11 Best Drain Cleaners to Quickly Unclog Your Sink
Get rid of gurgling toilets, clogs, and odors once and for all with these top-rated drain cleaners.
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Clearing out clogs
When the shower water rises to your ankles or a toilet flush leads to an overflow, it’s time to add unclogging your drains to your cleaning schedule. A clogged pipe or drain is a common problem, but luckily it’s one with a simple solution. Sometimes you need to break out the toilet plunger. Other times, you’ll want to invest in the best drain cleaner or a drain snake. And then there are times when you’ll have to clean your garbage disposal or unclog your sink.
We talked to Roger Wakefield, owner of Texas Green Plumbing and YouTube’s go-to plumber, about choosing the right drain cleaner. Start by using a drain-cleaning tool called a hand snake, he says. Chemical drain cleaners, he cautions, can harm your plumbing system, will poison pets and kids who get into them, and ultimately end up at water treatment plants. If you must use a drain cleaner, opt for an all-natural product. And if you need to use a harsher chemical cleaner, be sure to thoroughly read the label—and follow the directions to a T.
Before you start shopping for the best drain cleaner, determine which of the three types you need. If your drains are clogged with hair (a common issue when cleaning the bathroom), try nontoxic enzymatic drain cleaners, which contain enzyme-producing bacteria that feed on clogs caused by soft materials. If food, grease, or soap scum are causing a backlog in your sink or tub, look for a caustic drain cleaner, which will contain alkaline chemicals that dissolve clogs. And if you have a heavy-duty (or paper-based) clog, go with an acidic drain cleaner. But keep in mind: These are made with sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid, so use with caution and protection.
Best overall drain cleaner: Green Gobbler Main Line Opener and Toilet Clog Remover
This drain cleaner is made with a plant-based surfactant and other eco-friendly ingredients that won’t damage your pipes or septic system. The high-density formula allows it to sink through water and cling to pipes to liquefy drain obstructions, including grease, hair, oils, soap scum, and paper products. More proof this is the best drain cleaner: Almost 15,000 reviewers have given this drain cleaner a five-star rating for its effectiveness at unclogging everything from sinks to tubs to toilets. It even breaks up baby wipes, which Wakefield says contain plastic fibers and are often to blame for clogged toilets. His message: Just as there are certain things you shouldn’t pour down the drain, there are things you shouldn’t flush down the toilet, baby wipes among them.
Best value drain cleaner: Drano Max Gel
You’ve undoubtedly come across Drano in your local grocery or hardware store. It’s one of the best liquid drain cleaners that you can buy for cheap. This caustic gel can cut through standing water to remove hair, soap scum, and other gunk clogging your drains or garbage disposal. It’s safe for PVC, metal pipes, and septic systems, but note that it should not be used on toilets. This drain cleaner has over 10,000 five-star reviews, but some users make a minor tweak to the instructions. “The direction says to use hot water for step three, but as I tried twice, it simply doesn’t work with the usual hot water that comes from the pipe, so I tried with boiling water,” writes reviewer Summer. “I just boiled a big pot of water on the stove top and poured [it] into the sink after the suggested time, and the sink was unclogged immediately!” Next up on your cleaning to-do list: Clean your stainless steel appliances.
- Available at most stores
- Works in just 15 minutes
Best enzymatic drain cleaner: Green Gobbler Enzyme Drain Cleaner
The bacterial solution in this drain cleaner works by producing lipase enzymes that target and degrade large oil and grease molecules. The de-emulsifying surfactant promotes the separation of water from fats, oil, and grease, which are then digested by the bacteria. How well does it work? Reviewer Sasha Nicole writes, “For months my bathroom had a super-funky smell that never went away no matter how much I cleaned it. I’m kind of ashamed at how long it took me to realize the smell was not, in fact, the toilet or hidden food but my own sink! I’ve been pouring a few ounces once a week for the last four weeks, and the smell is literally gone.” Speaking of grease buildup, here’s how to clean it off your oven.
- Can be used weekly or monthly for maintenance
- Eliminates odors
- Can be used on drains, grease traps, toilets, septic tanks, wet wells, collection systems, and sewers
Best caustic drain cleaner: Thrift Alkaline-Based Granular Drain Cleaner
For tough clogs caused by food, grease, or soap scum, this alkaline-based drain cleaner will help. All you have to do is run the hot water, add one cup of granules directly into the drain opening, and continue running the hot water until the granules are completely dissolved. Wait one minute, then run the hot water again. That’s it! You can’t use this drain cleaner on your toilet bowl or garbage disposal, but it can be used on drains, grease traps, and septic tanks. As for helpful hints, reviewer A. E. says, “This will burn your skin, so wear gloves and don’t hover over the drain while it’s working.” Another caution: Drain cleaners are among the cleaning products you should never mix.
