The 8 Best Drain Cleaners to Safely Unclog Pipes

The winner is the Drano Max Gel Clog Remover

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The Spruce / Chloe Jeong

A drain opener quickly unclogs the drains and pipes around your home. 

When researching the best options on the market, we judged products based on effectiveness, compatibility with various systems, and value. Our best overall pick is the Drano Max Gel Clog Remover, an affordable but powerful solution that works on different pipe and septic systems.

Here are the best drain openers.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Drano Max Gel Clog Remover

4.9
Drano Max Gel Clog Remover

Courtesy of Walmart

Who else recommends it? Good Housekeeping and Bob Vila both picked Drano Max Gel Clog Remover.

What do buyers say? 88% of 20,900+ Amazon reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

Drano stands out among drain cleaners for the same reasons that it takes our best overall spot. This popular drain cleaner works effectively on different drains and disposals—whether in your bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, or garage. This highly concentrated formula works in about seven minutes and can remove even the toughest grime buildup from your drains.

The process is simple: pour one-fifth of the bottle into your drain and leave it alone for 15 minutes or more (you can even leave it overnight). Then flush the drain with hot water from the sink. You can repeat this process until the water flows through the drain without any signs of clogs from hair, soap scum, or standing water. In addition to tackling clogs, this formula protects pipes against corrosion, giving them a longer lifespan. 

More challenging buildups could require repeat applications and longer wait times (30 minutes or longer). But if you want an effective solution for clogged drains throughout your home, this reasonably priced product is hard to beat.

Best for Shower: Pequa Drain Opener

Pequa Drain Opener

Courtesy of Home Depot

If you're not diligent about cleaning the hair from the drain in your shower or bathtub, you will probably end up with clogged pipes at one point or another. In these cases, you need a heavy-duty drain cleaner that can dissolve the wads of tangled hair, helping your shower drain properly.

The Pequa Drain Opener is a highly-rated product for both commercial and residential use, and it gets top marks from users who say it's their go-to drain opener. This product comes in a 64-ounce bottle, and it can dissolve all organic matter, including hair and grease. This drain opener is fast-acting, but it's environmentally safe and won't harm your pipes. Several reviewers say they’ve successfully used this drain opener on stubborn shower or tub clogs, but many note that it works well on kitchen drains, too.

Best for Sink: Rockwell Invade Bio Drain Gel

Rockwell Invade Bio Drain Gel

Courtesy of Walmart

If your kitchen sink isn't draining properly, you may want to try Invade Bio Drain Gel, which not only fights clogs, but helps to eradicate drain flies in the process.

This product comes in one-quart bottles, and it has a citrus smell you won't mind in the kitchen. The drain opener effectively cuts through scum and other organic matter, sticking to the walls of the drain to clear tough clogs. What's better, this product can also eliminate drain flies, which can be tough to get rid of in the kitchen or bathroom. According to reviewers, this product works well, clearing up pipes and killing drain flies, all while leaving a pleasant orange scent behind.

Best for Septic System: Bio-Clean Drain Septic Bacteria

Bio-Clean Drain Septic Bacteria

Courtesy of Amazon

If you have a septic system, it's best to stay away from harsh chemical drain openers, as they can harm your plumbing. Instead, you'll want to use a septic system-friendly product such as Bio-clean Drain Septic Bacteria.

This powder formula uses a combination of natural bacteria and enzymes to cut through organic waste in your pipes. It is effective on grease, hair, soap scum, food particles, and more. Because it doesn't affect inorganic materials, it's safe for use on all plumbing systems, including septic tanks. Reviewers say that if you use the product as directed over the course of several days, it will effectively clear up any clogs or backups, allowing your pipes to drain better than ever.

Best for Garbage Disposal: Green Gobbler Refresh Drain & Disposal Deodorizer

Green Gobbler Refresh 32 oz

Courtesy of Home Depot

Similar to septic tanks, heavy duty chemical drain openers may damage your garbage disposal, so you need to be careful about what you put down your sink. To effectively unclog your drain and freshen up your garbage disposal, try the Green Gobbler Refresh Concentrate Garbage Disposal, Drain Cleaner, and Deodorizer.

This product comes in 32-ounce bottles and contains a special blend of bacteria that digest and liquefy food particles, grease, fats, and oils. The thick formula will stick to the blades of your garbage disposal, cleaning and deodorizing the appliance. This product is septic system-friendly, and it has an orange scent that will leave your sink smelling nice. Reviewers say it is easy to use and effectively reduces odors in garbage disposals.

