Faced with a clogged drain? Learn more about the best drain cleaning options available to you.

Which Drain Cleaner Should I Use?

When most people experience a clogged drain, they automatically reach for one of two things: the phone, so they can call a plumber — or a caustic commercial chemical drain cleaner/clog remover.

Many want to know which of these commercial drain cleaners are best and how to best use them. While we always encourage DIY solutions, we never recommend using any kind of commercial chemical drain cleaner/clog remover for a number of reasons.

  • Commercial drain cleaners are harmful to the health of your household. If some of the cleaner were to splash on your skin or in your eyes — or too much is inhaled — it could lead to serious injury. And when cleaners are left out or not stored high up in a safe location, they can invite the curiosity of pets or young children, risking accidental exposure or even potentially fatal ingestion.
  • Everything you put down the drain eventually ends up in the environment somehow, whether that be in groundwater, oceans, rivers, atmosphere or soil. These commercial products aren't any safer for our environment than they are for our bodies. We often learn too late the calamitous effects our engineered chemicals can have on ecosystems.
  • Commercial drain cleaners work by eating away at whatever is causing the clog. There's a good chance that anything that caustic will also be at work on your pipes and drains. While certain materials like PVC or galvanized steel might hold up a little longer than copper, all pipes exposed to caustic chemicals will eventually start to wear down. Eventually, you'll experience leaks that could require extensive, costly repairs — or even a complete re‐plumbing of your home.

What about organic or bacterial drain cleaners? It's true that these kinds of products are inherently safer than commercial drain cleaners that utilize much harsher chemicals, so they can be used in plumbing systems without much concern. They are, however, best used on a regular basis to prevent clogs — their effectiveness is limited as a clog remover.

So, what are the alternatives? Before you call a plumber, we recommend grabbing a good sturdy plunger or drain snake and trying to physically remove the clog yourself. If neither of those methods work, try a 50:50 mixture of baking soda and vinegar and let it sit overnight, followed by flushing with hot water. If that still doesn't work, it's time for the professionals. Plumbers constantly deal with all kinds of clogs and have the expertise and equipment to do so without damaging fixtures or pipes.

Regular drain cleaning should be part of every home maintenance routine. Fortunately, it's easy and inexpensive! For a brief tutorial on how you can clean your drains and prevent clogs, check out our Guide to Easy Drain Maintenance and do your part to protect your plumbing, your health, and your environment!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. "Do you carry any type of liquid drain cleaner?"
A. If you insist on a more aggressive drain cleaner you will need to buy it locally, as we do not recommend pouring unsafe, dangerous to your health (and sometimes your pipes), bad for the environment products, into your drain. We believe in the bacterial drain cleaners we offer, but they might not do the job that you expect and they certainly do not work instantly. They are intended primarily for regular drain maintenance. Also, shipping a liquid, potentially caustic product is not practical or safe per FedEx/UPS/USPS guidelines.

Q. "Do you carry any type of root killer?"
A. Root killers are a bandaid "fix" and we strongly discourage anyone from using them — which is why we do not offer root killer products. Drains and sewer lines are a source of water/food for roots, and plants will push through pipes the same way they will through concrete to get the nutrients from your drain/sewer line. If roots are in your drain or sewer it means that you have a break in your line, either from the plant pushing through or something else happened to cause a break that then allowed the plant to creep in. It plain just needs to be fixed.

Please recognize that for any root killer to be at all effective, the roots have to be at the bottom of the pipe and the water flow has to be high enough to carry the chemical to the roots, but slow enough to keep it there for a long time so the roots can absorb it. The roots then have to be pulled out or chopped up and removed/disposed of — but if you don't remove the tree/shrub/etc. from the area and then repair the pipe, the problem will keep happening.

Additionally, please note that in many areas of the country it is illegal to put copper sulfate and most other root killer ingredients into your drains, regardless of whether you have sewer lines or a septic system. Because of all of these reasons, we have chosen to not sell root killers as we don't believe they are effective in dealing with the "root" of the problem and don't like the potentially negative environmental impact they have.

Q. "What is a sewer snake?"
A. A sewer snake (not to be confused with a toilet or urinal snake, a jet drain cleaner, or camera inspection system) is a long cable that you can send down a drain to clear away clogs. Several different attachments can be used — depending on the nature of the clog — and they can range from a simple auger to a grease cutting blade, a side cutting blade or even a spear‐type blade which is used for going through the middle of the clog. If you intend to buy a motorized snake, you'll have a choice between a hand held model or a "drum auger." The drum auger is actually meant for use by a professional plumber; it's a heavy-duty piece of equipment and is generally more than what is needed by most homeowners. For home use, you can also buy a hand snake or a closet auger which is specifically-designed to clear clogs and obstructions from your toilet's plumbing, and is manually operated.

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