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Best Drain Cleaners of 2023

Updated
Eliminate smells and obstructions without breaking a sweat.

Modern plumbing is designed to be durable and reliable, but there is one problem that can affect even the best systems: a blocked drain. Drains are frequently subjected to dirt, food waste, hair, and anything else that falls down them.

A blocked drain can eventually lead to accidental floods but it can also cause foul smells and illnesses such as sepsis, Legionnaires’ disease, and pneumonia (1). Fortunately, many blockages can be easily removed with the help of a drain cleaner.

To help you find the right product to clear your drains, we have reviewed seven of the best drain cleaners available today. These drain cleaners were chosen based on the types of blockages they can remove, the product volume, and how environmentally friendly they are.

Our Top Picks

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Image
Model
Product Comparison Table
Features

Product Image of the THRIFT FBA_T-600 T-600 Alkaline Based 6 lb. Granular Drain Cleaner, White (White, 4-Pack)
Best Fast-Action
Thrift Marketing Drain Cleaner
  • Can work in less than a minute
  • Non-acidic
  • Suitable for the entire home
Product Image of the RID-X Septic Treatment, 1 Month Supply Of Powder, 9.8 oz
Best for Septic Tanks
RID-X Septic Tank Enzyme Treatment
  • Natural ingredients
  • Prevents blockages from occurring
  • Four-month supply
Product Image of the Bio-Clean Drain Septic 2# Can Cleans Drains- Septic Tanks - Grease Traps All Natural and 100% Guaranteed No Caustic Chemicals! Removes fats Oil and Grease, Completely Cleans Your System.
Best for The Environment
Bio-Clean Drain Septic Bacteria
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Doesn’t produce heat
  • Enough for 100 uses
Product Image of the Green Gobbler Ultimate Main Drain Opener | Drain Cleaner Hair Clog Remover | Works On Main Lines, Sinks, Tubs, Toilets, Showers, Kitchen Sinks | 64 fl. oz.
Best for Safety
Green Gobbler Main Line Opener
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Doesn’t contain bleach
  • Made in the USA
Product Image of the Drano Max Gel Drain Clog Remover and Cleaner for Shower or Sink Drains, 80 oz, 2 pack
Best for Value
Drano Max Gel Clog Remover
  • Industry leader
  • Won't damage plumbing
  • Can be left overnight
Product Image of the XionLab Safer, Greener Drain Clog Remover – Industrial-Strength Liquid Drain Cleaner for Hair & Grease – Septic Safe, Odorless, Biodegradable for Bathroom Sink, Bath Tub, & Shower Drain – 32 oz
Best of Both Worlds
XionLab Industrial Strength Cleaner
  • Suitable for pipes and septic tanks
  • Small family-run business
  • Industrial strength
Product Image of the ComStar Pure Lye | 99% Pure Sodium Hydroxide Beads | Eco-Friendly, Industrial Strength, Biodegradable Drain Opener | Safe on Fixtures | Static-Free, Unique Beads for Soap Making | 1 lb. (30-500)
Best No-Frills
ComStar Pure Lye Drain Opener
  • No unnecessary ingredients
  • Clears blockages in minutes
  • Sold in bead form

How Do Drain Cleaners Work?

Drain cleaners are liquids or powders that can be poured down a drain to remove blockages in the pipes. The chemicals they contain react with the blockage to dissolve it and allow water to flow freely again.

Depending on which type you choose, drain cleaners usually work in one of four ways. However, some cleaners use two or more of these:

  • Heat: Caustic drain cleaners — sometimes referred to as alkaline cleaners — contain ingredients such as lye and potassium hydroxide. They raise the temperature around the blockage, either melting or breaking it down so it can be dispersed.
  • Acid hydrolysis: When combined with water, some acids cause a chemical reaction known as acid hydrolysis, which can dissolve blockages (2). Due to their corrosive nature and the risks involved with their use, they are generally only used by professionals.
  • Oxidization: Ingredients such as peroxides, perchlorates, nitrates, and hypochlorites are mixed with water and free electrons from the blockage. This reduces the blockage’s mass, which should dislodge or dissolve it (3).
  • Enzymatic reaction: Some drain cleaners contain a bacteria and enzyme blend that effectively consumes the blockage (4). This is considered the safest method — for people and the environment.

