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Which Drain-Cleaning Product Should I Use?

Kaley Belakovich
Written by Kaley Belakovich
Updated June 15, 2021
Broken garbage disposal
Choose your drain cleaning methods wisely if you want to avoid expensive repairs, especially if you're working with a garbage disposal. (Photo by Summer Galyan)

Wonder what you should use to unclog your drain? Plumbers give advice on unplugging your pipes.

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Drain-cleaning products can contain acids, which eat away at your pipes. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sally Z. of Grandville, Michigan)

The short answer: None.

Most popular drain-cleaning products contain acids, which eat away at the pipes and cause rust, says Jerry Courtney, owner of Commercial Team Plumbing and Drains in Plainfield, Indiana.

Russ Graves of Pipe Dream Plumbing says he doesn’t typically recommend products either, for the same reasons Courtney outlined. Graves, who owns the Westside Indianapolis company, adds that products like Drano or Liquid-Plumr only partially dissolve the clog and push it down, which can lead to a bigger backup in the future.

However, if you’re determined to use a liquid drain cleaner, he suggests Bio-Clean, because it uses enzymes and bacteria, not acid, to clear the clog. The bacteria in the formula eat away at the waste, hair and other materials clogging the drain. Bio-Clean isn’t sold in stores, but you can search for a dealer near you by entering your ZIP code at bio-clean.com.

Both local plumbers say using a snake is the most effective way to clean a drain. They cost anywhere from $10 to $200, depending on size and whether you choose an electric or manual snake. It costs $30 to $40 a day to rent one. If you call a plumber to unplug your pipes, expect to pay $150 to $300, depending on the severity and location of the clog.

The best way to avoid clogs is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. Courtney says to be mindful of what you put down the drain, adding that feminine hygiene products cause the most clogs.

But the real key to prevention is water, Graves says. “If you use your garbage disposal, run a lot of water,” he says. “If you brush your teeth and have toothpaste in the bathroom sink, run a lot of water. Everything is usually about saving water, but in this case, you’re probably better off using a little bit more.”

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