Courtesy of Brands
There are few things more annoying than a slow or clogged drain – greasy water sitting in your kitchen sink, or soapy water standing in your shower or bathtub is not a pretty sight, and something that cannot be ignored. The good news is that a clogged or slow drain can often be cleared without the cost of calling in a plumber. According to the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab experts, the safest first step to clearing any clog is to use the correct plunger based on where a clog is located (sink or toilet). Be sure to cover any overflow outlet first for maximum pressure, turn off the water supply, and always use a plunger before (not after!) any chemical cleaner to prevent the chemical from splashing back up onto you and into your eyes.
After using a plunger, if the drain is still clogged, a chemical or enzymatic cleaner can help. Different cleaners work for different types and severity of clogs — for example, one that works for a slow-flowing drain will probably not work for a complete blockage. Chemical-based drain cleaners work the fastest, but also have the potential to cause more damage. Enzymatic cleaners are slower to clear clogs, but are usually less harmful to your plumbing (or yourself).
When we evaluate drain cleaning products and tools at the Good Housekeeping Institute, we interview company scientists and review data for product efficacy and safety. We also evaluate how easy and neat the product is to use and how complete and accurate the label and product claims are. We check online reviews of the product and whenever possible, have it tested by consumers on real at-home clogs. The drain cleaning tools and products listed here were selected based on our past evaluations and experiences with the products, company research, and favorable online consumer reviews.
These are the best drain cleaners, according to Good Housekeeping Institute reviews:
Best Overall Drain Cleaner: Drano Max Gel Liquid Clog Remover
Best Drain Cleaner for Hair Clogs: Liquid Plumr Clog Destroyer + Hair Clog Eliminator
Best Enzymatic Drain Cleaner: Bio Clean
Best Crystal Drain Cleaner: Thrift Odorless Drain Cleaner
Best Single-Use Drain Cleaner: Green Gobbler Drain Opening Pacs
Best Combination Chemical and Enzyme Drain Cleaner: XionLab Safer Drain Opener
Best Drain Auger for Clogged Toilets: Rigid 59787 K-3 Toilet Auger Snake
Best Drain Cleaner Tool for Hair Clogs: Vastar 3 Pack 19.6 Inch Drain Snake
Best Bathtub Tool for Preventing Hair Clogs: Tubshroom
How to use drain cleaners safely
Here are some important precautions to take when clearing clogged drains:
- Precisely follow all directions on a drain cleaner’s label. Be sure the room is well-ventilated. Do not leave the drain cleaner inside drains for longer than stated.
- Wear gloves and eye protection. Do not stand in a tub or shower stall when pouring the drain cleaner.
- Carefully pour the drain cleaner to avoid spillage. The caustic nature of some chemical cleaners can damage surrounding stone, marble, stainless steel, and other materials.
- Never mix drain cleaners with other cleaning products — even homemade — or pour a second cleaner down if the first doesn’t work. The chemical reaction can cause toxic gas or even an explosion.
- Always flush the drain well after using a chemical cleaner, following the package instructions for the temperature of the water, and how long you should rinse.
- Never try to clear a toilet clog with a chemical cleaner. Use a plunger, a toilet auger (a standard drain snake can damage or crack the porcelain), or a natural enzyme cleaner. If the clog still remains, call in a professional plumber.
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BEST OVERALL DRAIN CLEANER
Max Gel Clog Remover
With 88% 5-star Walmart reviews, this top performer is a consumer favorite. Safe for piping and septic systems, Drano Max Gel Liquid Clog Remover is a thick gel that sinks through standing water to the source of the clog and gets to work, dissolving hair, and melting soap scum, grease and other gunky clogs. For complete clogs, or slow-flowing drains, the gel works in 15-30 minutes. In the case of a persistent clog, this solution can be used a second time.
BEST DRAIN CLEANER FOR HAIR CLOGS
Hair Clog Eliminator
Liquid Plumr’s thick gel powers through hair clogs that slow sink, tub and shower drains. Hundreds of reviewers raved about how well it works. It is safe for pipes and drains, including septic systems. Wait for all the water to drain out of the sink or tub, then pour the bottle of Liquid Plumr slowly down the drain. It takes at least 15 minutes to work. For badly clogged drains, you can leave Liquid Plumr in the drain overnight to work, then flush thoroughly with hot water in the morning.