- No fumes
- Easy to use
Best acidic drain cleaner: Flow-Easy Liquid Drain Opener
If you’re dealing with a really stubborn clog formed from years of buildup, this is the best drain cleaner for you. Flow-Easy’s acidic cleaner is powerful stuff. It’s formulated with 93 percent virgin sulfuric acid with inhibitors to dissolve any organic material, including grease, hair, paper, sanitary napkins, rags, sludge, soap, and coffee grounds. (Don’t forget to clean that coffee maker!) It won’t harm PVC pipes or septic tanks and can be used in all common drains, drain clean outs, sinks, and toilets. A word of warning: You’ll want to make sure the room is well ventilated, as the fumes are quite strong. And since you’re dealing with acid, wear gloves and eye protection while pouring. For the record, most professional plumbers avoid using harsh chemicals in drains.
- Fixes the most stubborn clogs
- Works in just 15 minutes
Best drain cleaner for showers: Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver
If you have luscious locks, you know that no matter how careful you are, some of your hair is going to make its way down your shower drain and cause a clog. Snaking out a mess of hair matted in soap scum is a dirty job, and you can’t always get it all out. In that case, Green Gobbler’s product—one of the best drain uncloggers—will come in handy. Its thick formula goes right through standing water to dissolve paper, liquefy hair, and break up soap. Over 42,000 users swear by this product, thanks to its ability to get rid of clogs and, according to many, keep them from coming back. While you’re unclogging the drain, be sure to clean your shower head and scrub those tiles of mold.
- Comes with two pre-measured applications
- Can be used in toilets
Best drain cleaner for sinks: CLR Clear Pipes and Drains
Soap scum, toothpaste, shaving cream, and oils are just a few things that can clog kitchen and bathroom sinks. Keep yours clear with this monthly buildup remover, which will dissolve crud before it has the chance to clog your drains. According to reviewer Laura G., it can even be used for smelly washing machines! She writes, “I used it in my side-by-side washer to fight that bad mildew odor, and it worked better than cleaning tablets or powders previously tried.” While you’re in the spirit, tackle cleaning your microwave.
- Prevents buildup
- Can be used in sinks, drains, toilets, all pipes, and garbage disposals
Best drain cleaner for garbage disposals: Glisten Garbage Disposer Cleaner
Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn’t be dumping much down your garbage disposal. Wakefield recommends emptying large food particles into the trash before rinsing your dish in the sink and putting it in the dishwasher. (And never put these things down your garbage disposal!) When it comes to unclogging your garbage disposal, most drain cleaners aren’t up to the task, and you’ll want to get a cleaner that’s specially formulated to tackle it. This bleach alternative foam cleaner will effectively clean and deodorize your garbage disposal sidewalls, blades, under the splash guard, and other hidden areas. Over 17,000 users have given this cleaner a five-star review, including KS, who writes, “It seems counterintuitive to put a little packet down your garbage disposal to clean it, but this does actually seem to work, at least for getting out weird smells that baking soda and vinegar don’t really touch.”
- Made for garbage disposals
- Smells fresh
- Can be used weekly
Best drain cleaner for hair: Liquid-Plumr Hair Eliminator Gel
Hair clogs can be plumbing nightmares and are the number one cause of blocked drains, but they’re no match for this pro-strength gel. Not only will it clear a fully blocked and slow-running drain, but it’ll do it in just 15 minutes, leaving you time to clean your refrigerator and other appliances. According to reviewers, one bottle of this drain cleaner works better than four bottles of other cleaners. Reviewer Kate B., whose clog couldn’t be bested by regular Drano, gave this hair eliminator gel a try. “It took a while for it all to go down the drain, but I started the 15-minute clock when it did and turned on the water after the 15 minutes were up, and it was magic!” she writes. “No digging out hair!! Definitely recommend!!”
- Specially formulated to get rid of hair clogs
- Works in 15 minutes
- Safe for all septic systems and pipes, including PVC, plastic, metal, and old pipes
Best all-natural drain cleaner: Earthworm Drain Cleaner and Buildup Remover
According to Wakefield, natural cleaning products are the safer way to go. He names this family-safe brand the best drain cleaner without harsh chemicals. It’s safe for all slow-running drains, sinks, and garbage disposals. Its natural enzymes help remove buildup and stop clogs before they start, while its unique citrus and sage fragrance will keep everything smelling nice and fresh.
- No harsh chemicals
- Smells great
- Can also be used in your dishwasher
Best DIY drain cleaner: Crystal Light Powder Drink Mix
Yes, you read that right. According to Wakefield, Crystal Light is a great DIY cleaning product and the best drain cleaner for folks who want to grab a pantry item and go. Add it to your dishwasher or garbage disposal to clean them out. He says the citrus base in the powder is likely what enables it to break everything up, clean it out, and wash it away. And as an added bonus, it smells good enough to drink! Rest, relax, then get ready to clean your drapes until they’re good as new.
- You may already have it in your pantry
- Easy to find
- Safe to use
- Roger Wakefield, owner of Texas Green Plumbing
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