We’ve all been there. Try as we might, the day has finally come that the plunger no longer works on the drain no matter how Herculean our efforts become and we know it’s time to settle down and try a chemical solution before we spend a ton of money renting a plumber’s snake.
The real question is: how do you decide which drain cleaner is the best? The answer is simple, but you need to do your research.
Best Overall !
This one is the best solution for showers and kitchen sinks, just don’t expect it to blow things apart like the brand’s older products.
Top 5 Drain Cleaners
|Name||Mechanism of Action|
|Drano Drain Cleaner|
|Pure Lye Drain Opener||Basic|
|Green Gobbler DISSOLVE||Enzymatic|
|Safer Drain Opener||Basic|
|GREEN GOBBLER Ultimate||Enzymatic|
A Word of Caution About Drain Cleaners
Before we delve into helping you make the decision on which drain cleaner is the best for you, we feel that you’ll need to know a little bit more about the chemicals used for these purposes.
The first thing is this know what your pipes are made of. Many drain cleaners utilize extremely caustic chemicals in order to take care of truly tough stuff like hair, grease, and other things which can gum up the works.
In absolutely no case should you use a strong, caustic chemicals when you have stainless steel, galvanized steel, aluminum, or copper piping. Seriously, don’t do it or you’re going to have a problem on your hands.
- Top 5 Drain Cleaners
- A Word of Caution About Drain Cleaners
Another thing to keep in mind is that acids and bases generate an exothermic reaction when they dissolve in water.
Simply put it gets hot. Add the chemicals slowly in order to avoid melting any kind of plastic piping. You can add a significant amount, as it’s not the raised or lowered pH which is going to cause problems but instead the heat generated by it dissolving too quickly.
And please, please, please make sure you use protective equipment. A single granule of sodium hydroxide or a drop of sulfuric acid hitting the skin can be painful. Use heavy duty gloves, eye protection, and preferably an apron when using these chemicals.
For acids you’ll also want to make sure you have a window open.
Don’t be scared, but make sure you protect yourself and don’t cause further problems.
Fortunately, we’ve tried to recommend only products which will be safer than the pure chemicals used in the past, but do your research before using any drain cleaner and don’t take anyone’s word at face value that it’s completely safe.
Types of Clogs
Different types of clogs take a different approach to handling things. Drain cleaners primarily come in acidic and basic varieties, and each is better suited for certain types of clogs.
For the most part, however, any clog will be made of clumps of organic materials. Depending on where you’re having a problem you should be able to pretty easily discern what your problem is and make short work of it.
Kitchen sink clogs will generally be composed of grease and food particles. They’re particularly nasty and it generally doesn’t end well. Do not use a caustic drain cleaner if you have a metal or granite sink. Trust us, you’re going to want to invest in a snake if boiling water can’t clear it out.
Grease is best cleaned up with alkaline solutions, but kitchen sinks are often made of materials which aren’t going to be able to handle things. Double check if you’re in doubt.
Bathroom sinks and showers generally have trouble with hair clogging them. In this case, you’re usually best off with an acidic solution. Keep in mind that these tend to work more quickly, and if you have a significant amount of metal in the stem of the pipe it’s better to go with a solid, basic formulation to ensure it’s in the plastic piping before the water gets flowing.
Toilets have a larger drain, and you might be out of luck if you’re already completely clogged. Chemical drain cleaners are best to apply in cases where flushing has become slow, rather than completely stopped.
Due to their larger drains, most often you’re dealing with an obstruction caused by flushing something the toilet couldn’t handle. This includes sanitary pads, napkins, and other things which really aren’t made to go down the toilet.
Most often, acidic cleaners are used for toilet obstructions.
In all cases, you’re not looking at a real solution if the initial problem is actually a clogged grate or stopper. Check on these before you rely on harsh chemicals in order to make sure that you can’t solve the issue quickly and easily.
Enzymatic drain cleaners are new to the market and much safer. They rely on using enzymes to clear up proteins and other organic junk, and are usually geared towards handling paper or hair types of clogs. They’re safe to use in almost every setting and are a good option for metal piping, but they’re harder to find and aren’t as quick as harsh chemicals.
Using a Drain Cleaner
Once you have your cleaner, get ahold of your glasses and gloves and it’s time to get to work. If you haven’t already, double check the plumbing to ensure it’s not made of metal and remove anything which will obstruct the flow of water.
You may want to get a funnel in cases where you have a significant metal piece around the drain, this is more important for liquid cleaners than when you’re working with a basic solution which will generally come in a pelletized form. Either way, better safe than sorry.
Open the windows and doors and make sure the room is ventilated, particularly if you’re working with a liquid drain cleaner. Seriously, the fumes from an acidic solution can be nasty and the interaction with a significant clog will cause hydrogen to come back up the piping. It might be best not to smoke in the room as well, since hydrogen gas is quite flammable.
Time how long it takes for the clog to break and flush the system with water for twice as long as it took to break through the obstruction.
Keep in mind, we’re only emphasizing the risks to keep you safe. Most people will be able to use a drain cleaner without any problems, but we’d hate for anyone to get hurt while following incomplete advice.
Now that your drain is freed, you’re good to go.