Does Drano Really Work? And How Does it Work? - Plumbing Sniper (2023)

Drano is probably the most popular chemical drain cleaner in the market. There is however all manner of information regarding it on the internet, some good and some bad.

So, should you use Drano to clear drain clogs? And how does Drano work in clearing clogs? Better still, why do plumbers hate Drano?

Does Drano Really Work? And How Does it Work? - Plumbing Sniper (1)

By the end of this post, I hope to explain to you everything that you need to know about Drano.

Drano, whose active ingredient is sodium hydroxide (lye/caustic), works through a chemical reaction which releases a lot of heat. The heat breaks down the clog while the lye also reacts with grease to form a soapy substance which dissolves the clog material.

I often have people ask me “Does Drano work”?

Drano works and is actually very effective in clearing clogs in kitchen sink, bathroom sink and shower/bathtub drains. However, Drano will only clear light organic clogs (soap scum, grease, hair, food waste). Solid clogs will need powerful tools and/or the intervention of professionals.

The main reason plumbers hate Drano is due to its corrosive nature. When Drano sits in the pipes for long, it will soften PVC pipes, weaken steel pipes, eat away the glue that bind pipes together and may even crack toilets. Drano will also burn your skin, irritate the eyes or even hurt your lungs.

If Drano doesn’t unclog a drain, you will be left with a toxic solution which must be drained before trying other unclogging methods. You can either wait for the fixture to drain slowly, or drain it out yourself then pour a cup of baking soda and another cup of vinegar then wait for 15 minutes.

If Drano fails to unclog a drain, it can actually make the clog worse. The solution solidifies farther down the drain line resulting in an even worse clog.

You should not use Drano if you have multiple clogged drains, you have had persisted clogs, you are on a septic system or you have old pipes. Drano should especially not be used to unclog toilets since the heat produced can crack the bowl.

How Does Drano Work to Unclog Drains?

Does Drano Really Work? And How Does it Work? - Plumbing Sniper (2)

To understand how Drano works, you first need to understand what it is made of. So, what is inside a bottle of Drano drain cleaner?

As I have already mentioned, the main and active ingredient in Drano is sodium hydroxide which is commonly known as lye or caustic soda. It also contains other ingredients like aluminum, salts, bleach and water.

When you pour Drano inside a drain, a series of chemical reactions takes place. The first reaction is the break down or decomposition of organic matter by the sodium hydroxide.

Secondly, sodium hydroxide reacts with the aluminum in an exothermic reaction. An exothermic reaction is a reaction that emits/releases heat to the surrounding.

(Video) Does Drano Really Work?! Drain Clogged 2020

This heats speeds up the decomposition of the organic matter by further melting the clog. You see when for example your bathroom sink or shower is clogged, what you have is a ball made of hair, soap scum, oils and shampoo which form the clog.

Of course if you introduce heat into the clog you will be in a position to break it down faster. That is what this second reaction does.

After that, the sodium hydroxide also reacts with the grease to form a soapy substance. This soapy substance dissolves the clog matter which makes it easy for it to be flushed down the drain by hot water.

The whole process takes between 15 and 30 minutes depending on the severity of the clog. As I have already mentioned, there is usually no guarantee that Drano will clear your clogged drain.

So, how should you use Drano to unclog drains?

How to Use Drano to Unclog Drains

Does Drano Really Work? And How Does it Work? - Plumbing Sniper (3)

This is how to use Drano to clear drain clogs according to SC Johnson, the company that manufactures it:

  • Drain the standing water. With a clogged drain, you will either have a partial or full clog. With a partial clog, the fixture will drain slowly but if you have a full clog you will have standing water in the fixture. Start by draining all the standing water. You want the Drano to work directly on the clog.
  • Pour the Drano inside the drain. The amount to use depends on the severity of the clog. If you have a slow draining fixture, use half of the bottle (32 oz. size). On the other hand, if you have a nasty clog, empty the entire bottle down the drain.
  • Allow the Drano to work out its magic for 15 minutes if you had a slow draining fixture. However, if you had a terrible clog wait for 30 minutes.
  • Flush the drain with hot water and check if the Drano worked.
  • If the clog is still there, you can repeat the above steps or explore other drain clearing methods.

Does Drano Really Work?

So, does Drano really work? Is it worth your money and time?

The simple answer is Yes. Drano works and it actually works most of the time. It is especially successfully in clearing clogs in kitchen sink, bathroom sink, bathtub and shower drains.

That is because most of the waste that goes down through these drains is organic. As we already have seen, Drano is quite effective in breaking down organic waste.

Of course there are times when Drano will not work. All clogs are not created equal. This is especially the case when you have old problematic pipes.

