When searching for the best product to unblock drains, selecting the right drain cleaner is crucial for effective results. But with so many types available, it can be tricky to know which one to use. In this blog, we’ll demystify the world of drain cleaners, helping you understand the available types and their specific purposes. Whether you’re dealing with a stubborn blockage or looking for a maintenance cleaner, knowing your options is key to a well-functioning drainage system.

Chemical Drain Cleaners

Chemical drain cleaners are often the first choice for many when dealing with tough blockages in pipes and toilets. These products are formulated with powerful chemicals for blocked drains, effectively tackling blockage caused by hair, grease, and food residues. Especially useful as a drain cleaner for blocked toilets, they work by initiating a chemical reaction that breaks down the obstructing materials.

However, their potent nature calls for prudent use:

  • Targeted Application: They are particularly effective in targeting specific problem areas, like a blocked toilet or sink.
  • Cautious Use: It’s crucial to handle these cleaners with care. Overuse can lead to pipe corrosion or damage, particularly in older plumbing systems.
  • Environmental Impact: The harsh chemicals can be harmful to the environment. It’s advisable to use these cleaners sparingly and explore eco-friendly options when possible.
  • Safety First: Always adhere to the safety instructions on the label, as improper use can pose health risks.
  • Last Resort: Consider chemical cleaners as a last resort. Opt for mechanical methods or professional assistance for persistent or severe blockages.

Alkaline Drain Cleaners

Alkaline drain cleaners are a powerful solution, particularly suited as a drain cleaner for kitchen sinks and for dissolving stubborn hair blocks. Their high pH levels make them effective in breaking down organic blockages. Here’s an overview of their use and effectiveness:

  • Action Against Grease and Hair: Ideal as a drain cleaner for hair, these cleaners, containing sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide, react with and dissolve common blockages like hair and grease, making them a go-to choice for kitchen and bathroom sinks.
  • Safe Usage Practices: It’s vital to wear protective gear such as gloves and goggles, as these cleaners are corrosive. Ensuring good ventilation reduces the risk of inhaling harmful fumes.
  • Guidelines for Use: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully regarding the quantity and duration of application to avoid damage to your pipes.
  • Environmental Impact: Given their chemical composition, use alkaline cleaners judiciously and consider eco-friendly alternatives for regular maintenance.
  • Limitations: While effective for moderate blockages, they may not resolve more severe blockages, where mechanical methods or professional assistance may be more appropriate.
  • Caution with Mixing: Never combine these cleaners with other types, particularly acidic cleaners, to prevent hazardous chemical reactions.

Acidic Drain Cleaners

Acidic drain cleaners are another potent category of chemical cleaners, typically reserved for more stubborn blockages. They contain strong acids like sulfuric or hydrochloric acid, which can effectively break down tough blockages. Here’s what you need to know about using them:

  • How They Work: These cleaners react chemically with the blockage material, producing heat and gases that help dissolve and dislodge the block.
  • Safety First: Using protective gear, like gloves and goggles, is crucial as these cleaners can be hazardous.
  • Proper Ventilation: Ensure the area is well-ventilated to avoid inhaling harmful fumes.
  • Follow Instructions: Adherence to the manufacturer’s guidelines is essential to prevent pipe damage and ensure effective use.
  • Not for Regular Use: Given their strength, acidic cleaners are not recommended for regular maintenance. Use them only for tough, resistant blockages.
  • Avoid Mixing: Never mix acidic cleaners with other cleaning products, which can lead to dangerous chemical reactions.

Oxidising Drain Cleaners

Oxidising drain cleaners are another category in the arsenal against blocked pipes. These cleaners typically contain bleach, peroxides, and nitrates, which oxidise the blockage material. Here’s a closer look at their use and precautions:

  • Action Mechanism: When poured down the drain, these cleaners react with the organic material of the blockage, oxidising it and making it easier to flush away.
  • Safe Application: Using these cleaners in a well-ventilated area is crucial, as they can release fumes. Protective gloves and eyewear are also recommended.
  • Follow Directions: Adherence to the manufacturer’s instructions is essential for safety and effectiveness. Overuse can damage pipes, especially in older or weaker plumbing systems.
  • Environmental Impact: Oxidising cleaners can be harsh on the environment. Consider this when deciding how often to use them.
  • Effectiveness: They are perfect for organic blockages but may be less effective on mineral or grease build-ups.
  • Mixing Warning: Never combine them with other types of cleaners to avoid potentially hazardous chemical reactions.

