Best Drain Cleaners

UPDATED AUGUST 2018

Keep water flowing freely and smoothly with a solid drain cleaner.

BEST DRAIN
CLEANERS 2018

Comstar Pure Lye Drain Opener

Comstar Pure Lye
Drain Opener

BOTTOM LINE

Lye is one of the most assertive cleaning products, which is why many people like this product. It battles most types of clogs and breaks down in pipes to limit the damage done to the environment. This isn’t as strong as other products though and may require multiple applications or a larger dose.

PROS

Comstar offers this drain cleaning product in a one-pound bottle, which is more than enough to clean all the drains in your home. It works well on most types of clogs, and as it’s biodegradable, the product will not damage your pipes, lawn or trees.

CONS

You may need to use more than the one cup that the manufacturer recommends to fight your clogs. The lye can also clump inside your pipes when you use a larger amount.

Green Gobbler Industrial Strength

Green Gobbler
Industrial Strength

BOTTOM LINE

Green Gobbler offers an industrial strength product that works effectively on hairs and other common clogs. It has a nice odor and is safe for the environment because the formula is biodegradable. This product may not work on larger clogs though.

PROS

As an industrial strength product, Green Gobbler will both remove stains on porcelain and other surfaces. It’s lalso effectively eliminates clogs in your drains. The formula is biodegradable, which makes it safe for the environment.

CONS

Some customers found that it did not completely open up their drains but that it did reduce those clogs. It also has a higher price tag than other products.

DrainScrub Powder

DrainScrub
Powder

BOTTOM LINE

DrainScrub Powder is one of the top products for use in any pipes and in your septic tank. It works effectively to kill bacteria and remove odors while also eliminating clogs, but it is safe for the environment and won’t damage your plumbing.

PROS

Made in the United States, this cleaner uses enzymes and other ingredients to kill bacteria living in your septic tank and pipes. It comes with a satisfaction guarantee and will not damage pipes.

CONS

As this is one of the more expensive cleaners out there, you may want to try something more affordable before making an investment.

Drano Max Clog Remover

Drano Max
Clog Remover

BOTTOM LINE

Max Clog Remover is the most powerful liquid cleaner that Drano makes. Specially formulated to work on tough clogs, it is safe for use in all types of pipes and will work on your garbage disposal too. It may not work as effectively as you would like on some clogs though.

PROS

This product features ingredients specially formulated to reduce rusting inside your pipes as you use it. It is also safe for using at night before flushing your pipes the following morning.

CONS

Can leave behind a build-up in your drain or pipe that makes clogs worse. It may not remove all the build-up and clogs in older pipes either.

Green Gobbler Drain Opener Pacs

Green Gobbler
Drain Opener Pacs

BOTTOM LINE

As one of the top As Seen on TV products, this set comes with pacs that eat through clogs and a tool for removing clogs caused by hair. Some customers complained that it ate through the finish on their sinks and that it took multiple steps to remove clogs.

PROS

Comes with a tool specially designed to remove hair that causes clogs. The convenient pacs allow you to use the right dose for each job.

CONS

This product may eat through some of the materials on your sink and drains. It often requires using the pacs and the included tool to remove clogs.

Shopping Guide​ for Drain Cleaners

Drain cleaning products fight the tough clogs caused by toilet paper and other items flushed down your toilet. These products will also work on the food debris trapped in your garbage disposal and the hair stuck in your shower drain too. The top products we came across come in both liquid and powdered formulas. 

With liquid formulas, you can pour an entire bottle down the drain and let it to go to work while you get a good night’s sleep. Powdered products come with a measuring cup and include instructions on how much of the powder to use based on the type of clog you have.

Using a drain cleaner can help you avoid clogs that cause mold and water damage from excess water flooding the floor. The best cleaners allow you to take a shower without feeling the water rising in your shower or tub. You can even use one of these products to tackle a tough problem when a plumber isn’t available. The cleaners we ranked are all easy to use and will work on the biggest of clogs.

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Shopping Guide​ for Drain Cleaners

Selection Criteria​

We found the top five products that you can use on toilets, garbage disposals, sinks and showers. To find the best product, we looked at factors like whether the cleaner is biodegradable, its ease of use and packaging size. Packaging size is important because shoppers want to get the most for their money. All our top choices let you treat your drains more than once, which helps you clean the same drain several times or clean all the drains in your home.

Some of the products on our list like those from Green Gobbler use an industrial strength formula that is just like the products used by professional janitors. The Max Clog Remover from Drano also uses a powerful formula that allows the liquid to get deep into the drain to reach clogs that you cannot reach with your hands. We included both liquid and powdered formulas that anyone can use. You may feel more comfortable using a powder that you can measure out one dose at a time or with a liquid that lets you empty an entire bottle down the drain.

