The Best Drain Cleaners of 2022

Find out which drain cleaner to use as your plumber in a pinch. Your choice depends on the plumbing in your home and the type of clog you’re trying to clear.

By Manasa Reddigari and Timothy Dale | Updated Jun 20, 2022 6:54 PM

BobVila.com and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

The Best Drain Cleaner Option

Photo: istockphoto.com

Nothing slows you down like a clogged sink, shower, tub, or toilet. Your first step should always be to plunge the drain or snake it with a drain auger to clear the drain without damaging the pipes. But if manual methods fail, the best drain cleaner for your clog can save a plumber’s fee.

While not for use in completely clogged drains, chemical- or enzyme-based solutions are effective in de-gunking partially clogged drains. We’ve identified the best drain cleaner for every type of slow drain you might encounter, and our guide also includes tips on how to use each cleaner correctly. Each of the top picks below was selected after an in-depth review of the market and thorough product vetting.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Liquid-Plumr Pro-Strength Hair Clog Eliminator
  2. BEST VALUE: Drano Dual-force foamer clog remover
  3. BEST ENZYMATIC: Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver
  4. BEST CAUSTIC: Thrift Marketing GIDDS-TY-0400879 Drain Cleaner
  5. BEST ACIDIC: Amazing Products Liquid Fire Drain Line Opener
  6. BEST FOR PREVENTION: TubShroom Revolutionary Tub Drain Protector
  7. BEST FOR KITCHEN SINKS: Drano Max Gel Drain Clog Remover and Cleaner
  8. BEST ECO-FRIENDLY: Bio-Clean Drains-Septic Tanks – Grease Traps
  9. BEST DRAIN SNAKE: FlexiSnake Drain Weasel Sink Snake Cleaner
The Best Drain Cleaner Option

Photo: istockphoto.com

Types of Drain Cleaners

The three types of liquid drain cleaners are enzymatic, caustic, and acidic, each suitable for tough clogs in different drain locations and types of pipes and clogs. Some liquid drain cleaners are also designed for use with a drain snake to help deal with the stubborn grease clogs common in kitchen sinks.

To determine the clog type, remove the drain cover (if present) and inspect the drain opening with a flashlight. Clogs near the opening can be identified as hair, paper, etc.

Tip: If the clog is deeper, make an educated guess based on the clog’s location (kitchen sinks are magnets for food and grease, bathroom sinks and tubs often collect hair and soap scum, and toilets can accumulate paper products). Professionals sometimes use a drain camera and run it through the pipe to inspect the resulting images to determine the clog type.

Enzymatic 

Enzymatic drain cleaners contain enzyme-producing bacteria like bacillus that feed on clogs. They’re designed for monthly use to prevent clogs and also can clear clogs composed of soft material such as hair or paper, but not tougher gunk like grease or soap scum. However, they can take as long as 24 hours to clear even a soft clog. However, an enzymatic drain cleaner is eco-friendly and suitable for clearing septic systems.

Their generally gentle formulations are noncorrosive to newer and older plastic and metal drain pipes in sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets. They’re also typically free of harmful toxins and skin/eye irritants, so protective gear is usually not required.

Caustic 

Caustic drain cleaners are made with alkaline chemicals like sodium hydroxide, which convert the clog into a soap-like substance that dissolves under plain water. They’re best at removing food, grease, and soap scum from bathroom sinks, garbage disposals, showers, or tub drains—usually within 30 minutes, although most aren’t designed for use in toilets since they don’t handle paper products as well.

Caustic cleaners are considered safe for newer (less than 20 years old) plastic or metal pipes made of stainless steel or copper. Avoid using them in plastic pipes more than 20 years old (which they can soften), in older metal pipes, or pipes of any age made of brass, aluminum chrome, or galvanized steel, which they can tarnish or corrode.

While they’re less toxic than acidic cleaners (and usually odorless), they can burn the skin or irritate the eyes or nose with contact or inhalation, so wear a respirator, safety glasses, skin-covering clothing, and gloves made of a chemical-resistant material like butyl when handling.

Acidic 

An acidic drain cleaner is typically made of sulfuric or hydrochloric acid. These drain cleaners are powerful enough to clear heavy-duty clogs like hair, food, grease, soap scum, or paper-based clogs in 15 minutes or less. Acidic drain cleaners are generally safe for newer plastic or metal pipes (e.g., copper) in the sink, tub, shower, and toilet drains.

