Best Drain Cleaners of 2024, According to Plumbers

There’s nothing worse than taking a shower and having the water pool at your ankles because of a blocked drain. While a plunger may be an effective cleaning gadget for your toilet, it doesn’t tend to be as effective on shower or sink backups. In those cases, your best bet is to try a drain cleaner. “They are effective against common clogs caused by organic matter, grease and soap scum,” says Mehdi Khachani, CEO of JMK Plumbing. “They also tackle hair blockages in bathroom drains effectively.” 

Even if you don’t have a current clog, having a drain cleaner on standby can be handy. But when it comes to shopping for this household item, it can get pretty overwhelming. From gels to foaming formulas, there are several options on the market. To help you pick a good drain cleaner, we spoke with plumbing and cleaning experts and asked them what to look for when shopping and how to prevent clogs in the first place. 

SKIP AHEAD How do drain cleaners work? | How we picked the best drain cleaners | The best drain cleaners of 2024 | What causes clogged drains? | How to prevent clogged drains

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How do drain cleaners work? 

First, you should know that drain cleaners can’t fix all clogs. Solid obstructions and severe pipe damage will require a more intense solution — and likely a professional plumber, says Eliana Coca, owner of E.C. House Cleaning. But, as mentioned, organic blockages like hair, grease and soap residue can typically be managed with a drain cleaner. The exact mechanism of how they work depends on the type of drain cleaner. The three most common types are: 

  • Enzyme cleaners: These tend to be the most gentle. Because of that, they work more slowly but are least likely to damage your pipes. These cleaners have bacteria enzymes that break down things like hair and food. 
  • Caustic cleaners: This type of drain cleaner uses a corrosive chemical, like alkaline, to break down things like grease and food. However, it can also wear away at your pipes.
  • Oxidizing cleaners: Another popular type of drain cleaner, oxidizing cleaners tend to have nitrates that break down clogs. They also give off heat to attack grease and oil.

No matter what formula you use, they tend to have similar instructions. You’ll need to pour the cleaner down the clogged drain, wait a certain amount of time (usually around 15 to 30 minutes) and then run hot water down the drain to flush out any remaining matter.

How we picked the best drain cleaners

Tackling a clogged drain can be tricky. You want to remove the blockage without damaging your pipes. To find a formula that will work for you, experts recommend paying attention to the following: 

  • Formula type: “It’s important to focus on products that are safe for your plumbing,” says Khachani. “Avoid drain cleaners that utilize harsh chemicals like sulfuric or hydrochloric acid.” We included caustic cleaners that don’t have the ingredients mentioned above, along with enzyme and oxidizing drain cleaners, which tend to be more gentle but still effective.
  • Clog type: It sounds like a no-brainer, but pay attention to the packaging. “Look for options labeled as effective against specific types of clogs, such as hair or grease,” says Khachani. We included drain cleaners that address all types of clogs to meet all needs. 
  • Fast-acting: When water won’t flow down a drain, you don’t want to wait for a cleaner to work. There are plenty of fast-acting formulas on the market that efficiently break down debris, says Josh Mitchell, a plumbing technician at Plumbing Lab. All the drain cleaners on our list work in under 30 minutes. 

The best drain cleaners of 2024

Using our experts’ criteria, we rounded up seven drain cleaners to shop. These drain cleaners have at least a 4.0-star average rating from at least 1,000 reviews. 

Drano Max Gel Drain Clog Remover and Cleaner

My old apartment had a shower drain that consistently got clogged. This drain cleaner became my best friend — it works quickly and clears hair quickly. According to the brand, the caustic formula works on all kinds of pipes (including metal and PVC) and won’t corrode them. To use, pour a fifth of the bottle down your drain, wait seven minutes and then flush with hot water. It will work on clogs caused by hair, soap scum, food and more, according to Drano.    

Green Gobbler Drain Clog Remover & Cleaner

This drain cleaner, which has a 4.3-star average rating from over 28,130 reviews on Amazon, can be used in the shower, sink, toilet or your septic system to remove clogs caused by hair, grease, toilet paper, soap scum and flushable wipes. The enzyme formula is bleach-free and odorless. The bottle is split into two chambers and has two spouts with caps at the top. Each side houses one serving of cleaner. Pour it down your drain, wait fifteen minutes and then run hot water down it.