Function vs. Safety

The nature of drain cleaners means they need to be potent to remove blockages effectively, but this also means they need to be handled and used with caution. Before buying one, carefully consider these key points:

Aluminum and Old Plumbing

If your metal plumbing is showing signs of corrosion or contains aluminum, avoid using caustic or acid-based cleaners. Powerful acid/alkaline reactions can severely damage your pipes, which is a much bigger issue than a blockage.

To protect your metal pipes, use a safer enzymatic drain cleaner.

Complete Blockage

If you have a complete blockage — meaning your water won’t drain at all instead of draining slowly — don’t use a caustic or acidic drain cleaner.

A complete blockage can hold the cleaner in place instead of allowing it to slowly move past. This gives it time to corrode and damage your pipes.

If you have a complete blockage, try to dislodge it or at least make holes in it using a mechanical solution before using a drain cleaner. A plumber’s auger is a great way of achieving this.

Location of Blockage

In general, bathroom blockages are caused by hair buildup. Kitchen clogs are usually due to an accumulation of grease and organic materials.

Acidic cleaners work best on protein-based blockages such as hair. On the other hand, alkaline compounds are most effective at dealing with fats (5).

Protect Yourself

When handling drain cleaners, wear heavy-duty gloves, an apron, and protective goggles or glasses. If using an acidic cleaner, also wear a mask and open your windows, as these chemicals can release dangerous gases (6).

It is important to protect yourself properly as chemical drain cleaners can negatively affect your health if used carelessly. Some of the dangers associated with drain cleaners include burns, thrombosis, and esophageal cancer (7).

Despite these risks, drain cleaners are perfectly safe to use as long as you take the necessary precautions. If you are worried about abrasive chemicals, you can use a safer enzyme drain cleaner instead.

How to Choose the Best Drain Cleaners

Selecting the ideal drain cleaner depends upon function, safety, and awareness concerns. Here are some factors to consider:

Product Volume

If your blockage is an isolated incident, you can choose a “single-dose” or smaller-volume product. On the other hand, if you frequently have to deal with clogging, consider buying a larger volume of cleaner.

However, if your drain is being blocked repeatedly, you should try to find the root of the problem instead of constantly having to deal with the symptoms. This might be a case of needing to upgrade your plumbing but it could require simply being more careful what you allow to go down the drain.

Type of Blockage

Remember that bathroom obstructions such as hair and nails respond best to acidic drain cleaners. Kitchen clogs caused by food and fats are best tackled with alkaline cleaners. Choosing the appropriate type of cleaner for your blockage can make a significant difference when trying to clear it.

Eco-Friendliness

Acidic and alkaline compounds in drain cleaners can be harmful to the environment. They can also cause damage to your skin, eyes, or lungs if used without the necessary care (8).

The safest drain cleaners and those that have the least negative environmental impact are enzyme-based products.


Product Reviews

Given how many different drain cleaner types and products are available, it is very important that you choose the right cleaner for your blockage and plumbing. After a lot of research and reading numerous customer reviews, here are our seven best drain cleaners currently on the market.

1. Thrift Marketing Drain Cleaner

Best Fast-Action Drain Cleaner

If you want immediate results, this alkaline-based cleaner from Thrift Marketing is an excellent option. Its manufacturer claims it can remove even complete blockages within 60 seconds, which is reflected in many positive customer reviews.

Users mention that this American-made drain cleaner cleared blocks that some industry-leading products were unable to tackle. It is suitable for use in bathrooms, kitchens, grease traps, and sewer lines. You won’t need to worry about it damaging porcelain, polished brass, chrome, or plastic pipes.

