Help with acid damage to pipes, wood!

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by staylor, Jan 7, 2008.

  1. staylor

    staylor New Member

    Messages:
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    First, thanks for listening to the new guy's problems. I live in Little Rock in a house built in 1954.

    The wife's bathroom sink was running slow (happens every few months), and I ended up bringing home a sulfuric acid drain opener on the advice of a hardware store guy, which was my first mistake. After the first application, the drain was no better, so I made the second mistake and applied it again. Of course, before long, it had damaged the chrome trap under the sink, and I had a toxic leak onto lots of stuff stored in the cabinet below the sink.

    On a plumber's advice, I used lots and lots of baking soda in the cabinet itself and flushed through our toilets in an attempt to neutralize the acid and avoid further damange to the pipes. The trap has since been replaced, but the short pipe between the bottom of the sink and the top of the new PVC trap has a slight leak that's also attributed to acid damage.

    The plumber who replaced the trap was unable to get a snake fully through what he called the "dirty arm" and what I understand to be a steel pipe that takes wastewater from the trap down to the main drain. He and his boss claim the acid probably turned hair in that pipe "into concrete" and that the pipe must be replaced ($269 + tax first estimate). The acid/water/baking soda mix soaked the wooden bottom of the cabinet and some moisture is evident under the house. We have two small bathrooms, back-to-back, on an outer wall (in fact, there's only a wall between the two toilets).

    Here are my questions, please:
    • Is it really possible for the acid to mix with hair and form a permanent clog?
    • Because of the arrangement of our bathrooms as I've described, I've been told the clog can't be reached from the vent in the roof--does that sound correct?
    • Is replacing the so-called "dirty arm" (no else uses that term around here) my only choice, or is there still a chance the pipe could be cleared with a snake/rooter?
    • Just how toxic is this stuff, and what else can I do to neutralize it and the ordor other than constant ventilation? I know it has warnings and skulls on the package, but I think it oughta be outlawed!
    • What's your opinion of that estimate?
    Thanks! -- Steve
  2. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    Never mind the hair, if you have metal drainage the acid can interact with the pipe and cause corrosion and resulting constriction as well as rough spots for further clogs.
    Bottom line..NEVER listen to the "guy" at the hardware store, home depot, or any retail DIY supplier unless you know them personally and know they have experience.
    You now have two options...
    1. Take the drain cleaners word for it and pay.
    2. Try another drain cleaning outfit and hope they have better news.

    The next drain cleaner would likely charge close to what you were already quoted for a price to replace the drainage anyway.

    Chaulk this up to an expensive lesson, also, whatever you do..make absolutely certain the next guy to work on it knows there was acid used, it could cause severe injury if he isn't aware.
    FYI, the price given to replace the lav arm is pretty cheap.
  3. staylor

    staylor New Member

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    4
    Thanks for your reply. Is my 4-year-old PVC main drain line from the house to the street also in peril from the acid? We flushed extra water and 6 boxes of baking soda through the toilets after the original incident in hopes of neutralizing it. -- Steve
  4. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    The PVC should be fine.
  5. staylor

    staylor New Member

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    4
    Thanks again, Grumpy. Two more experienced plumbers arrived today to assess the damage and had little trouble snaking the same few feet of pipe that the youngster from another company struggled with for over an hour on Friday.

    It was just a routine hair clog, and I'm thankful to report that sulfuric acid + hair does NOT equal "rock," as was asserted by the original plumber and his boss. In fact, it turns out that this sink doesn't even have a pipe that these veterans would describe as an arm, "dirty" or otherwise.

    Still have the acid-soaked cabinet floor (and upset spouse) to deal with, but today's solution was much less expensive than the first company's proposal to replace a non-existent pipe for $269. Thanks for confirming that my main drain will be OK. I know that I and many others here appreciate your help.
  6. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    You might never see this.
    All too often we have folks that come in and leave never to be heard from once the trouble is over.
    That was thoughtful.
    Stay away from acid drain cleaners as much as possible, glad I was wrong.
  7. staylor

    staylor New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Grumpy,
    I appreciate your reply. I certainly hope I don't end up spending a LOT more time here due to plumbing problems, but if/when another one comes up, I'll absolutely return to this very valuable source of information. I scanned through a lot of threads in the last couple of days and felt like I learned a lot in a very short time, thanks to good folks who're willing to share their skills and experience here. --Steve
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