Top 10 Best Chemicals for Clogged Sewer Line

If you are experiencing clogged sinks, showers, tubs, or toilets, your first step should always be to plunge the drain or snake it with a drain auger to clear the drains without damaging the plumbing. However, if manual methods fail, the use of the best chemical for clogged sewer lines can reduce the cost of a plumber.

Despite not being appropriate for completely clogged drains, chemical- or enzyme-based solutions can be effective in de-gunking partially clogged drains. Our guide identifies the best chemicals for clogged sewer lines for every type of slow drain you may encounter, along with instructions on how to use each product effectively. We have carefully selected the top picks below based on a comprehensive market review and thorough product vetting.

Types of Chemicals for Clogged Sewer Line

The three types of liquid drain cleaners are enzymatic, caustic, and acidic, suitable for removing tough clogs in different drain locations and types of pipes and clogs. To assist in removing stubborn grease clogs frequently encountered in kitchen sinks, some liquid drain cleaners are also designed for use with drain snakes.

In order to identify the type of clog, you should remove the drain cover (if present) and inspect the drain opening with a flashlight. Clogs near the opening can be identified as hair, paper, etc.

Tip: If the clog is deeper, make an educated guess based on its location (kitchen sinks often collect food and grease, bathroom sinks and tubs often accumulate hair and soap scum, and toilets can accumulate paper products). In order to determine the type of clog, professionals may use a drain camera to run through the pipe and inspect the resulting images.

Enzymatic 

Enzymatic drain cleaners contain enzyme-producing bacteria like bacillus that feed on clogs. Their purpose is to prevent clogs and to clear clogs caused by soft material such as hair or paper, but not tougher gunk such as grease or soap scum. However, they can take up to 24 hours to clear even a soft clog. In contrast, an enzymatic drain cleaner is environmentally friendly and ideal for cleaning septic tanks.

A typical formulation of these products tends to be mild and noncorrosive to newer and older plastic and metal drain pipes in sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets. These products tend to be free of harmful toxins and skin/eye irritants as well, so protective gear is usually not necessary.

Caustic 

An alkaline chemical, such as sodium hydroxide, is used in the manufacture of caustic drain cleaners, which dissolve clogs in plain water by converting them into soapy substances. They’re best at removing food, grease, and soap scum from bathroom sinks, garbage disposals, showers, or tub drains—usually within 30 minutes. However, most are not designed for use in toilets since they do not handle paper products well.

Plastic or metal pipes made of stainless steel or copper are considered safe for use with caustic cleaners (newer than 20 years old). They should not be used on plastic pipes older than 20 years (which can soften), older metal pipes, or brass, aluminum chrome, or galvanized steel pipes of any age, as they can tarnish or corrode.

It is important to wear a respiratory mask, safety glasses, skin covering clothing, and gloves made of a chemical-resistant material such as butyl when handling these products, since they are less toxic than acidic cleaners (and usually odorless).

Acidic 

Acidic drain cleaners are typically made from sulfuric or hydrochloric acid and are highly effective at clearing heavy-duty clogs in 15 minutes or less, such as hair, food, grease, soap scum, or paper-based clogs. In general, acidic drain cleaners are safe for newer plastic and metal pipes (e.g., copper) in sink, tub, shower, and toilet drains.

The products should not be used on older plastic or metal pipes or old pipes made from aluminum chrome, stainless steel, or galvanized steel. If inhaled, they can burn the skin and irritate the lungs and eyes, therefore wearing protective equipment—respirators, safety glasses, skin-covering clothing, and chemical-resistant gloves—is essential.

Our Top Picks

We selected our top choices based on their quality and efficacy. Special attention was given to the types of drain cleaners mentioned above to assist shoppers in finding the best chemical to unclog clogged sewers.

1. Liquid-Plumr Pro-Strength Hair Clog Eliminator

It is common for soap scum and hair to become clogged in showers and tubs. Liquid-Plumr drain cleaner is designed to clear shower and tub clogs because it contains a powerful caustic cleaning formula, which is designed specifically to dissolve hair. After the drain cleaner has been poured into the drain pipes for approximately 15 minutes, rinse them with hot water to remove any remaining cleaning solution.

It can be used on PVC, plastic, copper, and even older pipes without corroding the joints or damaging the interior of the pipe. It is not recommended for use on toilets or garbage disposals.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Caustic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 15 minutes

Pros

  • Fast working time
  • Specifically formulated to dissolve hair clogs
  • Use for sink, shower, or septic system clogs
  • Safe for PVC, plastic, copper, and older pipes

Cons

  • Not suitable for toilets or garbage disposals

2. Drano Dual-force foamer clog remover

In contrast to liquids or gels, this caustic Drano drain cleaner is a foaming solution that expands as soon as it is poured into the drain. Usually, liquids and gels run directly to the clog, because they are more influenced by gravity, so some areas are left untreated. As the drain cleaner expands, it fills the entire pipe, ensuring that the cleaner contacts every interior surface.

