The 9 Best Drain Cleaners to Unclog Showers, Sinks, Toilets, and More

We like Drano’s Max Gel Clog Remover because it’s highly effective and reasonably priced.

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Fewer things are more frustrating than a slow-flowing or clogged drain at home. Whether it's from hair, kitchen grease, or toilet paper, buildup in a drain can damage your pipes and lead to hiring an expensive plumber down the road. Luckily, there are many effective drain cleaners on the market that are strong enough to unclog all types of drains.

To find the best drain cleaners, we spent hours researching various formulas while considering factors such as type, ingredients (like chemical vs. natural), and the ability to clear certain drains and pipes. We also spoke to two cleaning experts—Alicia Johnson, owner of Cleaning Green LLC, and Ray Brosnan, co-founder of Brosnan Property Solutions—for tips and insight on how drain cleaners work and exactly what to look for when buying one.

Our top pick is Drano Max Gel Clog Remover, which is also a favorite among cleaning experts. Its powerful gel formula is safe for most drains and pipes and capable of quickly clearing up the toughest clogs in bathtubs, sinks, garbage disposals, and septic systems.

Here are the best drain cleaners to unclog sinks, showers, toilets, and more.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall Drain Cleaner: Drano Max Gel Clog Remover

Best Drain Cleaners
Amazon.com

Also available at Walmart and Target.

Who it's for: People who want to quickly get rid of tough clogs in most drains and pipes.

Who it isn't for: People who are dealing with toilet clogs or those who would rather use a natural drain cleaner.

Experts agree: Drano Max Gel is the best overall drain cleaner because it works quickly to get rid of tough clogs. This reliable and effective cleaner is a thick gel that goes deep in sinks, pipes, and drains to reach the source of the clog and completely dissolve it. Whether the clog is from hair, soap scum, grease, or any other type of residue, this drain cleaner works within 15 to 30 minutes after flushing it with very hot water. While it may take two tries to be fully successful, this cleaner is so powerful that it will quickly become the first thing you reach for when you need to unclog a drain.

This product is safe to use in showers, sinks, tubs, as well as septic systems, garbage disposals, PVC pipes, and metal pipes—but it's important to note that it's not safe to use in toilets. Like most drain cleaners, Drano Max Gel contains chemical ingredients that can be harmful if swallowed or in contact with the skin or eyes. We also appreciate that Drano Max Gel is reasonably priced, yet it still comes with a money-back guarantee. If it fails to unclog your drain, then you can file a claim online for reimbursement.

Product Details:

  • Type: Gel
  • Size: 80 ounces

Best Natural Drain Cleaner: Earthworm Drain Cleaner

Best Drain Cleaners
Amazon.com

Also available at Earthworm.

Who it's for: People with moderate clogs who prefer to use products made with natural ingredients.

Who it isn't for: People who need a fast-acting product would be better off with a chemical drain cleaner.

Unlike other cleaning products, finding drain cleaners made with natural or organic ingredients is quite the challenge. But Earthworm's Drain Cleaner and Buildup Remover was an easy choice as our pick for the best natural drain cleaner. Instead of harsh chemicals, this liquid cleaner is formulated with natural enzymes that are still tough enough to break down buildup and dissolve moderate clogs—all without damaging your pipes. It's ideal for dissolving hair, soap scum, toothpaste, and other organic materials. Even though it may require a few tries to fully dissolve a clog, this product's best feature might be its aromatic citrus and sage scent that leaves sinks and garbage disposals smelling fresh.

Overall, this cleaner is a great choice for anyone looking to unclog their drain using safe and natural ingredients, particularly in households with small children or pets. We also like that this drain cleaner is from a women- and family-owned brand.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 32, 64, and 128 ounces

Best Drain Cleaner for Hair: Liquid-Plumr Hair Eliminator Gel

Best Drain Cleaners
Amazon.com

Also available at Walmart and Target.

Who it's for: People with tough hair clogs, especially in the shower or bathroom sink.

