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How to Unclog Using a Drain Cleaner? – Definitive Guide

A drain cleaner is a commonly used product to clean pipes and blocked sewage systems. Drain cleaners can be broadly categorized into two types. One would be chemical drain cleaners, mostly used to clear our blockages and obstructions. These contain chemical reagents that react with the blocked substance and help to break it down. These can be later removed using a stream of water. Mechanical, physical or homemade drain cleaners are used for a deeper cleaning process with multiple blockages. Depending on the type of blockages, you can find a drain cleaner or a tool suited to your needs. Know more and find out how to use drain cleaner.

Different Types of Drain Cleaners on Market

Plumber’s Snake Drain Cleaner

These are shaped like a coiled helix and can be used to reach ends and corners with relative ease. The operator has to crank a handle at its end to make sure it is operational. If an obstruction is tougher to remove, the first step would be to break it down into tinier pieces. These are generally also known as augers. They are available in a wide range of options. One would be a hand auger. They are generally opted as the best drain cleaner for hair. This is generally used to clean up sinks and bathtubs. They are not used for unclogging toilets as they get stuck in grooves.

Drain Plunger

A drain plunger is one of most common tools used within households to help unclog sinks and drains. Most plungers consist of a rubber or plastic suction cup attached at the end of a wood or plastic stick. A plunger is generally pushed into and against drain openings to help unclog them. This works by either pushing air up or down the drain. A plunger works best if water is already present in the toilet bowl. This is because water is tougher to compress than air and helps push materials down the drain.

Wire Brushes

These are another essential tool for cleaning your pipes. The brushes work almost like a toothbrush. If your clog is relatively near the surface, you can use it as a handy tool to force out gunk. Using a little bit of elbow grease and a jet of water will wash away accumulated clog in this case.

Cleaning Drums

These contain sink lines in the diameter range of 0.75 to 10 inches. Their main purpose is to churn water at high torque and deliver it to the site of the clog. Depending on the type of blockages you are facing, they provide solutions in line cables and cutters. They are ideal for cleaning up both soft and hard blockages. It is a good idea to wear gloves when using these.

Chemical Drain Cleaners

  • Caustic Drain Cleaner: These liquid drain cleaners contain lye and caustic potash, among other ingredients. Because they’re bases, they donate electrons to obstructing material, and their hydroxide ions initiate a clog-clearing reaction. Their alkaline or basic components release heat and transform grease into a soap-like substance that easily dissolves. Because these heavy duty drain cleaners are often heavier than water, they can reach obstruction even if there is standing water.
  • Oxidizing Drain Cleaners: These contain household bleach, peroxides, and nitrates, among other things. organic material in the clog loses electrons and becomes oxidized due to these substances. The product is heavier than water to move through standing water, and it releases heat and gas to help clear blockage.
  • Acid Drain Cleaners: These cleaners aren’t widely available in stores, and some are only available to plumbers. High amounts of sulfuric acid or hydrochloric acid, chemicals that enhance hydronium ions in a solution and attract electrons from blockage, are commonly found in these. Hydronium ions react chemically with clog’s substance, releasing heat required to melt congealed grease.

Hydro Jetting

This is a relatively new method of cleaning out pipes. This is also considered a green solution when it comes to removing clogging. These use a pressurized nozzle and high water to clean out areas. A flexible hose is attached to the end of the nozzle to spray water. This method is great for cleaning sludge, soap and calcified deposits. These are great for removing an assortment of objects from your pipes. Unlike chemical cleaners, these do not affect the environment in any way. They do not leave behind any toxins or byproducts after cleaning. They also maintain the longevity of metal pipes by not reacting with them.

Air-Burst Drains Cleaning

Method uses accelerated inert gases such as carbon dioxide to push out effluents and unclog pipes. gas is released at high enough pressures to break down contaminants into smaller components. This is faster than chemical drain cleaning since you do not have to wait for the reagent to set in and start its work. This method can give you more efficient results with just a little bit of time and patience. It can also reach down into areas that are not easily accessible. It also does not corrode or damage your pipe in any way.

How to Use Drain Cleaner?

  • The first step would be to locate where buildup is happening and then remove it.
  • Before you start any process on your sink, it is a good idea to remove everything from countertops. Ensure that you protect nearby surfaces too.
  • Next, pour some boiling hot water down the sink or drain to try and dislodge the clog within it.
  • Now gradually unscrew the strainer from the bottom of the sink or pipe. Ensure you clean thoroughly around it to remove any excess deposits.
  • Now you can adjust a plunger on the mouth of the sink and start moving it in vertical motions.
  • Next would be to place buckets or containers underneath taps to catch any water that will flow out. You can check your sink to see if there is any trap located at the base of it. Pull it to release all clogged-up debris.

How to Clean your Drain Using Chemical Cleaner?

  • If the above steps do not yield the desired result, you can always go for a stronger option like chemical drain cleaners. These are quite dangerous and need to be kept from anything contaminating. While using these, it is advisable to wear protective gear.
  • Pour in a chemical drain cleaner and wait for the prescribed amount of time mentioned on packaging. After time has passed, use a strong jet of water or force to push all the slurry out. This is a byproduct of chemicals reacting with debris inside pipes.
  • You can always reach out to professional plumbing services to help clear out your drains in case of other requirements.
  • The next important step would be to maintain drains. This is to avoid future blockages and repeat the entire unclogging process all over again.

It is a never ending debate of what is the best drain cleaner & which method works best. Many alternatives are available in markets to help maintain drains. Some of them contain natural products like bacteria and enzymes. These are applied to sinks every month. These natural additives in compounds help break down organic matter in debris. So, for instance, if you have hair stuck within your pipe, bacteria will decompose it down to a liquid. This liquid would wash down with water at a later stage.


While it may seem like taking care of your drains seems like a massive chore, in reality, a few preemptive actions can help you out a lot. It is always good to ensure that your drains are maintained properly. It is recommended to stuff your drain with trash you could’ve thrown into a bin. Apart from that, clean drains generally prevent overflows and are much more sanitary. Clean drains would also prevent bacteria buildup and reduce risks associated with a wide variety of health issues. You can always contact your local plumber when the situation is out of hand and you need better maintenance.