There is no need to mix the product before using it. You simply pour the required amount of powder — as indicated on the label — down the drain. Then, pour hot water down to activate the cleaner.

Pros

  • One of the fastest-acting drain cleaners available
  • Non-acidic
  • Suitable for kitchen and bathroom use

Cons

  • Damages aluminum, paint, and clothing
  • Burns the skin

Product Specs

Weight 2 pounds
Active Ingredient Type Alkaline — sodium hydroxide)
Type Powder

2. RID-X Septic Tank Enzyme Treatment

Best Drain Cleaner for Septic Tanks

A backed-up septic tank will smell foul and eventually cause far more unpleasant issues if it isn’t dealt with. If you have a septic tank and want to prevent any unfortunate incidents, this tank treatment will be a great help.

This is a situation where prevention is far better than a cure. By adding this enzyme-based formula to your system each month, it will constantly break down human waste, keeping your system clear and preventing any blockages.

Each purchase contains enough powder to maintain your tank for up to 16 weeks if you have a 1500-gallon unit. This drain cleaner attacks grease, oils, protein, and paper.

You can use this treatment with confidence as it is completely safe to handle. All you need to do is pour the powder into your toilet and flush it twice.

Its ingredients of cellulase, lipase, protease, and amylase are entirely natural. You won’t have to worry about a negative environmental impact or damaging your plumbing and tank.

Pros

  • Prevents buildups before a blockage can occur
  • Safe to use
  • Excellent user reviews
  • Up to four-month supply

Cons

  • Won’t remove existing blockages
  • Not recommended for use in French drains

Product Specs

Weight 9.8 ounces
Active Ingredient Type Bacteria and enzymes
Type Powder

3. Bio-Clean Drain Septic Bacteria

Best Drain Cleaner for the Environment

If you have a blockage but want your environmental impact to be as small as possible, this Bio-Clean product is a great option. It contains a proprietary blend of bacteria and the enzymes lipase, amylase, protease, and cellulose.

When mixed with warm water and tipped into a drain, the active ingredients are able to effectively “digest” organic waste. This turns the obstructing materials into harmless compounds of carbon dioxide, water, and mineral ash.

You can use it throughout the home for toilet, kitchen, and bathtub obstructions. The manufacturer claims this product is so safe that it can be used in cat litter boxes, your laundry room, and RV tanks.

As this drain cleaner’s enzymes don’t affect inorganic materials such as metal or plastic, you can use it safely in any type of plumbing.

Pros

  • No risk to you or the environment
  • Enough for up to 100 treatments
  • Doesn’t produce heat, steam, or fumes
  • Suitable for preventative use

Cons

  • Won’t eliminate inorganic blockages

Product Specs

Weight Two pounds
Active Ingredient Type Bacteria and enzymes
Type Powder

4. Green Gobbler Main Line Opener

Best for Safety

If you are concerned about coming into contact with your drain cleaner, consider this oxidizing drain cleaner from Green Gobbler. Its active ingredient is lauramine oxide, a plant-based chemical that rarely reacts with human skin (9). If it does cause irritation, it can simply be washed off.

Users report that it is highly effective at treating blockages caused by hair, grease, soap, and baby wipes. This drain cleaner is environmentally friendly and won’t damage your pipes (plastic or copper) or septic system. In fact, it is designed to stick to the inside of your plumbing to prevent buildups and blockages from occurring.

This is one of the most user-friendly drain cleaners as its thick liquid formula requires no mixing. Simply pour the recommended amount down the drain and it will work within about 30 minutes. It won’t produce odors or gas and is non-flammable.