Safety and Precautions

Using chemical drain cleaners requires a careful approach to ensure safety for both the user and the plumbing system. Here are essential safety tips and precautions:

  • Read Labels Carefully: Always read and follow the instructions on the cleaner’s label. It contains crucial information about safe usage and handling.
  • Wear Protective Gear: Use gloves and eye protector to avoid skin burns and eye injuries when handling chemical cleaners.
  • Ensure Ventilation: Work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling harmful fumes that these cleaners can emit.
  • Avoid Mixing Chemicals: Never combine different types of drain cleaners, as this can lead to unsafe chemical reactions.
  • Use Sparingly: Overuse of chemical cleaners can damage pipes, especially in older systems. Use them sparingly and only when necessary.
  • Dispose of Properly: Dispose of any leftover cleaner safely and responsibly. Don’t pour unused chemicals down the drain.
  • Seek Professional Help for Major Blocks: Calling a professional plumber is often safer and more effective if the block is severe.

While chemical drain cleaners can be effective, they’re not always the safest or most sustainable option. Professional assessment and intervention are often the best course for recurrent or significant blockages.

Enzymatic Drain Cleaners

Enzymatic drain cleaners offer a more environmentally friendly alternative to chemical cleaners. They have natural enzymes and bacteria to break down organic material in drains. Here’s a closer look at these cleaners:

  • Natural Cleaning Action: These cleaners contain enzymes that naturally digest organic matter like food, grease, and hair. They’re great for kitchen sinks and bathrooms.
  • Eco-Friendly: Being biodegradable, they are safer for the environment and your plumbing. They don’t contain harsh chemicals.
  • Usage: Ideal for regular maintenance rather than emergency block removal. Regular use can prevent build-ups.
  • Safe for Pipes: Unlike chemical cleaners, enzymatic ones are gentle on pipes, making them suitable for older plumbing systems.
  • Time to Work: They take longer to act compared to chemical cleaners. Patience is key.
  • Odour Reduction: They can help eliminate unpleasant odours by breaking down the cause.

How Enzymatic Drain Cleaners Work

Enzymatic drain cleaners operate on a principle quite different from chemical cleaners, focusing on a biological approach to unblocking drains. Here’s how they work:

  • Breaking Down Organic Matter: These cleaners contain specific enzymes designed to break down organic substances like fats, oils, grease, and hair, which are common causes of drain blockages.
  • Bacterial Action: Once the enzymes break down the organic matter, beneficial bacteria in the cleaner consume these smaller particles, clearing the blockage over time.
  • Safe for Pipes and Septic Systems: Since they don’t contain harsh chemicals, enzymatic cleaners are safe for all plumbing, including septic systems.
  • Preventative Maintenance: Enzymatic cleaners can help maintain clear drains by continuously breaking down potential blockages before they become a problem.
  • Time Frame: Unlike chemical cleaners that act quickly, enzymatic cleaners work more slowly. They may require overnight application or multiple uses for full effectiveness.
  • Eco-Friendly Approach: These cleaners are biodegradable, making them an environmentally friendly option for drain maintenance.

Pros and Cons of Enzymatic Drain Cleaners

Enzymatic drain cleaners offer a unique approach to maintaining your drains, but like any product, they have advantages and limitations. Here’s a breakdown:


  • Eco-Friendly: They’re biodegradable and don’t contain harmful chemicals, making them a greener choice for the environment.
  • Safe for Pipes: Gentle on plumbing systems, they’re ideal for older pipes and septic systems, reducing the risk of damage.
  • Practical for Maintenance: Regular use helps to prevent blockages by continuously breaking down organic matter.
  • Odour Control: They can help eliminate unpleasant smells by addressing the root cause.


  • Slower Action: They take longer to work than chemical cleaners and are unsuitable for quick, emergency unblocking.
  • Less Effective on Severe Blocks: Not ideal for dealing with major or non-organic blockages, like mineral deposits or small objects.
  • Regular Application Needed: They require consistent use over time for maximum effectiveness.
  • Availability: It may not be as readily available as chemical cleaners in some areas.

Mechanical Drain Cleaning Tools

Mechanical drain cleaning tools offer a direct and effective approach to clearing blockages in pipes and drains. Unlike chemical solutions, these tools physically remove blocks, making them a crucial option in various scenarios. Here’s an overview of their significance and use:

  • Direct Block Removal: These tools are designed to physically reach and remove blockages, providing a more immediate solution to drain issues.
  • Versatility: Suitable for various blockages, from simple build-ups to more stubborn blockages.
  • Safe for Pipes: When used correctly, they pose minimal risk to your plumbing, unlike some harsh chemical cleaners.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Mechanical cleaning doesn’t involve chemicals, making it a more eco-friendly option.
  • Professional and DIY Options: These are available in forms suitable for both professional plumbers and DIY enthusiasts.