Best for Hair: Instant Power Hair and Grease Drain Cleaner

Instant Power

Courtesy of Home Depot

Built-up hair can create tough clogs in shower drains, so you're going to need a heavy-duty drain opener to get rid of these backups. The Instant Power Hair and Grease Drain Opener has hundreds of positive reviews that say it's an easy-to-use product that's incredibly reliable and effective.

This drain opener comes in a 68-ounce bottle, and its formula is designed to dissolve hair and melt grease. It's safe to use on all types of pipes, as well as with septic systems, and it is an odorless, fume-less product. If you don't believe how good this drain opener is, just read reviews from the hundreds of happy users, who say it works quickly to get rid of tough clogs in the bathroom and kitchen. Many say it has even worked on clogs that plumbers couldn't solve!

Best for Grease: Instant Power Main Line Cleaner

Instant Power 128 oz. Main Line Cleaner

Courtesy of Home Depot

Grease is another common culprit when it comes to stubborn drain clogs. To get rid of your grease-induced or smelly plumbing problems, you'll need a product like the Instant Power Main Line Cleaner.

This highly-rated product comes in one-gallon jugs, and it uses a powerful formula to dissolve hair, grease, and other gunk that accumulates in drains. It's safe for use on all types of pipes and with septic systems, and many people use it to open both main sewer and lateral lines. Numerous reviewers say this product was recommended to them by a plumber, and several note that it is incredibly effective on grease clogs.

Best Beads: Comstar Pure Lye Bead Drain Opener

ComStar 024924305003 Pure Lye Bead Drain Opener

Courtesy of Amazon

Most drain openers are a liquid or gel formula, but there are some products that come in other forms, such as the ComStar Pure Lye Bead Drain Opener. This product is made of 99 percent pure lye beads that are industrial strength and can clear out even the toughest pipe clogs.

Each container has one pound of product, and the lye beads will sink to the bottom of standing water, reaching the cause of blockage and breaking up tough clogs. The formula is odorless and non-acidic, making it safe to use with plastic pipes, grease traps, and septic systems. Perhaps the most compelling reason to buy this product is the glowing reviews from users who say it cut through tough drain backups where other products failed.

Final Verdict

For a great all-around drain cleaner, you can’t go wrong with Drano Max Gel Clog Remover (view at Amazon). Its thick formula cuts through standing water, allowing it to quickly dissolve even the toughest clogs. However, if you need a drain cleaner that’s specifically made for showers, opt for the Pequa Drain Opener (view at Home Depot).

What to Look for in a Drain Cleaner

Type of Clog

Not all drain cleaners are effective for every type of clog, so verify that the pick you're choosing will work on the type of clog you suspect you're dealing with. Bathroom clogs are more likely to be caused by scum and hair, while kitchen clogs usually require a formula that is effective against grease.

Time of Exposure

While some formulas can work in as little as 20 minutes, others do best when left overnight to unclog your drain. Pay close attention to the amount of cleaner to use and how long to leave it sitting to avoid wasting money or time.

System Compatibility

If you have plastic pipes, a septic tank, or a garbage disposal, take extra care when picking a drain cleaner. Not all cleaners are safe for all pipe types or for septic tanks, but ones that are will list it on the container.

FAQ
  • How do drain cleaners work?

    Drain cleaners use strong chemicals that initiate a chemical reaction in your drain. Drain cleaners either take or give electrons to the substance that's clogging your drain, which generates heat and dissolves grease to clear the blockage.

  • Are drain cleaners safe for septic systems?

    Most drain cleaners add chemicals that can interfere with or kill the bacteria in your septic system, which can harm your tank's ecosystem. Look carefully for products that are safe to use on septic systems and assume most chemical drain cleaning products won't work for a septic system.

  • What is the active ingredient in most drain cleaners?

    The active ingredient in most drain cleaners is sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye. Lye can dissolve most organic matter, including hair and grease.

Why Trust The Spruce?

Additional reporting and research was done by Lauren Murphy, an experienced writer and editor who specializes in DIYs, home upgrades, and other home-related topics.

Updated by
Lauren Murphy
Lauren Murphy
Lauren Murphy is a DIY expert and writer with over five years of hands-on experience cooking, crafting, and making home decor projects. She has a degree in Environmental Science from Western Washington University and continues to be passionate about environmentally friendly DIY projects. Lauren has also written for Earth 911, Forbes Advisor, and HuffPost.
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  1. 10 Best Drain Cleaners for Tackling Tough Clogs, Tested by Home Care Experts. Good Housekeeping. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/cleaning/g31153987/best-drain-cleaners/

  2. The Best Drain Cleaners of 2022. Bob Vila. https://www.bobvila.com/articles/best-drain-cleaner/