Don’t use them on older plastic or metal pipes or pipes of any age made of aluminum chrome, stainless steel, or galvanized steel. They can burn skin and irritate eyes and lungs if inhaled, so using safety gear—respirator, safety glasses, skin-covering clothing, and chemical-resistant gloves—is a must.

Our Top Picks

Our top choices were selected based on their overall quality and efficacy. Significant attention was given to the drain cleaner types mentioned above to help shoppers find the best drain cleaner.

Best Overall

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Liquid-Plumr Pro-Strength Hair Clog Eliminator
Photo: target.com

Showers and tubs are problematic locations that frequently become clogged with soap scum and hair. This drain cleaner by Liquid-Plumr helps clear shower and tub clogs because it’s made with a powerful caustic cleaning formula that’s designed specifically for dissolving hair. Pour the drain cleaner into the drain and wait about 15 minutes. After the cleaner has had 15 minutes to work, rinse the drain pipes with hot water to remove any cleaning solution still in the pipes.

This product is also effective for clogs formed by grease, food, and fat. It can be used in PVC, plastic, copper, and even older pipes without corroding the joints or damaging the interior of the pipe. However, it’s not for toilets or garbage disposals.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Caustic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 15 minutes

Pros

  • Fast working time
  • Specifically formulated to dissolve hair clogs
  • Use for sink, shower, or septic system clogs
  • Safe for PVC, plastic, copper, and older pipes

Cons

  • Not suitable for toilets or garbage disposals

Get the Liquid-Plumr drain cleaner on Amazon and at Target.

Best Value

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Drano Dual-force foamer clog remover, (Pack of 5)
Photo: amazon.com

Instead of a liquid or a gel, this caustic Drano drain cleaner is a foaming solution that expands when poured into the drain. Typically, liquids and gels run directly to the clog, because they are more influenced by gravity, which means some areas are left untreated. By expanding, this drain cleaner fills the entire pipe, ensuring that every interior surface is affected by the cleaner.

The method of application helps remove foul odors and works to dissolve hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs. However, this method takes about 60 minutes to work. Additionally, the drain cleaner isn’t effective in standing water or toilets.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Caustic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 60 minutes

Pros

  • Safe for all pipes and garbage disposals
  • Foam solution fills the entire pipe
  • Removes odors
  • 5-bottle value pack

Cons

  • Not designed for toilets or standing water
  • Slow working time

Get the Drano drain cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Target.

Best Enzymatic

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver
Photo: amazon.com

This Green Gobbler enzymatic cleaner contains a proprietary blend of eco-friendly ingredients that gobbles up toilet paper wads, cotton swabs, hair, lint, grease, and soap scum clogs. Use it in kitchen or bathroom sinks, tubs, showers, and even toilets—the noncorrosive, biodegradable formula is safe on all kinds of pipes, from plastic to copper.

The dual-chambered container means no measuring required—simply pour one full chamber of the liquid into clogged sinks or tubs or two full chambers into toilets. Give the product from 2 hours up to a full night of dwell time and then flush the drain with water to restore pipes to pristine condition.

Product Specs

  • Type: Enzymatic
  • Suitable for: Hair, toilet paper, cotton swabs, lint, grease, soap scum
  • Working Time: 120 minutes

Pros

  • Eco-friendly
  • Safe for septic systems, garbage disposals, and toilets
  • Odorless formula
  • Effective, even in standing water

Cons

  • Lengthy working time

Get the Green Gobbler drain cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Target.

Best Caustic

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Thrift Marketing GIDDS-TY-0400879 Drain Cleaner
Photo: amazon.com

Take care of tough clogs almost instantly with this caustic drain cleaner from Thrift Marketing. Simply run hot water or pour hot water from a pot or kettle into the drain and simultaneously pour the specified amount of drain cleaner into the drain. The hot water dissolves the drain cleaner and creates a powerful solution that needs only about 1 minute to work.

The odorless drain cleaner comes in powdered form. It’s designed to break down in hot running water, and it doesn’t harm porcelain, chrome, plastic, or metal pipes. This product is ideal for cleaning clogs from grease traps and septic systems, but it isn’t the right option for toilet clogs, garbage disposal blockages, or any issues with standing water.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Caustic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 1 minute

Pros

  • Almost instant results
  • Specifically formulated for grease traps and septic systems
  • Simply mix with hot water to activate
  • Odorless

Cons

  • Not suitable for toilets or garbage disposals

Get the Thrift Marketing drain cleaner on Amazon.

