Courtesy of Brands
We updated this article in March 2022 to add more information about each featured product, based on extensive testing done by the Good Housekeeping Institute. Our original top-rated picks, selected by the GH Cleaning Lab remain the same with the exception of our original pick for Best Drain Cleaner for Hair Clogs which was replaced with a new pick from Liquid-Plumr.
There are few things more annoying than a slow or clogged drain — greasy water sitting in your kitchen sink, or soapy water standing in your shower or bathtub is not a pretty sight. The good news is that a clogged or slow drain can often be cleared without calling in a plumber.
According to the Good Housekeeping Institute Cleaning Lab experts, the safest first step to clearing any clog is to use the correct plunger based on where a clog is located (sink or toilet). Be sure to cover any overflow outlet first for maximum pressure, turn off the water supply and always use a plunger before (not after!) any chemical cleaner to prevent the chemical from splashing back up onto you or into your eyes. After using a plunger, if the drain is still clogged, a chemical or enzymatic cleaner can help. These are the best drain cleaners, according to testing:
- Best Overall Drain Cleaner: Drano Max Gel Liquid Clog Remover
- Best Drain Cleaner for Hair Clogs: Liquid Plumr Clog Destroyer + Hair Clog Eliminator
- Best Single-Use Drain Cleaner: Green Gobbler Drain Opening Pacs
- Best Enzymatic Drain Cleaner: Bio Clean
- Best Monthly Build-up Remover: CLR Clear Pipes & Drains
- Best Crystal Drain Cleaner: Thrift Odorless Drain Cleaner
- Best Combination Chemical and Enzyme Drain Cleaner: XionLab Safer Drain Opener
- Best Drain Cleaner Tool for Hair Clogs: Vastar 3 Pack 19.6 Inch Drain Snake
- Best Drain Auger for Clogged Toilets: Rigid K-6P Toilet Auger Snake
- Best Bathtub Tool for Preventing Hair Clogs: Tubshroom
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BEST OVERALL DRAIN CLEANER
Max Gel Liquid Clog Remover
This top performer is a consumer favorite. Safe for piping and septic systems, Drano Max Gel is a thick gel that sinks through standing water to the source of the clog and gets to work, dissolving hair and melting soap scum, grease and other gunky clogs. For complete clogs, or slow-flowing drains, the gel works in 15 to 30 minutes. In the case of a persistent clog, this solution can be used a second time.
- Clears complete clogs in standing water
- Can be left overnight to work
- Stubborn clogs may need a second application
BEST DRAIN CLEANER FOR HAIR CLOGS
Hair Clog Eliminator
Liquid-Plumr’s thick gel was specially made to power through hair clogs that slow sink, tub and shower drains. According to the manufacturer, it is septic safe, and based on our experience with other Liquid-Plumr products, we have no reason to think otherwise. Per instructions, wait for all the water to drain out of the sink or tub (or bail it out if it won’t flow), then pour the bottle of Liquid-Plumr slowly down the drain. It takes at least 15 minutes to work. For badly clogged drains, you can leave Liquid-Plumr in the drain overnight to work, then flush thoroughly with hot water in the morning.
- Must use the whole bottle with each application
BEST SINGLE-USE DRAIN CLEANER
Drain Opening Pacs
No measuring, no mess, Green Gobbler’s single packs can make clearing a slow-flowing drain super easy. Each package contains three pre-measured ready-to-use powder packets – simply add water and wait 15-30 minutes before flushing (or wait overnight for tough clogs). While the packs themselves are odorless, some clogs may be stinky as they dissolve – but once the drain is thoroughly flushed, the smell dissipates. More than 9,000 Amazon reviewers gave Green Gobbler a 4.3-star rating, saying they loved how well it worked.
- Drains often need a second treatment left overnight
BEST ENZYMATIC DRAIN CLEANER
Drain Septic Bacteria
Bio-Clean uses a special combination of naturally-occurring bacteria and enzymes to digest organic waste such as hair, grease, soap scum, paper, food particles and more. Being an enzymatic cleaner, it works more slowly than traditional chemical drain cleaners and works best overnight on slow-flowing drains and as a once-per-month maintenance product. It won’t clear a complete blockage, and multiple uses are sometimes necessary to thoroughly clear partially clogged drains. Many reviewers have also used Bio-Clean as a preventative maintenance product and swear by its effectiveness. Because of its composition, Bio-Clean is safe to use in toilets.
- Helps clear garbage disposals
- Safe for use in toilets
- Must be left to work at least eight hours (overnight)
- Will not work on complete clogs
BEST MONTHLY BUILD-UP REMOVER
Clear Pipes & Drains
Prevention is best when it comes to drains, and CLR’s Clear Pipes and Drains makes it really simple to keep your pipes clear and prevent clogs with a quick, once-a-month treatment. Testers raved at how easy it was to use (it takes less than five minutes!) and how clear their drains ran afterwards. Just pour two ounces (four tablespoons) of the fragrance-free liquid down your drain and leave it to work overnight, flushing with clean water in the morning. It can also be used to clear slow drains.
- Can also be used in the garbage disposal
- Does not clear complete clogs
BEST CRYSTAL DRAIN CLEANER
Odorless Drain Cleaner
Safe for septic system maintenance, Thrift’s drain cleaner claims to work in only 60 seconds on slow-flowing drains. Hot water is required to warm the pipes, dissolve and activate the crystals, before you thoroughly flush the drain after 60 seconds. Reviewers are impressed by how quickly it works. It can be left to work overnight on grease traps. Because it’s a strong chemical cleaner, Thrift drain cleaner must not be used in garbage disposals or toilets.