Who it isn't for: People who need a drain cleaner for garbage disposals or toilets.

The most common cause of a blocked drain, especially in the shower, is hair. When it comes to getting rid of those tough clogs, Liquid-Plumr Hair Eliminator Gel is your best bet. According to the brand, this thick gel cleaner can tackle tough hairballs in just 15 minutes after rinsing and flushing away with hot water. While excessive cold or heat can cause this cleaner to clump in the bottle, its effectiveness remains strong and is safe to use for septic systems and all pipes including those made with PVC, plastic, and copper. However, this cleaner is not intended for use in garbage disposals or toilets.

This drain cleaner for hair clogs is much more powerful than the brand's original clog remover. Plus, experts love how effective this drain cleaner is in a single use, especially compared to others that can take several tries (or more than one bottle) to unclog a drain. Due to the small size of the bottle, severe clogs or multiple clogged drains will likely require purchasing more than one bottle. But considering its budget-friendly price, this powerful drain cleaner for hair clogs is definitely worth buying.

Product Details:

  • Type: Gel
  • Size: 16 ounces

Best Drain Cleaner for Sinks: Rockwell InVade Bio Drain Gel

Best Drain Cleaners
Amazon.com

Also available at Walmart.

Who it's for: People with standing water, strong odors, or flies around their clogged sinks.

Who it isn't for: People who want a more affordable cleaner to use once or twice.

When there's a clog in a kitchen or bathroom sink, standing water and strong odors are sure to attract pesky flies and gross bacteria. To effectively clear away these clogs and bugs in almost any sink, Rockwell's InVade Bio Drain Gel is the best choice. Formulated with microbes and essential citrus oil (and without harsh chemicals or fumes), this thick gel cleaner is successful at eliminating odors, scum, grease, food debris, and the notorious "sugar snake," which is a buildup of sugar and other gunk in the drain that feeds bacteria and grows in the form of a snake. This drain cleaner is also known for its powerful ability to kill and prevent fruit flies, gnats, and other flies that tend to hang around the moist environment of a clogged sink.

Even though this drain cleaner is on the pricier side, when used as directed by the label (four ounces poured into the drain daily for one week), the gallon-sized bottle can last for 32 applications. It's made with naturally derived ingredients that make it safe enough to use in soda fountain drip trays, garbage disposals, and mop buckets.

Product Details:

  • Type: Gel
  • Size: 128 ounces

Best Drain Cleaner for Toilets: Green Gobbler Ultimate Main Line Drain Opener

Best Drain Cleaners
Amazon.com

Also available at Walmart.

Who it's for: People with clogged toilets who want a natural, enzymatic cleaner.

Who it isn't for: People who need a fast-acting cleaner for other drains in their home.

Most drain cleaners are not suitable for toilets for several reasons: Any bleach left behind from cleaning a toilet combined with the ammonia commonly found in drain cleaners will produce a toxic gas called chloramine. Additionally, most drain cleaners are abrasive, which can cause damage to your pipes. But the Green Gobbler Ultimate Main Line Drain Opener is formulated with non-chemical ingredients that make it ideal for toilet clogs. This non-corrosive and odorless liquid can eliminate toilet paper, baby wipes, and other buildup that may clog your toilets. It can also be used in sinks, garbage disposals, bathtubs, septic systems, and all types of pipes.

Johnson prefers the Green Gobbler drain cleaner for its biodegradable and non-hazardous ingredients, which include natural enzyme-producing bacteria that feed and break down whatever is causing the clog. This is exactly what makes this enzymatic cleaner safe to use in toilets, unlike other caustic or acidic cleaners. Even though this product is much more expensive than our top pick, we think its versatility, cleaning power, and safe ingredients are worth it—especially if you need to unclog a toilet drain.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 64 ounces

Best Drain Cleaner for Grease: Pequa Heavy Duty Drain Opener

Best Drain Cleaners
Homedepot.com

Also available at Home Depot.

Who it's for: People with grease or oil clogging their drains.