Let us now look at instances where Drano does not work, or when you shouldn’t use Drano to try and unclog Drains.

When Should You Not Use Drano

If you have more than one clogged drain, using Drano is not a good idea. Drano works best if the clog is only affecting one drain? Why is that though?

Your house’s plumbing is one network of pipes referred to as the drain-waste-vent system. All the different drain lines (sinks, showers, tubs, toilets, washers) are connected together and leave the house through the lateral sewer line in your yard.

The lateral sewer line is then connected to the municipal sewer line or septic tank. If you didn’t already, your kitchen sink and toilet drain use the same sewer line and may “communicate” in case of a clog.

(Video) How solid drain cleaners work

Now, if you have 2 or more clogged or backing up drains, it means that the clog is affecting the main house drain line far from the fixtures.

As such, the entire drain lines are full of water or raw sewage which makes using Drano a bad idea. The Drano won’t even get to the actual clog.

Another thing you need to know is that you fixtures could be draining slowly not because you have a clog in your drain lines but because the plumbing vent is clogged.

A plumbing vent is the vertical pipe which runs through the roof of the house and is usually connected to the main house drain stack.

The vent allows air into the draining system allowing the fixtures drain fast, and also allows sewer gases to exit the system. When it is clogged, you will end up with gurgling and slow draining fixtures.

You should also not use Drano if you are having repeated clogs. When a certain fixture keeps on clogging and there is nothing wrong you are doing to cause the clog, there is a deeper problem which needs to be examined by a professional.

Also, if you have tried using Drano to clear a clog unsuccessfully, I wouldn’t recommend pouring more Drano down the drain. Since you don’t know what exactly the clog is, you better contact a licensed plumber to come have a look.

And finally, I would advise against using Drano if you are on a septic system. A septic system depends on bacteria inside the septic tank to break down the waste whereby the sludge settles at the bottom of the tank while the clear water flows out to the leach field.

If you introduce Drano in the septic tank, it will kill these bacteria meaning there will be no way for the organic waste to be broken down.

The effects of that are that you will have raw sewage backing up to the house and/or a clogged leach filed. Fixing any or both of these issues is extremely expensive.

Why Do Plumbers Hate Drano?

There is no plumber who will recommend Drano to you. Why is that the case though?

Are plumbers just jealous because Drano denies them lucrative working opportunities? I mean it is way cheaper to buy a bottle of Drano than have a plumber come over simply because your bathroom sink won’t drain.

The main argument or concern plumbers put forward against Drano is its effects on plumbing pipes. This is regardless of whether you have steel pipes or PVC pipes.

According to plumbers, the heat produced by Drano during the decomposition of the clog is bad news for your pipes. It will soften PVC pipes and weaken steel pipes ultimately resulting in leaks.

(Video) DRANO Max Gel Drain Clog Remover - This STUFF REALLY WORKS! B003TS2R1A

Drano will also eat away the glue used to stick pipes together, again resulting in leaks. Is that the truth though? It depends on who you are asking.

According to SC Johnson, Drano will not harm your plumbing in any way. They say it is something they have even tested.

Plumbers argue that Drano and other chemical drain cleaners are tested under ideal conditions and over a short period of time. Effects of Drano apparently take a long time to manifest themselves.

They say that Drano will not affect new pipes the same way it does old ones, and over a long duration of time. Drano is tested on new pipes and probably over a short period of time.

I cannot accuse the plumbers of dishonesty since they spend most of their time checking out pipes. They could actually be right.

What I would recommend is not using Drano if your house has old pipes. It is better to be safe than sorry. Needless to say.

What you should however know is that Drano can burn your skin and irritate your eyes when it comes into contact with them or could even make you blind. It is especially dangerous and could be fatal when ingested by children.

What Happens if Drano Does Not Unclog a Drain?

If you have a clogged drain and you decide to hire a plumber, the first question they will ask when they get to your house is “Have you tried Drano on it”?

Do you know why they ask that? Because Drano is toxic and therefore dangerous to their health and could damage some of the tool they use to clear clogs.

Most plumbers will actually leave your house and only come back after 24 hours when the conditions are safe to work in.

You see, if you have Drano sitting in your drain and you try plunging or snaking, there is every chance that the Drano will splash on your skin and cause serious burns or even irritate your eyes. Drano can actually make you blind.

Attempting to use other chemical drain cleaners will result in other reactions with production of toxic fumes which can hurt your lungs.

Actually, this is another reason why plumbers don’t recommend Drano. If it fails to work it leaves you in a big problem.

What you can do is wear elbow-length nylon gloves and drain the solution from your fixture and dump it appropriately. You can afterwards use baking soda and vinegar to try and clear the clog.