- Clears slow-draining sinks and tubs
- Helps maintain septic tank system
- Does not work on clogs in standing water
BEST COMBINATION CHEMICAL AND ENZYME DRAIN CLEANER
Safer Drain Opener
Septic safe, the XionLab Safer Drain Opener works on hair or grease clogs (but is not ideal for food particles). A balance between acidic/caustic cleaners and mild enzymatic cleaners, the gel will sink through standing water and clear mild obstructions in around two hours (tougher clogs will take longer, sometimes overnight).
- Stubborn clogs may need multiple applications
BEST DRAIN CLEANER TOOL FOR HAIR CLOGS
Ideal for kitchens and bathrooms, the flexible Vastar Drain Snake reaches deep into drain pipes and flexes at the P-trap, where most obstructions occur, and is an inexpensive option to mechanically remove clogs. The barbs grab hair and other messy clogs, allowing you to remove or dislodge them — many reviewers, while loving this product and how well it works, reminded us how icky some of these clogs smell, so take heed. The Vastar Drain Snake can be cleaned or disposed of after use.
- Removes long hair from drain
- Chemical-free and non-caustic
- Fragile — can break in drain if not handled carefully
BEST DRAIN AUGER FOR CLOGGED TOILETS
6 ft. Toilet Auger Drain Snake
A toilet auger may well succeed where a plunger didn’t. Using a regular drain snake on a clogged toilet can cause damage to the porcelain, but the Ridgid has a vinyl protective guard to help protect against scratches and cracks. The ergonomic handles make it easy to rotate the cable down the drain line to break up and clear clogs lodged there.
- Six foot length reaches deep into the toilet pipes
- Drill can be attached to help with stubborn blockages
- Instructions are complex and difficult for a novice to follow
BEST BATHTUB TOOL FOR PREVENTING HAIR CLOGS
Tub Drain Protector
A winner in our Best Cleaning Product Awards, the revolutionary design of the TubShroom allows it to sit inside the bathroom tub drain, neatly collecting hair around it as the water drains. To clean it, simply pull the TubShroom out of the drain, and wipe it off. It fits standard drains and uses no chemicals. Though not technically a drain cleaner, it’s a great way to help prevent hair clogs, and it worked so well in our GH Cleaning Lab tests that we just had to include it here.
- Helps prevent hair causing a clog
How we test drain cleaners
When evaluating drain cleaning products and tools at the Good Housekeeping Institute, we interview company scientists and review data for product efficacy and safety. We also evaluate how easy and neat the product is to use and how complete and accurate the label and product claims are. We check online reviews of the product and, whenever possible, have it tested by consumers on real at-home clogs. The drain cleaning tools and products listed here were selected based on our past evaluations and experiences with the products, company research and favorable online consumer reviews.
What to look for when shopping for the best drain cleaner.
Different cleaners work for different types and severity of clogs — for example, one that works for a slow-flowing drain will probably not work for a complete blockage. Here are two types of cleaner to look for while shopping:
Enzymatic cleaners are slower to clear clogs but are usually less harmful to your plumbing (or yourself). The enzymes (bacteria) in the cleaner slowly break down organic soils such as hair and food that can be found in your drain but might not be strong enough to dissolve a complete blockage.
Chemical-based drain cleaners work the fastest, but also have the potential to cause more damage. Depending on the type of pipes you have in your home, damage can occur when using chemicals. PVC pipes can warp or soften from heat generated by chemical use. For metal pipes, excessive use can cause pipes to corrode and in extreme cases cause holes to develop.
How to use drain cleaners safely
Here are some important precautions to take when clearing clogged drains:
✔️Precisely follow all directions on a drain cleaner’s label. Be sure the room is well-ventilated. Do not leave the drain cleaner inside drains for longer than stated.
✔️Wear gloves and eye protection to protect against splash-back. Do not stand in the tub or shower stall when pouring the drain cleaner.
✔️Carefully pour the drain cleaner to avoid spillage. The caustic nature of some chemical cleaners can damage surrounding stone, marble, stainless steel and other materials. Never mix drain cleaners with other cleaning products — even homemade — or pour a second cleaner down if the first doesn’t work. The chemical reaction can cause toxic gas or even an explosion.
✔️Always flush the drain well after using a chemical cleaner, following the package instructions for the temperature of the water and how long you should rinse.
✔️Never try to clear a toilet clog with a chemical cleaner. Use a plunger, a toilet auger (a standard drain snake can damage or crack the porcelain) or a natural enzyme cleaner. If the clog still remains, call in a professional plumber.
How to Make a DIY Drain Cleaner
Once a month or so, we recommend trying this homemade solution. It’s not powerful enough to clear a complete clog 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 in 1 cup of warmed distilled white vinegar
- Let the foaming bubbles stand 10-15 minutes and then flush with hot tap water for 15-30 seconds.
Why trust Good Housekeeping?
The Good Housekeeping Institute Home Care and Cleaning Lab provides expert tips and reviews on all things cleaning. Carolyn Forte brings over 40 years of experience a as consumer products expert to her role as Executive Director of the Home Care and Cleaning Lab. She has deep analytical testing and editorial writing expertise in categories like washers, dryers and vacuum cleaners, cleaning products and all things and tips needed to keep a home clean and organized.
For this roundup, Carolyn worked with Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist & Director of Engineering at the Institute. Rachel has over 15 years of experience researching, testing and writing about products in the home improvement space utilizing her background in engineering and product design.
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