Who it isn't for: People who want a drain cleaner that is easy to find in any store.

Most people know that you should avoid pouring grease down the kitchen sink to prevent clogs and damage to drains and pipes. But in those inevitable times when grease ends up in the drain, Pequa's Heavy Duty Drain Opener is the most effective option. This liquid cleaner is quick to clear all organic debris and residue (like grease, hair, and soap scum), and it's safe to use on nearly every type of pipe, whether in a residential or commercial setting.

The fast-acting product is particularly powerful enough to keep kitchen drains clean, but it can be a great option for shower and bathroom sink clogs, too. This product is made in the U.S., but unfortunately it's quite the hidden gem because it isn't easy to find in most big-box retailers.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 64 ounces

Best Enzymatic Drain Cleaner: Bio-Clean Bacteria Waste Eliminator

Best Drain Cleaners
Amazon.com

Also available at Bio-Clean.

Who it's for: People who want a natural enzymatic drain cleaner for tough clogs.

Who it isn't for: People on a tight budget who need an affordable drain cleaner.

By now you probably know that enzymes are naturally occurring bacteria that break down residue. Bio-Clean is our favorite enzymatic drain cleaner for its efficient and biodegradable formula that doesn't compromise its cleaning power. All the organic waste and buildup found in drains (like hair, soap scum, and paper) act as food for the bacteria in this drain cleaner. It will feed on, swallow, and digest the clog, ultimately clearing your drain. Because the formula in Bio-Clean only affects organic matter, it will not damage your pipes and other inorganic materials. As a bonus, this product has environmentally-friendly ingredients that will not create harmful fumes.

Since this drain cleaner comes in the form of a naturally derived powder, it might take a few tries (or even a few days) to fully restore the flow of your clogged drain. But with monthly maintenance treatments, you'll likely notice that slow-running drains aren't a problem anymore. Like other natural enzymatic drain cleaners, this product is safe to use in bathrooms, kitchens, grease traps, septic systems, garbage disposals, and even kitty litter pans. While this drain cleaner is on the pricier side, each canister has enough product for up to 100 chemical-free treatments.

Product Details:

  • Type: Powder
  • Size: 32 ounces

Best Crystal Drain Cleaner: Insta-Flo Odorless Drain Cleaner

Best Drain Cleaners
Amazon.com

Also available at Walmart.

Who it's for: People with slow drains or severe clogs.

Who it isn't for: People who don't want to flush the drain with boiling water after using this cleaner.

Most of the recommendations on our list come in liquid and gel form, but crystal formulas are the strongest type of chemical drain cleaner. We like Insta-Flo's Odorless Drain Cleaner since it's a non-acidic crystal cleaner that can clear out clogged drains extremely fast—in just 60 seconds, according to the brand. It's mostly used for severe clogs in slow-draining sinks and tubs. "It's best to use hot to boiling water to activate its magic since high temperature allows the crystals to dissolve and remove any debris," says Johnson.

Insta-Flo Odorless Drain Cleaner can clear out all types of clogs, but it is not suitable for use in toilets or garbage disposals. Despite its crystal form, this product is safe to use on porcelain, chrome trim, polished brass, plastic, or metal pipes.

Product Details:

  • Type: Crystal
  • Size: 16 ounces

Best Drain Cleaner for Prevention: CLR Clear Pipes and Drains Monthly Build-Up Remover

Best Drain Cleaners
Amazon.com

Also available at Walmart.

Who it's for: People who want to prevent future clogs using natural ingredients.

Who it isn't for: People who want a fast-acting drain cleaner for existing clogs.

One of the best ways to avoid future clogs is by using a preventative drain cleaner. This regular drain maintenance may not seem like the most exciting task, but avoiding a clog can save time, money, and headaches in the long run. That's why we recommend CLR Clear Pipes and Drains Monthly Build-Up Remover. This product is non-toxic, free of caustic chemicals, and formulated with natural bacteria to dissolve clogs at the source. It's also an EPA Safer Choice product, which means that it meets strict criteria for ingredients, performance, packaging, and more.

