The Best Drain Cleaners of 2023

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

Best Overall

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Liquid-Plumr Clog Destroyer Plus Hair Clog Eliminator

Liquid-Plumr Clog Destroyer Plus Hair Clog Eliminator

See It

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Drano Dual-Force Foamer Clog Remover

Drano Dual-Force Foamer Clog Remover

See It

Best for Hair Clogs

The Best Drain Cleaner Option: Professor Amos SuperFast Drain Cleaner

Professor Amos SuperFast Drain Cleaner

See It

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Nothing slows you down like a clogged sink, shower, tub, or toilet. The 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 a 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 users might encounter, and our guide also includes tips on how to use each cleaner correctly.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Liquid-Plumr Clog Destroyer Plus Hair Clog Eliminator
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Drano Dual-Force Foamer Clog Remover
  3. BEST FOR HAIR CLOGS: Professor Amos SuperFast Drain Cleaner
  4. BEST ENZYMATIC: Green Gobbler Liquid Drain Clog Dissolver
  5. BEST CAUSTIC: Thrift Odorless Drain Cleaner
  6. BEST ACIDIC: Amazing Products Liquid Fire Drain Line Opener
  7. BEST FOR PREVENTION: TubShroom Revolutionary Tub Drain Protector
  8. BEST FOR KITCHEN SINKS: Drano Max Gel Clog Remover
  9. BEST ECO-FRIENDLY: Bio-Clean Bacteria Waste Eliminator
  10. BEST DRAIN SNAKE: FlexiSnake Drain Weasel Sink Snake Cleaner
The Best Drain Cleaner Options
Photo: istockphoto.com

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 liquid drain cleaners.

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 for their needs.

See It

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 time to work, rinse the drain pipes with hot water to remove any cleaning solution still in the pipes.

This product is also effective for grease clogs as well as those formed by 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; clears tough clogs in about 15 minutes
  • Specifically formulated to dissolve any and all tough hair clogs
  • Safe to use for sink, shower, or septic tank and system clogs
  • Safe for use with PVC, plastic, copper, and older pipes

Cons

  • Not suitable for toilets or garbage disposals; may not be ideal for some users

Get the Liquid-Plumr drain cleaner at Target.

See It

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

  • Versatile formula; safe for use with all pipes and garbage disposals
  • Foam solution fills the entire pipe to remove any stuck-on or stubborn clogs
  • Removes odors as well as clogs for added user-friendliness
  • 5-bottle value pack; perfect for those who experience frequent clogging

Cons

  • Not designed for toilets or standing water; may not be ideal for some users
  • Slow working time compared to similar drain cleaner options

Get the Drano foamer drain cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot (single bottle), or Target (single bottle).

See It

Scour sink, tub, and shower drain pipes spotless—whether they be clogged by hair, food, grease, or soap scum—with this caustic cleaner. While the lye-based formula is tough on gunk, it’s gentle enough for pipes made of plastic and copper as well as septic systems. Plus, this bottle holds a large enough quantity to clear four to six clogs.

The 32-ounce bottle of commercial cleaner comes with a convenient pour spout for effortless application. Just pour a few ounces of cleaner into the drain, wait 15 to 30 minutes, and then flush with hot water.

Product Specs

  • Type: Caustic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working time: 15 to 30 minutes

Pros

  • Fast-acting formula removes stubborn clogs in 15 to 30 minutes
  • Safe for plastic and copper pipes as well as septic systems
  • 32-ounce bottle can take on 4 to 6 clogs; perfect for those who experience frequent clogging
  • Easy-to-use pour spout provides added convenience and user-friendliness

Cons

  • May require extremely hot water to remove clogs after use

Get the Professor Amos drain cleaner at Amazon.

See It

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 bathroom sinks, kitchen 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, and soap scum clogs
  • Working time: 120 minutes to overnight

Pros

  • Eco-friendly formula; perfect for the eco-conscious consumer
  • Versatile formula; safe for use with septic systems, garbage disposals, and toilets
  • Odorless formula will not leave any strong chemical scents behind
  • Effective, even in standing water

Cons

  • Lengthy working time compared to similar drain cleaner options

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

See It

Take care of tough clogs almost instantly with this caustic drain cleaner from Thrift. 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; perfect for those who need quick action
  • Versatile formula; specifically formulated for grease traps and septic systems
  • Easy to use; simply mix with hot water to activate
  • Odorless formula will not leave behind any chemical smells after use

Cons

  • Not suitable for toilets or garbage disposals; may not be ideal for some users

Get the Thrift drain cleaner at Amazon.