Drain Snakes and Augers

Drain snakes and augers are essential tools in plumbing, especially for dislodging stubborn blockages. Here’s how they work and why they’re so important:

  • Function: These tools consist of a long, flexible metal cable with a spiral coil at the end. When inserted into a drain, the coil breaks through blockages or retrieves debris, clearing the path.
  • Manual and Motorised Varieties: Available in hand-cranked versions or powered by an electric motor, they cater to different levels of blockage severity.
  • Suitability: Ideal for tough blocks beyond the reach of plungers but not severe enough to require professional hydro-jetting.
  • Safe for Pipes: When used correctly, they’re safe for most plumbing systems and don’t involve harsh chemicals.
  • Skill Level: While some basic versions are suitable for DIY, more severe blockages or deeper drains may require a professional plumber with specialised augers.
  • Precautions: Careful handling is necessary to avoid pipe damage, especially in older or more fragile systems.


Hydro-jetting is a powerful and efficient method for cleaning and unblocking drains. Here’s an insight into its use, workings, and significance:

  • High-Pressure Water: Hydro-jetting involves blasting water at high pressure into the pipes. This intense force clears stubborn blockages, including grease, sediment, and tree roots.
  • Thorough Cleaning: Unlike conventional methods, it doesn’t just unblock; it cleans the pipe walls, removing build-up that could lead to future blockages.
  • Uses: It’s particularly effective in commercial and residential scenarios with recurrent blocking issues.
  • Preventative Maintenance: Regular hydro-jetting can prevent blocks from forming and maintain smooth-flowing pipes.
  • Professional Equipment: Hydro-jetting is typically a professional service requiring specialised equipment and expertise due to the high pressures.
  • Safety First: It’s safe for most pipe types but should be used judiciously on older, fragile plumbing to prevent damage.


Plungers are a fundamental tool in any household for dealing with common drain blockages. They’re simple, yet highly effective, and here’s why:

  • Mechanism: A plunger works by creating a vacuum seal around the drain opening. Pushing down forces air out, and pulling up creates suction, which helps to dislodge the blocks. There are two main types – a plunger for flat surfaces like sinks and a flange plunger with an extended lip for toilets.
  • Usage: It’s ideal for minor blocks caused by everyday waste like food particles in kitchen sinks or toilet tissue.
  • Environmentally Friendly: Plungers are a great eco-friendly option as they don’t require chemicals or electricity.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: They’re inexpensive and readily available in most hardware stores.
  • Skill Level: Easy to use with minimal skill required, making them suitable for handling basic blockages.

Choosing the Right Drain Cleaner

Selecting the appropriate drain cleaner is crucial for effectively tackling blockages without causing damage to your plumbing. It’s not just about clearing the block; it’s about choosing a safe, effective, and suitable solution for your type of blockage.

  • Type of Block: Determine the nature of the blockage. Organic material like hair and grease requires a different approach than inorganic matter.
  • Plumbing System: Consider the age and type of your pipes. Older systems might be more sensitive to chemical cleaners.
  • Frequency of Use: Regularly occurring blocks might need a different strategy, more preventive.
  • Environmental Impact: Always consider the ecological footprint of the cleaner you choose.

The right cleaner can effectively clear blockages while preserving the integrity of your pipes and minimising environmental harm.

Assessing the Type of Blockage

Understanding the nature of the blockage in your drain is vital to choosing the most effective treatment method.

  • Visual Inspection: Look for visible signs of what might be causing the blockage.
  • Common Culprits: Kitchen sinks often get blocked with grease and food particles, while bathroom drains typically struggle with hair and soap build-up.
  • Severity: Assess the severity of the blockage. Is water draining slowly, or is it completely blocked?
  • Previous Occurrences: Consider if this is a recurring issue, as this might influence your choice of cleaning method.

Safety and Environmental Considerations

Safety for you and the environment should be paramount when dealing with drain cleaners.

  • Personal Safety: Always use protective gear, such as gloves and goggles, when handling chemical cleaners.
  • Chemical Awareness: Be aware of the potential hazards of your chemicals, especially in enclosed spaces.
  • Eco-friendly Options: Consider the environmental impact. Bio-enzyme cleaners are a great alternative to harsh chemicals.
  • Proper Disposal: Ensure you dispose of any chemical cleaners responsibly to minimise environmental damage.

Considering these factors, you can keep your drains running smoothly while being mindful of your safety and the environment.

Get Professional Help with Blocked Drains from Pipe Relining Solutions

In this blog, we’ve explored the diverse world of drain cleaners and mechanical tools, each with its specific purpose and method of tackling different types of blockages. From the quick action of chemical cleaners to the eco-friendly approach of enzymatic solutions and the physical prowess of tools like plungers and hydro-jetters, we’ve covered the spectrum of solutions available for keeping your drains clear.

If you’re facing persistent or complex blockage issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to Pipe Relining Solutions. Our team of professionals is prepared to efficiently and carefully manage even the most challenging drain difficulties. Rely on us to offer both short-term relief and long-term solutions to maintain the best possible state of your plumbing system. Contact Pipe Relining Solutions today, and let us take the hassle out of dealing with blocked drains.