Best Drain Cleaners

Updated September 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

36 Models Considered
24 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best drain cleaners

A clogged drain can be one of the most persistently frustrating things to deal with in your home. Whether it happens in your sinks, shower, or toilet, it can be a huge inconvenience for everyone in your house. Fortunately, you don’t need to call a plumber every time a clog occurs.

High-quality drain cleaners make it easy to quickly eliminate clogs in showers, bathtubs, and toilets. They are proven to dissolve hair, sludge, and other debris on contact to deliver fast, effective results. Plus, drain cleaners often are odorless, ensuring you won't have to worry about them leaving behind pungent odors that circulate throughout your home.

Drain cleaners generally include easy-to-follow instructions, and drain cleaner application usually takes just a few seconds. They also include high-density formulas that consist of nonflammable and biodegradable ingredients, and they won't damage your home's pipes.

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Always read the instructions on your drain cleaner before using. Some have very explicit directions, and simply pouring the bottle down the drain will not do.

Key considerations

When you have a tough clog that you need to clear, there are a number of different factors to consider when choosing a drain cleaner. Both the source of the clog and the specs of the drain cleaner will impact the decision. Take the following considerations into account when shopping for a drain cleaner.

Acidic vs. alkaline drain cleaners

Acidic drain cleaners typically contain high concentrations of sulfuric acid, and they use acid hydrolysis to dissolve hair, soap scum, and any other obstacles in the drain. Overall, acidic drain cleaners are more powerful and able to clean more difficult clogs.

Alkaline drain cleaners, on the other hand, typically use lye as the main ingredient. The main benefit is that they’re not as corrosive as acidic drain openers. While they may not be quite as strong, they still do a very good job dissolving obstacles and clearing drains.

Nature of clog

Different parts of the house suffer from different types of drain clogs. For example, kitchen sinks often clog from grease and food particles. In the bathroom sink, though, hair is the biggest offender. When it’s coupled with toothpaste and soap residue, it can cause major clogs. The shower suffers the same fate as the bathroom sink, with hair and soap residue causing major problems (though using a drain protector can help a little). The type of clog you have should be considered when choosing a drain cleaner, as they all have their own strengths and weaknesses depending on the source of the clog.

Duration of clog

Remember that if your drain has been clogged multiple times in a short period, or if you have already tried drain cleaner more than once and the drain is still clogged, you may need a plumber. The persistence of the clog may dictate how strong of a drain cleaner you will need.

Gel vs. liquid

The two most popular drain cleaners are gel-based and liquid-based. One benefit that many people see in the gel-based drain cleaner is that the gel takes longer to go down the drain, so it spends more time “working” on the clog. Liquid-based drain cleaners, on the other hand, go down the drain quicker, which means they don’t spend as much time in direct contact with the clog. However, both gel and liquid drain cleaners have similar success rates.

Environmental concerns

Most drain cleaners are made of relatively corrosive chemicals in order to deal with difficult clogs. There are, however, some drain cleaners that are formulated to be friendly to the environment. These are usually called enzymatic drain cleaners. They contain bacteria that feed on organic waste, such as hair and other obstacles. The disadvantage that these have is that they take much longer, sometimes hours, to clear your clog.

Children in the home

Keep in mind that drain cleaners are strong chemicals. They are perfectly safe for home use if used properly. However, some people don’t feel comfortable having these types of chemicals in their house with small children. Even though drain cleaners are safe to use, remember that they can be dangerous if misused. Consider the people in your house and their safety when choosing to buy any chemical-based products.


Dissolving power

Some of the more powerful drain cleaners have the power to dissolve hair and other solids into liquid form. As mentioned above, these will be some of the most chemically corrosive drain cleaners, but this is a feature that is often needed on the most stubborn of clogs.

Fast-acting formula

Some drain cleaners offer a guarantee of removing clogs instantly. The most common fast-acting formulas claim to be able to clear most clogs within the first minute of contact. These are most often acidic drain cleaners, which are the most corrosive.

Drain cleaner prices

Inexpensive: Between $10 and $15, you’ll find drain cleaners that are mostly of the liquid variety. They include the most popular and common brands and are both acidic and alkaline.

Mid-range: From $15 to $20 are some of the more specialized drain cleaners. Most of the drain cleaners in this range are acidic, though a few are alkaline.

Expensive: In the $20 to $25 range, you can find a host of industrial-strength drain cleaners, often used by professional cleaning and maintenance crews. They are sure to keep your drain clear for long periods.


  • Follow the directions on your package of drain cleaner exactly. If you do otherwise, you may not get the desired results.
  • Before calling a plumber, try using a consumer drain cleaner. More often than not, they can solve the problem before a plumber is ever called.
  • If there is hair or other obstacles visibly protruding from your drain, remove them before pouring your drain cleaner down the drain. This will make the cleaner’s job easier.
  • To avoid messy clogs, try to not allow hair of any length to collect in the sink, as it will end up clogging the drain eventually.
  • Run hot water through the drain every day for 30 seconds to help the pipes keep clear of clogs.
  • Keep drain cleaners and all other dangerous chemicals out of the reach and sight of children for safety reasons.
  • Wipe up any spilled drain cleaner immediately. Liquids on the floor can be dangerous for pets who may try to lick them.
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Keep track of how many times your drain becomes clogged. If it’s more than two or three times in a month, you may want to call a plumber to check your drain for other obstacles or blockages.


Q. Is there a limit to how much drain cleaner I can pour down my sink or shower?
Although there are recommendations on every package, there is no set limit on the right amount for any specific clog. The best advice is to use as needed.

Q. Is drain cleaner dangerous to touch?
Some drain cleaners are safe to get on your hands. However, some are highly corrosive and their packaging warns that the solution should not come in contact with the skin. Review the warnings on your own drain cleaner to see what is suggested.

Q. Can I mix different drain cleaners for more strength?
No. You should never mix chemicals of any sort together unless explicitly directed to do so by the makers. Mixing different types of drain cleaner can have dangerous effects.

Q. Do I need a special drain cleaner to fix a clogged toilet?
Not necessarily. Most consumer drain cleaners are meant to be used in both sinks, bath tubs, and toilets.

Q. Do I need to use the entire bottle of drain cleaner to unclog my drain?
That depends on the severity of the clog and the type of drain cleaner you’ve purchased. The safest bet is to always follow the instructions on the packaging to get the best results.

Q. Will using drain cleaner in my home damage the interior of my pipes?
Most drain cleaners are designed to be used in homes with standard plumbing. This means that they should not cause any undue damage to your pipes or fittings if they are used properly.

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