Additionally, this method takes about 60 minutes to work, and the drain cleaner is not effective in standing water or toilets. However, the method can help remove foul odors and dissolve hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Caustic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 60 minutes

Pros

  • Safe for all pipes and garbage disposals
  • Foam solution fills the entire pipe
  • Removes odors
  • 5-bottle value pack

Cons

  • Not designed for toilets or standing water
  • Slow working time

3. Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver

This Green Gobbler enzymatic cleaner contains a proprietary blend of eco-friendly ingredients that gobble up toilet paper wads, cotton swabs, hair, lint, grease, and soap scum clogs. The non-corrosive, biodegradable formula is compatible with all kinds of pipes, from plastic to copper, and can be used in kitchen or bathroom sinks, showers, and even toilets.

The dual-chambered container means no measuring required—just pour one full chamber of the liquid into clogged sinks or tubs or two full chambers into toilets. In order to restore pipes to pristine condition, allow the product to dwell for two hours to a full night and then flush with water afterward.

Product Specs

  • Type: Enzymatic
  • Suitable for: Hair, toilet paper, cotton swabs, lint, grease, soap scum
  • Working Time: 120 minutes

Pros

  • Eco-friendly
  • Safe for septic systems, garbage disposals, and toilets
  • Odorless formula
  • Effective, even in standing water

Cons

  • Lengthy working time

4. Thrift Marketing GIDDS-TY-0400879 Drain Cleaner

Thrift Marketing’s caustic drain cleaner will eliminate tough clogs almost instantly. Simply run hot water into the drain or pour hot water from a pot or kettle into the drain and simultaneously pour the specified amount of drain cleaner into the drain. As a result of the hot water, the drain cleaner dissolves and forms a powerful solution that works in less than one minute.

A powdered form of this odorless drain cleaner is designed to break down under hot running water and is not harmful to porcelain, chrome, plastic, or metal pipes. Using this product is ideal for cleaning grease traps and septic systems, but it is not suitable for clearing toilet clogs, garbage disposal blockages, or standing water problems.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Caustic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 1 minute

Pros

  • Almost instant results
  • Specifically formulated for grease traps and septic systems
  • Simply mix with hot water to activate
  • Odorless

Cons

  • Not suitable for toilets or garbage disposals

5. Amazing Products Liquid Fire Drain Line Opener

Liquid Fire acidic drain cleaner contains sulfuric acid. It is powerful enough to clear sink and toilet clogs that other cleaners leave behind. Pour 1.5 to 2 cups of the cleaner into a drain, allow it to sit for 15 minutes, and flush with cold water for 5 minutes.

As stated by the manufacturer, it will not damage plastic and acid-resistant metal pipes (copper). It can also be used in bathtubs or showers, however it should not be used in pipes made of corrosion-prone metals such as galvanized steel or aluminum.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Acidic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 15 minutes

Pros

  • Biodegradable formula
  • Thick consistency to help cleaner cling to pipes
  • Suitable for toilets, garbage disposals, sinks, and floor drains
  • Melts frozen pipes

Cons

  • May erupt violently from drain if poured into hot water

6. TubShroom Revolutionary Tub Drain Protector

In addition to preventing drain clogs, TubShroom’s drain protector catches hair, food, grease, fat, and soap scum that cause clogs, and prevents them from making their way down the drain.

Drain protectors are designed to prevent hair from clogging drains in sinks, tubs, and showers. Simply insert the drain protector and leave it in place to prevent hair and debris from clogging the drain. Make sure you remove the drain protector regularly to remove any trapped debris and to clean it. Place it back in place to protect the drain.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Clog prevention
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: Instantly

Pros

  • Inexpensive and reusable
  • Doesn’t damage pipes
  • Easy to install and remove
  • Can be used in kitchen or bathroom drains

Cons

  • Must be used regularly

7. Drano Max Gel Drain Clog Remover and Cleaner

A thick viscosity in this Drano Max caustic drain cleaner allows the solution to adhere to the interior of the drain pipes as it flows toward the clog, which helps eliminate bad odors and clean the interior of the pipes. A typical solution is to pour approximately 1/5 of the bottle into the drain and allow it to sit for approximately 15 to 30 minutes. After flushing the drain with hot water, the clog should be cleared.

Although this drain cleaner cannot be used in toilets, it can be used in garbage disposals and septic systems. Follow the directions to prevent any possible accidents, such as turning on the disposal too soon, which can result in drain cleaner spraying out. Additionally, this product can be used to clear standing water clogs and restore wastewater flow into a septic system or to a municipal sewer system.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Caustic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 30 minutes

Pros

  • Works in standing water
  • Safe for garbage disposals and septic systems
  • Thick gel formula clings to the interior of pipes
  • On average, uses only ⅕-bottle per clog

Cons

  • Can’t use in the toilet

8. Bio-Clean Drain Drains-Septic Tanks – Grease Traps

It is safe to clean and maintain pipes, drains, and septic systems with Bio-Clean’s powder drain cleaner, which contains natural enzymes that digest clog-causing proteins. This natural cleaner is safe for pipes and skin because it does not contain harsh or dangerous chemicals. It is also effective at removing hair clogs and liquefying some paper products.

