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What are the Best Drain Cleaners?

By Holly Collins
Updated May 16, 2024
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The best drain cleaners are ones used regularly to maintain the free flow of water through the pipes. Weekly flushing of drains with boiling water is the easiest and most effective way to prevent internal buildup of pipe debris and prevent drains from becoming clogged. Bits of grease, hair, soap scum and other waste tend to attach to the inside of pipes restricting their ability to conduct water flowing through them. Household drains develop buildup over time, sometimes clogging completely, blocking all water flow. Weekly cleaning of drains with boiling water helps deter this buildup and prevent clogs, though it's important to note that this method is not appropriate for use with PVC pipes.

When drains do clog or become slow, a good drain cleaner is necessary. Some of the best drain cleaners can be made at home without harsh chemicals. To open up a slow flowing drain try pouring one cup of powdered sodium borate (Borax) into the drain. Follow this with four cups of boiling water. Let that stand for 25 minutes and then flush the drain with cool clear water.

For general drain cleaning, use four tablespoons of washing soda dissolved into two quarts of hot water. Pour this slowly down into the drain and let sit for 15 minutes. Follow with a hot water rinse.

A great garbage disposal cleaner utilizes two cups of white vinegar mixed with two cups of cool water. Freeze this completely in ice cube trays and use periodically by grinding the cubes in the disposal to help keep drains clear, clean, and smelling fresh.

Many choices and brands of drain cleaners are available for purchase. Most commercial drain cleaners are usually either biological or chemical. Biological drain cleaners use enzymes to eat away at the build up in pipes. They work best on organically based clogs like hair and soap scum but are not as effective as chemical cleaners at removing mineral deposits. Biological drain cleaners tend to work slower than chemical but are safe for septic systems.

Chemical drain cleaners are generally made of hazardous chemicals and can damage septic systems. They come in liquid and foam forms. Chemical drain cleaners usually contain sodium hydroxide (lye) which is very caustic. Lye’s corrosive properties are good for eating away at drain build up, but can burn skin and aggravate the throat and nose. Avoiding prolonged contact with sodium hydroxide is a good idea.

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Discussion Comments

By anon997095 — On Nov 15, 2016

I highly recommend Drain-FX. Heard about it on the Gary Sullivan show and bought it online on their website. It cleared my drains easily, effectively and without the use of chemicals.

By anon926791 — On Jan 21, 2014

Get powdered caustic soda. Pour down the drain and run water slowly. It dissolves clogs, but don't breathe the fumes.

By anon352059 — On Oct 19, 2013

I work in a commercial building with pop stations, coffee, a dishwasher, etc. We also get quit a changeover of staff and have to retrain. I found this site quite informative.

By Jennifers56 — On Nov 04, 2012

A great drain cleaner is the Thrift drain cleaner.

This is the only one that has worked well for me and believe me, I have tried out many of them.

By sunshined — On Apr 12, 2012

We live on a farm, so there is a lot of dirt and mud that gets on our clothes and gets brought into the house.

When I think about how much hair and dried dirt goes down our drains, I am surprised they run as well as they do.

I have always kept Borax on hand because I never know when this will come in handy. You can buy this in the same aisle where they sell laundry detergent, and it has many household uses.

It is the first thing I reach for when I am looking for a clogged drain cleaner. I will usually pour this down the drain with the water right before going to bed.

This gives it several hours to work and then I make sure I flush it out real good in the morning.

By John57 — On Apr 12, 2012
Many of the chemical drain cleaners that are on the market scare me too much to keep under my sink. I am always too afraid my kids are going to get into them.

I find it so interesting that many home remedies and natural solutions will get the job done without the harsh chemicals.

I don't think I have ever seen any biodegradable sink drain cleaners being advertised on TV. Most people are probably not even aware they have so many safer alternatives.

By andee — On Apr 11, 2012

We have a septic system so I am always careful about the kinds of products I put down my drain. Not only do I like to use safe drain cleaners, but also safe products that go down the drain.

I have always purchased environmentally friendly laundry and cleaning products.

I love the tip about freezing ice cubes made of vinegar and water and using them to keep my garbage disposal smelling fresh.

This sounds like an easy, natural solution that would work really well. Someone once suggested using egg shells to keep the blades sharp, but I would also like to keep it smelling clean.

By EdRick — On Apr 11, 2012

I've always used baking soda and vinegar to clean out my drains for "regular" cleaning. If I do break down and buy a commercial liquid drain cleaner, I buy a single-use bottle. That way, I don't have to store half a bottle of super-toxic chemicals around my kids and pets!

Another option for drain cleaning is to use a plunger. Depending on the kind of drain and how it's shaped, you might be able to use a plunger to shift the clog so it goes down the drain.

By anon142151 — On Jan 12, 2011

Very informative. I am glad I checked out this site. It is

filled with information I can use.

By anon51814 — On Nov 09, 2009

Found great info on this page! Will definitely recommend this site!

By anon36165 — On Jul 10, 2009

Quite informative article. It's good to see that there are organic soultions to unclogging drains.

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