Professor Amos’ Superfast Drain Cleaner

Another enzyme drain cleaner, this formula helps to dissolve hair, grease and soap scum. It can be used on all types of pipes, including copper and PVC, and has no harsh fumes, according to the brand. This cleaner has a 4.6-star average rating from over 1,330 reviews on Amazon. To use, pour eight ounces down your drain. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then flush with hot water. Let the solution sit in your drain overnight before rinsing for stubborn clogs.

Thrift Drain Cleaner

Use this on slow-draining sinks and tubs. The chemical drain cleaner has a 4.7-star average rating from over 8,150 reviews on Amazon, is completely odorless and works in as quickly as 60 seconds. Unlike the other formulas on this list, which are all liquid, this one is a solid. Shake the crystals down your drain, sit for a few minutes and run hot water. One thing to note: It’s really important to run the water for a while to fully flush out the crystals — missing any could lead to corroded pipes. 

Liquid-Plumr Pro-Strength Hair Eliminator Gel Clog Remover

One of the more popular drain cleaning brands on the market, Liquid-Plumr has various options. This one is specially formulated to clear hair clogs in plastic and metal pipes. The oxidizing cleaner has a 4.6-star average rating from over 13,230 reviews on Amazon. It can also work on food particles but will not clear grease. To clear a clogged drain using this product, pour the entire bottle down the drain, wait 15 minutes and flush with hot water.

Xion Lab Safer Drain Opener

This unique formula is a cross between a caustic cleaner and a mild enzyme cleaner. According to the brand, it should be used on hair or grease clogs. It will not be able to remove food or toilet paper clogs. This drain cleaner has a 4.2-stra average rating from over 2,420 reviews on Amazon, and you get two uses out of one bottle. Just pour half the bottle down your drain, let it sit overnight and then rinse with hot water in the morning.

Bio-Clean Drain treatment

“I recommend environmentally friendly drain cleaners that utilize enzymes or bacteria to break down clogs effectively,” says Khachani. “These options tend to be safest for your pipes and the environment while providing reliable results.” Bio-Clean fits the bill. It uses a combo of naturally occurring bacteria and enzymes to clear grease, hair, soap scum, food and paper. To use this product, you’ll mix up to three tablespoons of it with up to three pints of water, then use that water to flush the clogged drain.

What causes clogged drains? 

Several things can cause a backup in your pipes. For example, a foreign object could fall down the drain and prevent a blockage. A drain cleaner won’t help with this scenario. Instead, you’ll need to call a plumber, who may need to take apart your pipes to remove whatever fell. More commonly, clogged drains are caused by the accumulation of grease, food particles, soap scum and mineral buildup from hard water, says Khachani. All of these issues can usually be alleviated by using a drain cleaner. “And, if ever a drain cleaner proves ineffective, it’s a clear signal to consult a professional, as the issue likely extends beyond a simple blockage,” says Coca.

How to prevent clogged drains

While drain cleaners can help you if your pipes do get clogged, it’s even better if you can work to prevent clogs from happening in the first place. “Rather than waiting for a clog to necessitate a chemical solution, regular cleaning and careful disposal of potential clog-causing substances can drastically reduce the need for drain cleaners,” says Coca. Some things you can do to remove things that cause clogs include clearing the hair from your drain after every shower, using a drain cover to catch food when washing dishes and keeping a grease jar by your sink to pour excess grease into (rather than pouring it down the drain). These very small, easy moves can help prevent drains from occurring. 

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts with specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and experience. We also ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Eliana Coca is the owner of E.C. House Cleaning and has worked in cleaning and organizing for over 20 years. 
  • Mehdi Khachani is the CEO of JMK Plumbing
  • Josh Mitchell is a plumbing technician at Plumbing Lab.

Why trust NBC Select?

Bethany Heitman is a contributor at NBC Select and a journalist who regularly covers beauty, home and lifestyle. For this story, she interviewed cleaning and plumbing experts about the best drain cleaners. 

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok to stay up to date.

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