Chemical Drain Cleaners vs. Professional Drain Clearing

using chemical drain cleaner in a sink

If you’ve ever used a chemical drain cleaner, such as Liquid Plumber or Drano, you might be wondering if there’s any major difference between using one of those drain cleaners and getting your drains professionally cleaned. Is one method truly more effective than the other? Is one method more healthy and better for the environment? Is a professional drain clearing really worth the money?

To know the answers, it’s first necessary to understand how chemical drain cleaners work and how professional drain clearing methods work.

How Do Chemical Drain Cleaners Work?

Chemical drain cleaners come in various forms, including powder, liquid, and gel. As their name implies, chemical drain cleaners create a chemical reaction in order to remove clogs. The main ingredient in these cleaners is sodium hydroxide, commonly known as lye. This substance can decompose most organic matter including grease and hair.

There are 2 main types of drain cleaners that you can find in most hardware stores:

  • Oxidizing drain cleaners: The nitrates in this type of cleaner break down the organic material in a clog while also releasing gas and heat to clear the clog.
  • Caustic drain cleaners: This cleaner makes use of hydroxide ions and alkaline chemicals. The hydroxide ions create a reaction that clears the clog, while the alkaline chemicals produce heat and transform grease into a more easily dissolvable, soapy substance.

Both of these drain cleaners are heavier than water, which allows them to sink through standing water to reach clogs. Because the chemicals are meant to breakthrough organic matter, they can end up harming the pipes of your plumbing system as well. These products are also harmful to your health.

How Do Professional drain clearing Methods Work?

After conducting a thorough inspection of your drains, a professional plumber can use a combination of techniques to clear your drains, including drain snaking and hydrojetting.

Drain Snaking (or Cabling)

To snake drains, plumbers use a long, narrow tool known by a few different names, including drain snake, plumber’s auger, or plumber’s cable. The cable is usually about 50 feet in length and has an auger at the end that goes down your drain pipes. The plumber spirals the snake down into your drain, where it comes into direct contact with whatever is causing the clog and clears it away by breaking through it.


Hydrojetting cleans your pipes through the use of high water pressure. After a video inspection, the plumber will put a nozzle into the clogged drain or pipe. The nozzle will then blast water in multiple directions through high-pressure jet streams as it moves through the pipe.

Hydrojetting is highly effective at removing all kinds of pipe clogging material: food, hair, fabric, congealed grease, and even silt or scale build-up. It’s frequently used commercially, particularly by restaurants to prevents clogs from grease and food.

Which Method of Cleaning Should I Use?

In a pinch, if you’re experiencing a slow drain or a minor clog, opt for plunger over a chemical drain cleaner if at all possible. Chemical drain cleaners contain corrosive chemicals that can damage pipes with repeated use. Even reputable brands like Drano, which include an agent in some of their products’ ingredients to prevent pipe damage, are not recommended to keep your pipes in optimum condition.

For clogs deeper down in your pipes that a plunger can’t solve, snaking is a more effective alternative to chemical drain cleaners. Drain snakes have a long reach that enables them to dislodge or break up whatever is causing a clog. What’s more, snaking does not make use of any corrosive or noxious chemicals, making it a safer choice for your health, your pipes, and for the environment.

While snaking can break up clogs but won’t necessarily remove them, hydrojetting is the more powerful, long-term solution. It obliterates clogs and removes the years of buildup coating the walls of your pipes. As with snaking, there are no harsh chemicals involved, so there is no need to worry about toxic fumes or contaminating the environment.

If you are experiencing slow drains or unpleasant odors coming from your drains, that means they are probably in need of a good cleaning. Contact EZ Flow Plumbing for a drain clearing estimate.

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