The best all-around drain cleaner that works on showers and other drains is Drano Max Clog Remover. You can purchase a twin pack that comes with two bottles to battle the largest and thickest of clogs. Its formula works on hair and toilet paper but will also work on things that others dropped down the drain. It has a much thicker consistency than other products, which allows it to slowly work its way down your shower drain to reach the clog inside.

One reason we like this product is because you can use it overnight. You pour the bottle straight down the drain, let it spend the night working on your clog and flush the drain with hot water the next morning. That hot water sends the liquid straight down the pipe and allows the cleaner to take any debris along with it.

This is one of the few products on the market that is safe to use on all types of pipes. Drano specially formulated this liquid cleaner for use on copper and steel pipes. It will also work on PVC and plastic pipes. Drano Max Clog Remover will not cause any rusting to your pipes or your shower drain.

Best Drain Cleaner for Showers

Finding the best drain cleaner for toilets is difficult because so many liquid products can melt the ring on the base of your toilet. The Drain Opener Pacs that Green Gobbler makes are completely safe to use on your toilet. The basic set comes with three pacs in the standard option. You can spend extra to purchase six or nine pacs at the same time. Each pac contains a specially formulated blend of ingredients that will eat through hair and other materials that clog your toilet.

This set is also safe to use on other drains, including in your sink, shower and garbage disposal. It actually causes the items that cause your clogs to break down and develop a liquid consistency that will move harmlessly through your pipes. You can use it on clogs caused by hair, soap build-up, cigarette butts and even toilet paper.

Green Gobbler also gives you a hair removal tool that lets you reach deep inside your toilet to grasp hair that went down the drain. This tool pulls the hair back up and breaks that hair down into smaller pieces. You can use either the tool or the pacs as-is or in combination with each other.

Best Drain Cleaner for Toilets

Though many manufacturers claim that their products are safe for the environment, we found that the safest drain cleaner is the Green Gobbler industrial strength formula. Designed specifically as an environmentally-friendly cleaner, it is biodegradable and will actually break down after attacking your clog and moving through your system. The cleaner is safe to use with a septic system too.

One unique feature of this product is that it will dissolve the organic materials that it comes into contact with in your pipes. This helps it target hair, skin cells and anything else that created the clog. It also works effectively on toilet paper and soap scum that can build up inside both shower drains and toilets.

Even if you have a lush lawn and lots of plants and trees, you can safely use the industrial strength formula to clean out your pipes and remove clogs hidden deep inside your drains. It breaks down quickly and allows your system to flush it out in the same way it would any type of waste water. Though there are other biodegradable drain cleaners, we really like the clean and fresh scent of this Green Gobbler product.

Safest Drain Cleaners

Drain Cleaner Sizes

One thing you may want to consider as you look at our list of the top products and consider the options available to you is the size of each product. This gives you an idea of how many uses you will get out of each one.

 

  • DrainScrub Powder comes in a two-pound container. You can use the one-tablespoon included scoop to measure out the up to three tablespoons needed to treat most drains. The manufacturer recommends using the entire container to clean out a septic field.
  • Green Gobbler Industrial Strength comes in a 64-ounce bottle. You will use around a cup for most drains, which gives you eight uses out of one bottle.
  • Comstar Pure Lye Drain Opener comes in a one-pound container. If you use one-cup treatments, you’ll get around six treatments from the container.
  • Drano offers its Max Clog Remover in a twin pack that gives you 160 ounces of clog fighting power. Though you can use a smaller amount to clean drains, you can also use up to an entire bottle on a single clog. A single bottle will treat most common clogs.
  • Green Gobbler gives you three packets in its Drain Opener Pacs set and recommends using a single packet for each treatment. You can use all three pacs on a tougher clog.

Environmental Impact of Drain Cleaners

A major concern that some have about using drain cleaners is the impact that those products have on the environment. Some products contain chemicals that can cause significant damage to the environment around you. Those chemicals can leach out of your pipes and kill your lawn as well as any plants or trees near your home.

There is a risk that those chemicals can gain access to the local water supply too. This can severely impact the water that you drink and clean with and the water that others use as well. You should also consider the packaging used and the fact that plastics and other materials will not break down.
 
In addition to impacting the local water supply, chemicals used in some drain cleaners can travel through rivers and streams to reach larger bodies of water like lakes and oceans. Those toxic chemicals can kill wildlife living in and near those bodies of water.
 

An easy way to reduce your impact on the environment is with a biodegradable product. Also called environmentally-friendly cleaners, they use natural ingredients and other materials that will break down in the water that you send down the drain.