Pros

  • Made in the United States
  • Suitable for bathroom and kitchen use
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Doesn’t contain bleach

Cons

  • Less environmentally friendly than enzyme cleaners

Product Specs

Weight 64 fluid ounces
Active Ingredient Type Oxidizing —lauramine oxide
Type Liquid

5. Drano Max Gel Clog Remover

Best for Value

Drano is one of the most famous names in drain cleaners and this product is a great solution if you have to deal with frequent blockages. It is also affordable, so it is a sensible choice if you need to buy a drain cleaner in large quantities.

The manufacturer has created an alkaline formula that cuts through standing water to tackle the obstruction directly. This makes it ideal for anyone dealing with a complete blockage rather than slow drainage.

You can use this cleaner in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and anywhere else with a drain. This fast-acting product is designed to work within seven minutes.

The manufacturer states that Drano will not damage your metal or PVC pipes, garbage disposal system, or septic tank. As such, it can be left overnight to tackle more severe blockages. Although they are very effective, the chemicals in Drano are known to have a negative environmental impact (10).

Pros

  • Large quantities at affordable prices
  • Money-back guarantee
  • Fast-acting
  • Industry-leading product

Cons

  • Not eco-friendly
  • Potentially harmful to people and pets
  • Can burn skin

Product Specs

Weight 2 x 80 fluid ounces
Active Ingredient Type Alkaline — sodium hydroxide and sodium hypochlorite
Type Liquid gel

6. XionLab Industrial Strength Drain Cleaner

Best of Both Worlds

Choosing an eco-friendly product shouldn’t mean having to compromise on effectiveness. This industrial-strength XionLab drain cleaner provides an excellent balance of cleaning power and being environmentally conscious.

Its industrial strength lies in its gel composition. As it is heavier than water, it will sink through your plumbing until it reaches the cause of the blockage, rather than staying on the surface or getting stuck in your U-bend.

Both customer and expert reviews praise its effectiveness at dispersing oils, fats, hair, and lint blockages throughout the home. It is also biodegradable and has earned a Terra Care seal, indicating that it meets environmental safety standards.

However, there is still some mystery surrounding this product as its active ingredients are not stated on the packaging. The label simply states that it is a Trade Secret/Proprietary mix. This means that, while this product is undoubtedly effective, it is unclear how that effectiveness is achieved.

Pros

  • Not acid-based
  • Safe for pipes and septic tanks
  • No toxic fumes
  • Small USA-based family business
  • Industrial strength
  • Biodegradable

Cons

  • Won’t dissolve food or paper
  • Can take six hours to work

Product Specs

Weight 32 fluid ounces
Active Ingredient Type Undisclosed
Type Liquid gel

7. ComStar Pure Lye Bead Drain Opener

Best No-Frills Drain Cleaner

If you want a simple drain cleaner with no unnecessary frills, ComStar’s Pure Lye cleaner lives up to its name. It is 99% lye — a caustic metal hydroxide that disperses blockages using heat. You won’t pay for any additional ingredients such as water, surfactants, or dyes.

Instead of a standard powder formula, ComStar sells this lye in bead form. This encourages it to sink through the water and tackle the blockage directly.

This drain cleaner is suitable for drains, cesspools, septic tanks, and grease traps. It shouldn’t damage plastic pipes, porcelain, or metal fixtures.

Despite it not damaging your home, it can be very harmful to humans. The label clearly states that it is poisonous. The manufacturer recommends wearing goggles and gloves during use. You should also stand back once the lye is in the drain as it could be released back out towards you.

Pros

  • No unnecessary ingredients
  • Can clear blockages in a few minutes
  • Various applications
  • Available in amounts of up to 55 gallons

