Best Drain Cleaners of 2020: There are few things more annoying than a slow or clogged drain – oily water sitting in your kitchen sink, or soapy water in your shower or bathtub is not a pretty sight, and something that does can be ignored. The good news is that a blocked or slow drain can often be cleaned without the need for a plumber. Experts from the Good Housekeeping Institute’s cleaning laboratory say that the safest first step to removing any obstruction is to use the correct plunger based on the location of the obstruction (sink or toilet). Make sure to cover any overflow outlet first for maximum pressure, shut off the water supply and always use a plunger before (not after!) Any chemical cleaner to prevent the chemical from splashing on you and in your eyes.
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Chemical or enzymatic cleaner
After using a plunger, if the drain is still clogged, a chemical or enzymatic cleaner can help. Different cleaners work for different types and the severity of the blockages – for example, one that works for a slow-draining drain probably won’t work for a complete blockage. Chemical-based drain cleaners work the fastest, but can also cause more damage. Enzyme cleaners are slower in removing blockages, but are generally less harmful to your plumbing (or to yourself).
When we assess drain cleaning products and tools at the Good Housekeeping Institute, we interview the company’s scientists and review the data for product efficacy and safety. We also assess how easy and neat the product is to use and how complete and accurate the label and claims are. We check product reviews online and, where possible, have consumers test them on real clogs at home. The drain cleaning tools and products listed here have been selected based on our past product reviews and experiences, company research and favorable online consumer reviews.
here are the best drain cleaners, according to critics from the Good Housekeeping Institute:
Best overall drain cleaner: Drano Max Gel Liquid Clog Remover
Best drain cleaner for hair clogs: Liquid Plumr Clog Destroyer + Hair hoof 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 combined cleaner for chemical and enzymatic drain: XionLab Safer drain opener
Best auger for clogged toilets: Rigid 59787 K-3 Toilet Auger Snake
Best drain cleaning tool for hair clogs: Vastar 3 Pack 19.6 inch Drain Snake
Best bathtub tool to prevent capillary blockages: Bathroom
How to Use Drain Cleaners Safely
Here are some important precautions to take when cleaning clogged drains:
- Follow precisely all directions on the label of a drain cleaner. Make sure the room is well ventilated. Do not leave the drain cleaner inside the drains longer than expected.
- Wear gloves and eye protection. Do not stand in a bathtub or shower enclosure when pouring the drain cleaner.
- Carefully pour the drain cleaner to avoid spills. The caustic nature of some chemical cleaners can damage stone, marble, stainless steel and other surrounding materials.
- Never mix drain cleaners with other cleaning products – even homemade – or add a second cleaner if the first does not work. The chemical reaction can cause toxic gases or even an explosion.
- Always rinse the drain well after using a chemical cleaner, following the package directions for water temperature and rinse time.
- Never try to clean a toilet cap with a chemical cleaner. Use a plunger, a toilet auger (a standard drain snake can damage or crack porcelain) or a natural enzyme cleaner. If the hoof persists, call a professional plumber.
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BEST GLOBAL DRAIN CLEANER
Max Gel Clog Remover
With 88% of 5-star Walmart reviews, this top performer is a consumer favorite. Safe for pipes and septic tanks, Drano Max Gel Liquid Clog Remover is a thick gel that flows through standing water to the source of clogging and gets to work, dissolves hair and melts soap scum, grease and other gunky hooves. For full clogs or slow-flowing drains, the gel works in 15 to 30 minutes. In the event of persistent clogging, this solution can be used a second time.
BEST DRAIN CLEANER FOR HAIR PLUGS
Hair clog eliminator
Liquid Plumr’s Thick gel passes through obstructions that slow down sink, tub, and shower sinks. Hundreds of critics are full of praise for how it works. It is safe for pipes and drains, including septic tanks. Wait until all the water has drained from the sink or tub, then slowly pour the bottle of Liquid Plumr down the drain. It takes at least 15 minutes to operate. For poorly clogged drains, you can leave Liquid Plumr in the drain overnight to work, then rinse thoroughly with warm water in the morning.