Best Acidic

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Amazing Products Liquid Fire Drain Line Opener
Photo: amazon.com

Sulfuric acid is the key ingredient in this ultra-strength Liquid Fire acidic drain cleaner. It’s potent enough to clear sink and toilet clogs that other cleaners leave behind. Pour 1.5 to 2 cups of cleaner into a drain, wait 15 minutes, then flush for 5 minutes with cold water.

The manufacturer states it won’t damage plastic and acid-resistant metal pipes (copper). It can also be used in tubs or showers, though avoid using it in pipes made of corrosion-prone metals like aluminum or galvanized steel.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Acidic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 15 minutes

Pros

  • Biodegradable formula
  • Thick consistency to help cleaner cling to pipes
  • Suitable for toilets, garbage disposals, sinks, and floor drains
  • Melts frozen pipes

Cons

  • May erupt violently from drain if poured into hot water

Get the Amazing Products drain cleaner on Amazon.

Best for Prevention

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: TubShroom Revolutionary Tub Drain Protector
Photo: amazon.com

TubShroom’s drain protector can help keep drains clear of clogs by catching hair, food, grease, fat, and soap scum, the substances typically responsible for forming clogs. With this drain protector in place, the material doesn’t make it down the drain, so cleanup is easy.

This product is intended for use in sinks, tubs, and shower drains. Just pop the drain protector into the drain and leave it in place to prevent hair and other debris from clogging the drain. Make sure to remove the drain protector regularly to remove any trapped debris and clean the protector. Put it back in place to keep the drain safe.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Clog prevention
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: Instantly

Pros

  • Inexpensive and reusable
  • Doesn’t damage pipes
  • Easy to install and remove
  • Can be used in kitchen or bathroom drains

Cons

  • Must be used regularly

Get the TubShroom drain cleaner on Amazon.

Best for Kitchen Sinks

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Drano Max Gel Drain Clog Remover and Cleaner
Photo: amazon.com

This Drano Max caustic drain cleaner has a thick viscosity that allows the solution to stick to the interior of the drain pipe as it flows toward the clog, which helps remove any bad odors and clean the interior of the pipes. Typically, pouring just ⅕ of the bottle into the drain and allowing it to sit for about 15 to 30 minutes clears the clog. After flushing the drain with hot water, the clog should be cleared.

While this drain cleaner shouldn’t be used in toilets, it’s suitable for garbage disposals and septic systems. Follow the directions to avoid any possible accidents, such as switching on the disposal too soon, which can cause drain cleaner to spray out. This product also can be used in standing water to clear clogs and get the wastewater flowing into the septic system or to the municipal sewer system again.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Caustic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 30 minutes

Pros

  • Works in standing water
  • Safe for garbage disposals and septic systems
  • Thick gel formula clings to the interior of pipes
  • On average, uses only ⅕-bottle per clog

Cons

  • Can’t use in the toilet

Get the Drano drain cleaner on Amazon and at Target.

Best Eco-Friendly

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Bio-Clean Drains-Septic Tanks - Grease Traps
Photo: amazon.com

Using natural enzymes that digest clog-causing proteins, Bio-Clean’s powder drain cleaner safely cleans and maintains pipes, drains, and septic systems. The Bio-Clean formula includes no harsh or dangerous chemicals, making it safe for pipes and skin. This natural cleaner can get rid of hair clogs and liquefy some paper products.

After dissolving the powder in warm water, pour the mixture into the drain. Wait at least 6 to 8 hours before flushing with water. This product doesn’t act as quickly as some of the alternatives, but it’s a natural option.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Enzymatic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 6 to 8 hours

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly formula
  • Safe for all pipes
  • Won’t burn skin or produce toxic fumes
  • Effective solution for septic systems

Cons

  • Lengthy working time

Get the Bio-Clean drain cleaner on Amazon.