See It

Sulfuric acid is the key ingredient in this ultrastrength 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, and then flush for 5 minutes with cold water.

The manufacturer states that 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, and soap scum clogs
  • Working time: 15 minutes

Pros

  • Biodegradable formula; perfect for the eco-conscious consumer
  • Thick consistency to help cleaner cling to pipes and remove tough clogs
  • Suitable for use with toilets, garbage disposals, sinks, and floor drains
  • Melts frozen pipes for added convenience and user-friendliness

Cons

  • May erupt violently from drain if poured into hot water

Get the Amazing Products drain cleaner at Amazon.

See It

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; simply leave in the drain and empty when full
  • Doesn’t damage pipes; never enters the pipes but keeps all debris out
  • Easy to install and remove; slides into the top of the drain easily
  • Can be used in kitchen or bathroom drains for added convenience

Cons

  • Must be used regularly to be effective; do not remove once inserted unless emptying

Get the TubShroom drain cleaner at Amazon.

See It

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: 15 to 30 minutes

Pros

  • Works in standing water as well as kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room drains
  • Safe for use with garbage disposals as well as septic systems
  • Thick gel formula clings to the interior of pipes to remove the toughest clogs
  • On average, uses only ⅕-bottle per clog; suitable for those who experience frequent clogging

Cons

  • Can’t use in the toilet; may not be ideal for some users’ preferences

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

See It

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 is perfect for the eco-conscious consumer
  • Safe for all pipes and septic systems; will not cause any damage or malfunction
  • Won’t burn skin or produce toxic fumes before, during, or after use

Cons

  • Lengthy working time compared to similar drain-cleaning products
  • May take several applications over a period of days to clear clogs fully

Get the Bio-Clean drain cleaner at Amazon.

See It

One of the quickest ways to remove debris from a clogged drain 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 and a drain snake handle.

Product Specs

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

Pros

  • Micro hooks easily grip hair, grime, and debris to clean pipes without chemicals or solutions
  • Reusable handle and 5 disposable wands; suitable for those who experience frequent clogs
  • 18-inch reach for shallow clogs; perfect for hair clogs and soap scum
  • Safe for all pipes; nonchemical formula will not cause any damage

Cons

  • Not effective beyond 18 inches; may not be suitable for deep, tough clogs

Get the FlexiSnake drain cleaner at Amazon (5-piece) or The Home Depot (3-piece).

Or, DIY Your Own Drain Cleaner

Making a version of the product shoppers are seeking is thrifty, (can be) natural, and low waste. Not to mention, it’s very Bob Vila! This section covers how to make a comparable DIY drain cleaner with common household ingredients. One tried-and-true formula to use is ½ cup of baking soda mixed with ½ cup of vinegar. Simply pour the mixture down the drain and let it sit for 1 hour. After the hour is up, pour a pot of boiling water down the drain. This formula may cause a slight vinegar smell after use, but it can effectively remove scum and debris clogs.

Jump to Our Top Picks

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. An enzymatic drain cleaner is eco-friendly and suitable for clearing septic systems.

They are generally gentle formulations that are noncorrosive to newer and older plastic and metal drain pipes in sinks, shower drains, 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 soaplike 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.

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.

Why Trust Bob Vila

Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.

Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Share
Manasa Reddigari has tackled topics ranging from computer software to home remodeling in her more-than-a-decade-long career as a writer and editor. During her stint as a scribe, she's been featured by leading outlets in the real estate, home improvement, and lifestyle niches such as Trulia, Stikwood, and Brit + Co. Her design philosophy is, if you can dream it, you can DIY it! Connect with her on her website, copyhabit.com, or LinkedIn to find out what she's been writing about lately.

WHY YOU CAN TRUST BOB VILA