BEST ENZYMATIC DRAIN CLEANER
Drain Septic Bacteria (2-pack)
Bio-Clean Uses a special combination of bacteria and natural enzymes to digest organic waste such as hair, grease, soap scum, paper, food particles, etc. Being an enzymatic cleaner, it works slower than traditional chemical cleaners and works better overnight on slow flow drains and as a maintenance product once a month. It will not eliminate a complete blockage and several uses are sometimes necessary to completely eliminate partially clogged drains. Many critics have also used Bio-Clean as a preventative maintenance product and swear by its effectiveness. Due to its composition, Bio-Clean is safe to use in the toilet.
BEST CRYSTAL DRAIN CLEANER
Odorless drain cleaner
Safe for maintaining septic tanks as well, the Thrift drain cleaner claims to work in just 60 seconds on slow flow drains. Hot water is needed to heat the pipes, dissolve and activate the crystals, before rinsing the drain thoroughly after 60 seconds. Reviewers are impressed with how quickly it works. It can be left to work overnight on grease traps. Because it is a powerful chemical cleaner, Thrift drain cleaner should not be used in trash cans or toilets.
BEST SINGLE-USE DRAIN CLEANER
Pacs opening drain
No measurement, no mess, Green Gobbler’s simple pacs can make cleaning a slow flow drain super easy. Each pack contains three packets of pre-measured ready-to-use powder – just add water and wait 15-30 minutes before rinsing (or wait overnight for stubborn blockages). Although the pacs themselves are odorless, some hooves can be smelly when they dissolve – but once the drain is completely flushed, the odor will dissipate. Over 1,000 Amazon reviewers gave Green Gobbler a 5-star rating, saying they liked the way it worked.
BEST CHEMICAL DRAIN AND COMBINED ENZYME CLEANER
Safer drain opener
Safe for septic tanks, the XionLab Safer Drain Opener works on hair or grease plugs (but is not ideal for food particles). A balance between acidic / caustic cleaners and mild enzymatic cleaners, the gel will sink in standing water and clear light obstructions in about 2 hours (harder hooves will take longer). One reviewer said it “worked like a charm.”
BEST DRAIN SCREW FOR CLOGGED TOILETS
K-3 Snake Toilet Auger
A toilet auger may well work where a piston has failed. Using a regular drain snake on a clogged toilet can damage the porcelain, but the Ridgid has a protective vinyl guard to help protect against scratches and cracks. Ergonomic handles make it easy to rotate the cable with the bulb head down the drain past the toilet to break and remove any obstructions there.
BEST DRAIN CLEANER TOOL FOR HAIR PLUGS
19.6 ” draining snake (pack of 3)
Ideal for kitchens and bathrooms, the Vastar flexible drainage snake penetrates deep into the drainage pipes and flexes at the P-trap, where most blockages occur, and is an inexpensive option for mechanically removing obstructions. Beards catch hair and other messy hooves, allowing you to remove or dislodge them – many reviewers, while loving this product and how well it works, reminded us how bad some of these clogs smell, so beware. Vastar Drain Snake can be cleaned or disposed of after use.
BEST BATH TOOL TO PREVENT HAIR PLUG
Bathtub drain protector
Winner of our awards for the best cleaning products in 2020, the revolutionary design of the TubShroom allows it to sit inside the tub drain, carefully picking up the hair around it while the water drains. To clean it, simply pull the TubShroom out of the drain and wipe it dry. It adapts to standard drains and uses no chemicals. Although it is not technically a drain cleaner, it’s a great way to help prevent hair blockages, 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
About once a month, we recommend that you try this homemade solution. It is not powerful enough to eliminate complete clogging, 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 1 cup of hot distilled white vinegar
• Let the foaming bubbles sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse with hot tap water for 15 to 30 seconds.
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