Environmental Impact of Drain Cleaners

Types of Clogs and How to Fix Them

Clogs occur whenever there is a build-up of debris inside a drain. Those clogs can occur because of things that you think are safe to flush down the toilet or let fall down the drain, including cigarette butts, feminine hygiene products and even flushable cleaning wipes. Those wipes can form clogs in the main drain and clog the septic system too. There is even a risk that the wipes will lead to clogs in the sewer system and affect all homes on your block.

Types of Clogs and How to Fix Them

Treating clogs caused by organic materials is easy because of the products available on the market for home use. Both liquid and powder cleaners will break down those materials into a thinner sludge that you can flush out of your pipes with the addition of some hot water. If you try multiple products and do not get any relief, contact a professional plumber. The plumber can send a video camera down the line to find the cause of the clog and use a snake to remove that clog.

Signs of a Clogged Sink

Before using any cleaner on your sink, look for signs of a clog. The most common sign of a clogged drain in a kitchen or bathroom sink is when the water does not drain quickly. Clogs caused by hair and other debris will restrict the flow of water through the pipe, which results in water backing up into the sink. You may find that the water climbs so quickly that it reaches the overflow holes in your sink too.

 Another sign is any odd or strange odor that comes from the sink. That bad smell is a clear sign of a clog in a kitchen sink, especially if you have a garbage disposal. Food can build up in the drain and create a clog, which will begin molding and producing the odor that you smell

Signs of a Clogged Sink

Signs of a Clogged Sink - Hair
Hair
Signs of a Clogged Sink - Food
Food
Hair

Signs of a Clogged Shower

The drain in the bottom of your tub or shower allows cleaning supplies and personal care products like soap or shampoo to move out of the shower. Those products move into the pipe, which will carry it to the septic system and away from your home. Any type of clog inside the drain or beneath the trap on the top of the drain will impede the flow of water. This causes the water to actually back up. As you shower, you may find that the water climbs up the sides of your tub.

Clogged shower drains can also cause the tub to drain slower than it should. To check the speed of your drain, close off that drain and allow the tub to fill with water. Release the drain as you keep track of how long it takes for the tub to completely empty. Even large tubs should only take a few minutes or less to drain. If it takes longer for yours to empty of water, you need to clean the drain.

Signs of a Clogged Shower

Signs of a Clogged Toilet

If you think that you have a clogged toilet, you may actually have a clogged sewer line. Clogs in that line can lead to water coming back up inside the toilet each time you flush and cause a foul odor to come from your toilet too. Before you call a plumber for help, you can check for signs that there is a clog beneath the drain in your toilet.

The number one reason for these clogs is because you flush things down the toilet that you should not. This can include flushable wipes, newspaper and even things your kids flush down the toilet.

A common sign of a clogged toilet is when it will not flush. When you push down the flushing mechanism, water may start going down the drain and then abruptly come back up. This can cause the water to overflow from the toilet and cover your bathroom floor. You may notice water coming up through the bottom of the toilet too. This can occur because the clog causes pressure to build up, which then comes out through the base of the toilet.

Signs of a Clogged Toilet

Snaking a Drain

You may find that you need to use a plumbing snake in addition to a drain cleaner. Many home improvement stores rent these tools to those who don’t want to purchase one outright. Also called a plumbing auger, the tool looks like a measuring tape and has a plastic case that you can hold in one hand. You’ll use the other hand to remove the snake inside.

Place the tip of the snake in the drain as you carefully turn the handle on the case. This forces the snake through the top of the drain and down into the pipe. When snaking a toilet, you’ll want to use caution to avoid scratching the inside of the bowl. With other types of drains, remove the stopper on the top that catches hair and other debris.

Once the snake stops moving, you’ve hit the drain. You can then increase your pressure to ensure that the tip catches on the clog and then begin winding the handle on the case to pull the snake back up. Depending on the size of the clog, you may want to use enough pressure to break that debris up and force the smaller pieces through the pipe.

Snaking a Drain - Step 1
Step 1
Snaking a Drain - Step 2
Step 2
Snaking a Drain - Step 3
Step 3
Snaking a Drain - Step 4
Step 4
Snaking a Drain - Step 5
Step 5

Storing Unused Products

Depending on which product you buy, you may find that you have some leftover after cleaning your drain. Most items will last for up to a year after your purchase date. Check the packaging or the container to see if the manufacturer listed an expiration date. This tells you how long you can keep it in your home before you need to dispose of the product.

Storing Unused Products

You can then place the product in a spot that is out of the reach of your children and pets. Many people store unused products under their kitchen or bathroom sinks to keep them on hand for future clogs. If you have a locking cabinet in your garage, you can store the product there too. This prevents kids from finding and drinking or eating the cleaner.