You should dissolve the powder in warm water and pour the mixture down the drain. You should wait at least six to eight hours before flushing it with water. This product does not act as quickly as some of the alternatives, but it is a natural product.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Enzymatic
  • Suitable for: Hair, food, grease, and soap scum clogs
  • Working Time: 6 to 8 hours

Pros

  • Environmentally friendly formula
  • Safe for all pipes
  • Won’t burn skin or produce toxic fumes
  • Effective solution for septic systems

Cons

  • Lengthy working time

9. FlexiSnake Drain Weasel Sink Snake Cleaner

You can quickly remove a hair clog with a drain snake, which features a 360-degree rotating handle that spins an 18-inch wand tipped with strong micro-hooks to grab clogged hair. This product includes five disposable wands in the package. Insert the rod, spin the hooks and remove the clog.

Product Specs 

  • Type: Physical
  • Suitable for: All clogs
  • Working Time: Variable

Pros

  • Micro-hooks easily grip hair, grime, and debris
  • Reusable handle and 5 disposable wands
  • 18-inch reach for shallow clogs
  • Safe for all pipes

Cons

  • Not effective beyond 18 inches

How We Chose the Best Drain Cleaners

As part of the process of curating this list, we analyzed each drain cleaner product and analyzed the chemical compounds as well as byproducts. We also considered the type of drain cleaner, the suitability of each product, and the average or expected working time of each product.

It was generally our preference to use drain cleaners with short working times, but we gave enzymatic products some leeway since they are environmentally friendly, safe for septic systems, and will not damage plumbing.

It is generally possible to use caustic or acidic selections within minutes, however the effectiveness of each product depends on its formula. Some products can be used in standing water, septic systems, and garbage disposals, while others are only effective in partial clogs. In addition, we preferred products that were more effective, such as clinging gels instead of liquids.

Tips for Using Chemicals for Clogged Sewer Line

You can use chemicals to clear clogged sewer lines safely and effectively by following these guidelines.

  • Follow the directions carefully, following specific amounts and dwell times. Do not leave drain cleaners in drains for longer than the maximum dwell time. If left too long, chemical cleaners can produce enough heat to melt pipes or crack porcelain toilet bowls.
  • Clean with caustic or acidic cleaners only in well-ventilated areas. Open windows or use exhaust fans to improve air circulation.
  • Pour drain cleaner outside of tubs or showers.
  • Pour the drain cleaner into the clogged drain slowly and steadily after removing the drain stopper.
  • In order to avoid etching drains, do not expose caustic cleaners to natural stone surfaces surrounding them (such as granite sinks). You should also avoid using acidic cleaners on non-acid-resistant surfaces (such as marble shower floors or stainless steel sinks) for the same reason. The manufacturers of chemical cleaners recommend applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly around drains to prevent discoloration or damage.
  • Do not mix drain cleaners with other homemade or commercial cleaners; a chemical reaction could result in toxic gas or an explosion.
  • Any remaining cleaner should be flushed with water at the temperature recommended by the manufacturer.

FAQs 

The following questions and answers provide more information on the benefits and drawbacks of drain cleaners, as well as tips to help reduce drain clogs.

Q: What clogs drains the most?

Clogs can result from a variety of substances; however, hair, soap, grease, fat, and oil are the most common. Tree roots are responsible for the majority of drain clogs outside the residence.

Q: Do vinegar and baking soda clean drains? 

In my opinion, vinegar and baking soda do not clean drains as effectively as boiling water and dish soap. Mixing baking soda with vinegar creates a chemical reaction that produces water, carbon dioxide, and sodium acetate, which has a pH level that is almost neutral. There are no cleaning properties within it that can effectively eliminate grease.

Q: Can drain cleaners damage pipes?

Depending on the type of cleaner, drain cleaners can damage the pipes. Despite being highly effective at clearing clogs, caustic and acidic drain cleaners can damage older plastic and metal pipes. Both cleaners appear safe for newer (within the past 20 years) plastic and copper pipes. To prevent damage to older plumbing, consider using an enzymatic cleaner.

Q: Can drain cleaners reduce odor?

Due to the fact that drain cleaners help clear clogs and eliminate foul-smelling waste from the interior of pipes, they generally reduce odors. Although drain cleaners can damage your pipes, you should only use them when a clog is present, not just a bad smell, and not to remove clogs.

Q: How do I stop hair from clogging the drain?

Hair clogs are best prevented by using a drain cover. Routine cleaning and maintenance will prevent sticky grime and sludge from coating the walls of pipes.

Q: Will shaving in the shower clog the drain?

A clog can be caused or aggravated by shaving, especially if you use a thick shaving cream or high-lather soap.

The Verdict

If you are dealing with bad odors or clogged kitchen drains, the five-pack of Drano clog remover may be a better option than Liquid-Plumr hair clog eliminator.

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