BEST ENZYMATIC DRAIN CLEANER
Drain Septic Bacteria (2-pack)
Bio Clean uses a special combination of naturally-occurring bacteria and enzymes to digest organic waste such as hair, grease, soap scum, paper, food particles, and more. Being an enzymatic cleaner, it works more slowly than traditional chemical drain cleaners and works best overnight on slow flowing drains and as a once-per-month maintenance product. It won’t clear a complete blockage, and multiple uses are sometimes necessary to thoroughly clear partially clogged drains. Many reviewers have also used Bio Clean as a preventative maintenance product, and swear by its effectiveness. Because of its composition, Bio Clean is safe to use in toilets.
BEST CRYSTAL DRAIN CLEANER
Odorless Drain Cleaner
Safe for septic system maintenance too, Thrift’s drain cleaner claims to work in only 60 seconds on slow-flowing drains. Hot water is required to warm the pipes, dissolve and activate the crystals, before you thoroughly flush the drain after 60 seconds. Reviewers are impressed by how quickly it works. It can be left to work overnight on grease traps. Because it’s a strong chemical cleaner, Thrift drain cleaner must not be used in garbage disposals or toilets.
BEST SINGLE-USE DRAIN CLEANER
Drain Opening Pacs
No measuring, no mess, Green Gobbler’s single pacs can make clearing a slow-flowing drain super easy. Each package contains three pre-measured ready-to-use powder packets – simply add water and wait 15-30 minutes before flushing (or wait overnight for tough clogs). While the pacs themselves are odorless, some clogs may be stinky as they dissolve – but once the drain is thoroughly flushed, the smell dissipates. More than 1,000 Amazon reviewers gave Green Gobbler a 5-star rating, saying they loved how well it worked.
BEST COMBINATION CHEMICAL AND ENZYME DRAIN CLEANER
Safer Drain Opener
Septic safe, the XionLab Safer Drain Opener works on hair or grease clogs (but is not ideal for food particles). A balance between acidic/caustic cleaners and mild enzymatic cleaners, the gel will sink through standing water and clear mild obstructions in around 2 hours (tougher clogs will take longer). One reviewer raved that it “worked like a charm.”
BEST DRAIN AUGER FOR CLOGGED TOILETS
K-3 Toilet Auger Snake
A toilet auger may well succeed where a plunger didn’t. Using a regular drain snake on a clogged toilet can cause damage to the porcelain, but the Ridgid has a vinyl protective guard to help protect against scratches and cracks. The ergonomic handles make it easy to rotate the cable with its bulb head down the drain line past the toilet to break up and clear clogs lodged there.
BEST DRAIN CLEANER TOOL FOR HAIR CLOGS
19.6″ Drain Snake (3-pack)
Ideal for kitchens and bathrooms, the flexible Vastar Drain Snake reaches deep into drain pipes and flexes at the P-trap, where most obstructions occur, and is an inexpensive option to mechanically remove clogs. The barbs grab hair and other messy clogs, allowing you to remove or dislodge them — many reviewers, while loving this product and how well it works, reminded us how icky some of these clogs smell, so take heed. The Vastar Drain Snake can be cleaned or disposed of after use.
BEST BATHTUB TOOL FOR PREVENTING HAIR CLOGS
Tub Drain Protector
A winner in our 2020 Best Cleaning Product Awards, the revolutionary design of the TubShroom allows it to sit inside the bathroom tub drain, neatly collecting hair around it as the water drains. To clean it, simply pull the TubShroom out of the drain, and wipe it off. It fits standard drains, and uses no chemicals. Though not technically a drain cleaner, it’s a great way to help prevent hair clogs, and it worked so well in our GH Cleaning Lab tests that we just had to include it here.
How to Make a DIY Drain Cleaner
Once a month or so, we recommend trying this homemade solution. It’s not powerful enough to clear a complete clog, but can help keep your drains fresh and flowing.
•Mix ½ cup baking soda with ¼ cup table salt and pour it down the drain.
•Slowly pour in 1 cup of warmed distilled white vinegar
•Let the foaming bubbles stand 10-15 minutes and then flush with hot tap water for 15-30 seconds.
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