Powder vs. Liquid Cleaners

Both powder and liquid cleaners have some great benefits. Liquid cleaners are best for those who want a more convenient way to clean their drains. It takes an entire bottle to clean most drains, which allows you to throw away the bottle when you’re done. If you can recycle the bottle, rinse it out with fresh water before putting it in the recycling bin. Liquid products are usually more concentrated than powdered products and can move faster through your drain. 

Using a powdered option is best for those who want to keep a larger container on hand for future cleaning. Some of these products come with one or two pounds of powder inside. As you only need to use between a tablespoon and a cup, you’ll have more of that powder leftover. Powders can also be more convenient than liquids because of the included measuring cup too. This takes the guesswork out of knowing how much of the product to use.

Some Great Benefits of Liquid Cleaners

Liquid cleaners are best for those who want a more convenient way to clean their drains. It takes an entire bottle to clean most drains which will allow you to throw away the bottle when you’re done.

DRAIN SCRUB

100% natural bacteria and enzymes blast away clogs and odors.

Environmentally-friendly microbes will not harm pipes.

Double strength contains double the bacteria and enzymes of industry-leading products

DrainScrub Powder
Comstar Pure Lyme Drain Opener

PURE LYE

99% pure formula is biodegradable producing no heat and dangerous fumes. It’s free from hazardous dyes, perfumes, and toxic chemicals.

GREEN GOBLER PACS

Easy to use, fast, and powerful! 

Great for toilet clogs.

Eco-friendly and biodegradable.

Green Gobbler Drain Opener Pacs
Green Gobbler Industrial Strength

GREEN GOBBLER

Dissolves: grease, hair, paper, soap scum, oil, and organic matter.

Non-corrosive, odorless, and non-irritating to skin. 

Ultra thick formula clings to pipes to keep working.

Environmentally-friendly formula and biodegradable.

DRANO MAX GEL

Drano formula can be used in any drain to get rid of clogs.

An incredibly thick gel containing 35% more active components will easily dissolve the toughest and hardest scale and clogs, unblocking the drain. 

Drano Max Clog Remover

Cleaning After Contact

Even though drain cleaners are safe to use in your home, you should take steps when you come into contact with any of those products. If you get cleaner in your eyes, rinse your eyes under running water or in an eye wash station for 10 to 15 minutes. For contact with your skin, including liquid splashing on your hand as you pour it, run your hand under running water until you remove all traces of the product.

You can prevent problems from occurring with a simple pair of latex gloves like those you use when washing dishes or gardening outside. Keep the gloves on as you pour a liquid cleaner or measure and pour a powdered cleaner. Remove the gloves after throwing away the packaging or storing the product.

Cleaning After Contact

Prices of Drain Cleaners

Drain cleaners come in at a number of different price points. DrainScrub, which has a retail price of around $50 is the most expensive, but this cleaner comes with two pounds of powder that helps you clean every drain in your kitchen and bathroom.

Green Gobbler makes an Industrial Strength cleaner, which retails for around $22 and provides you with enough liquid for cleaning multiple drains. The company also makes the Drain Opener Pacs set, which comes with drain cleaning packs and a hair removal tool. You can purchase a set with three pacs for less than $15 or choose up to 12 pacs for less than $30.

The Comstar Pure Lye Drain Opener retails for less than $30 also and comes with enough product for cleaning more than one drain.

Many shoppers actually prefer Drano because its products are so affordable. You can get a twin pack of its Max Clog Remover liquid product for under $15. The twin pack gives you two bottles for tackling two different clogs.

Comstar Pure Lye Drain Opener
Comstar Pure Lyme Drain Opener
Green Gobbler Industrial Strength
Green Gobbler Industrial Strength
DrainScrub Powder
DrainScrub Powder
Drano Max Clog Remover
Drano Max Clog Remover
Green Gobbler Drain Opener Pacs
Comstar Pure Lyme Drain Opener

Frequently Asked Questions

A. Drain cleaner manufacturers use organic material to describe any organic or natural materials. Those items can include hair, plant leaves or even food. Non-organic material include man-made materials like cigarette butts and dental floss.

A. The amount of time it takes to clean your drain depends on the size and type of clog you have. Some organic cleaners will dissolve in around an hour or less, but it can take hours to tackle larger jobs. Drano and other companies make cleaners that you can let work overnight.

A. You can typically use these products to clean drains that lead into a septic system, but you should read the instructions and check with the manufacturer to make sure. Green Gobbler and other companies offer products that are safe to use in a septic system because those products break down and do not contain any dangerous or toxic chemicals.

A. Biodegradable is a term that means a product will break down or decompose over time. These products are safe to use anywhere in your home and will not harm the environment.

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