs, and the device can be used 15 times.

    Finally, testers said a $6 Master Plunger is a good tool to have on hand. Testers found its new accordion style even more effective than the conventional design.

    To prevent drain clogs from happening in the first place, the magazine recommended using strainer covers in sinks and showers. Also, avoid pouring grease down the kitchen sink because congealed grease is one of the main causes of drain and sewer line back-ups.

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