To keep blockages away, the label suggests using this cleaner monthly (preferably overnight or during times of minimal water usage) on bathroom drains, kitchen drains, and garbage disposals. This product can be used to successfully clear drains of everything from toothpaste to hair to food particles to oil. It takes some time to work and requires a few tries for the best results, but it's still the best choice when it comes to maintaining drains and pipes to prevent clogs down the line.

Product Details:

  • Type: Liquid
  • Size: 42 ounces

Final Verdict

Our best overall pick for drain cleaners is Drano Max Gel Clog Remover, which also comes recommended by experts. We love that this formula works on every type of drain pipe and can clear just about any clog. For a natural choice that's just as effective at unclogging drains, we suggest Bio-Clean's Drain Septic Bacteria, which is a powerful enzymatic drain cleaner.

How to Shop for Drain Cleaners Like a Pro

Type

There are two basic types of drain cleaners: natural (enzymatic) and chemical (caustic or acidic). From there, they can come in several forms including liquid, gel, foam, powder, or crystals. Chemical cleaners are highly effective, but they're formulated with harsher ingredients such as sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, which may cause some damage to pipes if used incorrectly or too frequently. Enzymatic cleaners are formulated with natural bacteria, which makes them safe for the environment but slower to unclog drains than chemical cleaners.

To determine which type is best for you, it's important to consider the type of clog you're dealing with, how quickly you need the clog resolved, and the material and age of your pipes. (Old lead pipes, for example, might only be able to handle a natural cleaner.)

Use

While most drain cleaners are created with the same goal in mind, some are designed for a particular use, such as unclogging a toilet or a kitchen sink filled with grease. The drain cleaner you choose will have to be compatible with the type of clog you have and how you intend to use it. If you're only looking for a preventative method, then a drain cleaner formulated for hair clogs might not be the most effective choice. On the other hand, if you need to quickly unclog a lot of hair so that you can comfortably take a shower, then using a slow-acting enzymatic cleaner may cause even more frustration.

Time

It's important to decide if time is a considerable factor in choosing a drain cleaner. Enzymatic cleaners take longer to work because they use natural ingredients, while chemical cleaners are fast-acting because they use harsher ingredients. Some products begin working in just about a minute, but others may take a few minutes, hours, or even days. If after several tries your drain is still not clear, Brosnan recommends trying out drain-cleaning tools such as a snake or plunger.

Questions You Might Ask

How do drain cleaners work?

Natural drain cleaners use enzymes to break down and "digest" the clog to fully dissolve it. Chemical cleaners work similarly, breaking down clogs through heat generated by a chemical reaction. To know if your drain cleaner is working, check for standing water after pouring the cleaner—and always flush with hot or boiling water.

Do drain cleaners damage pipes?

Plastic and old pipes are particularly vulnerable to damage, so it's imperative to know the material of your pipes before choosing a chemical cleaner. Enzymatic cleaners, however, will not eat through or damage inorganic material like pipes.

"If the chemicals used for the manufacturing of the drain cleaner are too strong for the pipe material to handle, then yes, they can damage pipes," says Johnson. "The brand label will almost always mention where the drain cleaner should be used."

Using drain cleaner too frequently can lead to potential pipe damage, and one sign of damage is if it doesn't flush thoroughly after using the product.

Do drain cleaners expire?

As is the case with most cleaning products, drain cleaners will not technically expire, but will begin to lose their effectiveness over time. According to Johnson, drain cleaners can last about two years.

Take Our Word for It

This article was written by L. Daniela Alvarez, a contributing writer for Real Simple with nearly three years of experience writing about lifestyle content and product reviews. To compile this list, she spent hours researching drain cleaners and narrowing down the best options based on the formula, suggested use, overall value, and more. She also received tips on how to shop for drain cleaners from Alicia Johnson, cleaning expert and owner of Cleaning Green LLC, and Ray Brosnan, cleaning expert and co-founder of Brosnan Property Solutions.

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