Cons

  • Hazardous to humans and pets

Product Specs

Weight 1 pound
Active Ingredient Type Alkaline — lye
Type Beads

Product Comparison Chart

Product Best Weight Active Ingredient Type Type
Thrift Marketing Drain Cleaner Fast-Action 2 lbs Alkaline (sodium hydroxide) Powder
RID-X Septic Tank Enzyme Treatment Septic Tanks 9.8 oz Bacteria and enzymes Powder
Bio-Clean Drain Septic Bacteria Eco-Friendly 2 lbs Bacteria and enzymes Powder
Green Gobbler Main Line Opener Safety 64 oz Oxidizing (lauramine oxide) Liquid
Drano Max Gel Clog Remover Value 80 oz Alkaline (sodium hydroxide & sodium hypochlorite) Liquid gel
XionLab Industrial Strength Cleaner Both Worlds 32 oz Undisclosed Liquid gel
ComStar Pure Lye Drain Opener No-Frills 1 lb Alkaline (lye) Beads

FAQs

What Is the Black Stuff In My Bathroom Sink Drain?

The black stuff you often find in your bathroom sink drain is typically bacteria buildup. These bacteria can form due to several factors, including poor hygiene habits, moisture exposure, and bacteria-laden food particles that get washed down the drain over time.

Thankfully, bacteria buildup is relatively easy to control if you are vigilant about regularly cleaning your bathroom sink and disposing of food waste properly.

You can also take steps to prevent bacteria from forming in the first place by washing your hands regularly and keeping your bathroom relatively dry.

What Do Plumbers Use for Drain Cleaner?

Plumbers have several different tools and techniques at their disposal for drain cleaning. A common method used by plumbers is a drain auger or drain snake. This long, flexible rod is used to manually break up clogs and push them through the drain pipe.

Another popular tool for drain cleaning is a mechanical plunger or air venturi. Plunger heads attach to a hose, are inserted into the drain, and quickly pump to create suction. This method is useful for breaking up stubborn clogs in sinks and tubs.

Does Simple Green Unclog Drains?

Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner is a popular household product used to deodorize and clean different surfaces around their homes. Some claim that Simple Green can be used effectively as a drain cleaner.

While this claim is controversial among experts, many consumers have reported positive results when using Simple Green to unclog drains. This is likely due to Simple Green’s powerful deodorizing properties, which are known to break up stubborn blockages in the pipes.

In addition, Simple Green contains chemicals that can dissolve greasy buildup on the inside of pipes, allowing clogs to break free more easily. Whether or not Simple Green is truly effective at unclogging drains remains an ongoing debate among plumbers and cleaning specialists.

Does CLR Help Clogged Drains?

It is well known that harsh chemicals can be quite effective at clearing a clogged drain, but there is some debate over the effectiveness of CLR.

On the one hand, this popular household cleaner contains powerful ingredients that can break down hard water buildup and other debris in your pipes.

However, it is important to remember that this product can also cause damage if misused. For instance, prolonged exposure to CLR has corroded pipes and seals.

Whether or not you choose to use CLR for clearing a clogged drain will likely depend on the severity of the clog. When used carefully and appropriately, this popular household cleaner can be an effective tool for keeping your drains running smoothly.

Does Coca-Cola Clear Drains?

There is a longstanding rumor that Coca-Cola can be used to clear drains, and many people believe this true.

However, while many drain cleaners use chemicals similar in composition to Coke, there is no evidence to suggest that this popular soft drink can effectively unclog pipes or dissolve tough blockages.

Instead, the ingredients in Coke simply act as a pH adjuster or water softener, preventing harsh chemicals from damaging the pipes or accelerating corrosion.

What Is the Most Effective Drain Unclogger?

The Thrift FBA_T-600 might not have the fanciest-looking product bottle, but it’s powerful enough to be considered one of the most effective drain uncloggers on the market.

It doesn’t have any particular scent, but you get a generous amount of 6 pounds of product to get rid of drain clogs. With odorless crystals, the formula is non-acidic and meant to protect different kinds of fixtures, including chrome and porcelain.


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Headshot of Sylvia Jones

About the Author

Sylvia Jones

Sylvia Jones is a hands-on, DIY aficionado from Indiana. She is passionate about home improvement, gardening, and environmental conservation. In her spare time, you can find Sylvia getting involved in home improvement projects around the house with her husband, or spending quality time out in the yard.