Best Drain Snake

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: FlexiSnake Drain Weasel Sink Snake Cleaner
Photo: amazon.com

One of the quickest ways to remove a hair clog is with a drain snake. This option from FlexiSnake features a 360-degree rotating handle that spins an 18-inch wand tipped with strong micro-hooks to grab clogged hair. After inserting the rod, spin the hooks and pull up the clog. The package includes five disposable wands.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Physical
  • Suitable for: All clogs
  • Working Time: Variable

Pros

  • Micro-hooks easily grip hair, grime, and debris
  • Reusable handle and 5 disposable wands
  • 18-inch reach for shallow clogs
  • Safe for all pipes

Cons

  • Not effective beyond 18 inches

Get the FlexiSnake drain cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Sears.

Our Verdict

The Liquid-Plumr hair clog eliminator is an ideal solution for getting rid of tough shower and tub clogs composed primarily of hair and soap scum. If dealing with bad odors and clogged kitchen drains, the five pack of Drano clog remover may be a better option.

How We Chose the Best Drain Cleaners

To curate this list, we researched each drain cleaner product and analyzed the various chemical compounds and byproducts. Additionally, we considered the type of drain cleaner, the suitability of each product, and the average or expected working time of the product.

Generally, we chose drain cleaners with short working times, though we gave enzymatic products some leeway in this category because they are environmentally friendly, safe for septic systems, and won’t damage plumbing.

Caustic and acidic selections usually work within minutes, but the effectiveness of each product depends on its formula. Some can be used in standing water, septic systems, and garbage disposals, while others are limited to partial clogs. Additionally, we preferred products with features that make them more effective, such as a clinging gel instead of a liquid.

Tips for Using Drain Cleaner

Follow these guidelines to use drain cleaners safely and effectively.

  • Always read and follow the directions, adhering to specific amounts and dwell times. Never leave any type of drain cleaner inside drains for longer than the maximum dwell time. Chemical cleaners, in particular, can produce enough heat to melt pipes or crack porcelain toilet bowls if left too long.
  • Use caustic or acidic cleaners only in well-ventilated rooms. Turn on exhaust fans and/or open windows to increase air circulation.
  • Always stand outside of tubs or showers when pouring drain cleaner.
  • With the drain stopper removed, pour the drain cleaner as slowly and steadily as possible into the clogged drain.
  • If using a caustic cleaner, avoid exposing it to any natural stone surfaces surrounding a drain (such as a granite sink) to avoid etching it. For the same reason, don’t let acidic cleaners contact non-acid-resistant surfaces (like a marble shower floor or stainless steel sink). Some chemical cleaner manufacturers recommend applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the metal surface area around the drain to stave off discoloration or damage.
  • Never mix drain cleaners with other homemade or commercial cleaners; the chemical reaction that ensues could produce toxic gas or an explosion.
  • Flush any remaining cleaner with water at the temperature recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions.

FAQs 

For more information on the benefits and drawbacks of drain cleaners, as well as tips to help reduce drain clogs, take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions and the answers below.

Q: What clogs drains the most?

Many different substances can clog a drain; however, hair, soap, grease, fat, and oil are the most common. Tree roots are responsible for most drain clogs outside the home.

Q: Do vinegar and baking soda clean drains? 

Vinegar and baking soda don’t clean drains, at least not any better than using boiling water and dish soap. Since baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid, mixing them creates a chemical reaction that produces water, carbon dioxide, and sodium acetate, which has an almost neutral pH level. It lacks any cleaning properties that could efficiently eliminate grease.

Q: Can drain cleaners damage pipes?

Yes, drain cleaners can damage the pipes, though it depends on the type of cleaner. Caustic and acidic drain cleaners are harsh solutions that are highly effective at clearing clogs, but they can damage older plastic and metal pipes. Both cleaners seem safe for newer (within the past 20 years) plastic and copper pipes. If you have older plumbing, consider using an enzymatic cleaner to avoid damaging the pipes.

Q: Can drain cleaners reduce odor?

Drain cleaners generally reduce odors because they help clear clogs and eliminate foul-smelling waste from the insides of pipes. However, since drain cleaners can damage your pipes, only resort to a caustic or acidic drain cleaner when an actual clog is present, not just a bad odor.

Q: How do I stop hair from clogging the drain?

The best way to stop a hair clog from forming is to use a drain cover. Routine cleaning and maintenance help prevent sticky grime and sludge from coating the walls of pipes.

Q: Will shaving in the shower clog the drain?

Shaving can cause or exacerbate a clog, especially if you use a thick shaving cream or high-lather soap. When you shave, rinse with hot water to help dissolve the soap residue left behind.