(Video) Risks of Using Drano to Unclog a Drain

Can Drano Make a Clog Worse?

Believe it or not, Drano can actually make a clog worse that it was before. Another point to validate plumbers’ dislike for Drano!

If you have a nasty clog, Drano will first decompose the clog after coming into contact with it. That will turn the clog into a solution which should easily wash down the drain.

However, the solution can solidify farther down the drain line resulting in an even worse clog. That is why I recommend using Drano only once but if the clog persists contact a plumber to have a look.

Does Drano Work in Standing Water?

Does Drano Really Work? And How Does it Work? - Plumbing Sniper (4)

According to the manufacturer SC Johnson, Drano works perfect even in standing water. They say that “It pours straight through the water and attacks the clog directly”.

While I am not disputing that, I have found out that Drano and basically other drain cleaners work best when you first drain the water.

If you however don’t feel like draining a bathtub full of water, go ahead and do what they recommend. I should warn you that if the Drano fails to work you will be left with a tub full of toxic water to drain.

Does Drano Work in Toilets?

One place you should not use Drano to clear clogs is the toilet. A toilet is designed a little different than other fixtures.

As you already know, there is water at the bottom of the bowl at all times. That is made possible by the S-shaped trap.

The water prevents sewer gases from coming up to the bathroom. Although all drains have a trap, a toilet’s trap is integrated with the toilet, which is made of china and that is where the problem is.

When china is heated, it expands and cracks. And as I have already said, pouring Drano in a drain results in a reaction which releases lots of heat.

The heat is enough to crack a toilet bowl. A toilet bowl cannot be repaired and will need to be replaced. Thos is another reason why plumbers don’t recommend Drano.

How Does Drano Work on Hair

Does Drano Really Work? And How Does it Work? - Plumbing Sniper (5)

Drano is actually very effective in clearing clogs caused by hair. Hair is usually responsible for most of the clogs in shower, bathtub and bathroom sink drains.

It combines with soap scum, oils and shampoo to form a ball which clogs the drain line especially around the P-trap.

Drano decomposes organic waste fair fast and hair being an organic substance is no exception. If you therefore have a clog in you shower drain then Drano will most likely clear it.

(Video) Does Green Gobbler Even Work? Real Plumber Tests

What is better than Drano?

So, what if you don’t want to use Drano, what should you use? I have found out that a combination of baking soda, vinegar and boiling water is every effective in clearing clogs yet it is so safe.

Just pour a cup of baking soda down the drain followed by another cup of vinegar and after 15 minutes blast boiling water down the drain.

And basically that is pretty much everything about Drano. I hope this guide was helpful.


Does Drano actually work? ›

While Drano may work to clear a clogged sink, it may only act as a temporary fix if there are more serious problems with your plumbing. If you notice that you are repeatedly encountering clogs in the same area of your home, then it is likely that you have a plumbing issue more serious that can be addressed by Drano.

Why do plumbers say not to use Drano? ›

Because of its corrosive nature, Drano can cause toilet bowls to crack, PVC pipes to melt or break and the glue that holds pipes together can be eaten away. If any of these things happen, you're going to be left with an inoperable plumbing system and costly repairs.

What do plumbers recommend for unclog drains? ›

For the toughest of clogs, a plumber may use a hydro jet. This tool sends pressured water through pipes to break down drain build-up. This tool is often faster and more efficient than a typical drain snake. Hydro jets get rid of the clog, but they're also effective for cleaning drains.

Does Drano work on deep clogs? ›

STUCK IN THIRD. Clogs can also be caused by buildup in the third, lateral section of the pipe. Drano® Max Gel Clog Remover is effective on these clog types as well. Keep some on hand for its reliable clog-busting power!

Does anything work better than Drano? ›

Baking Soda and White Vinegar

This mixture is a great green alternative to Drano because most people have these items somewhere in their kitchen. To use this method, pour half a cup of baking soda into the clogged drain and follow it with a half cup of white vinegar.

Is vinegar better than Drano? ›

Look in Your Kitchen Pantry

Baking soda and vinegar may unclog your drain better than Drano ever could.

Is it better to snake a drain or use Drano? ›

Using a snake is also more invasive and time-consuming than using a chemical cleaner is, and can often become a dirty job. When it comes to getting at and removing major clogs or clogs that are deep down in your pipes, however, a plumber's snake is your best bet.

What is the strongest clog remover? ›

Experts agree: Drano Max Gel is the best overall drain cleaner because it works quickly to get rid of tough clogs. This reliable and effective cleaner is a thick gel that goes deep in sinks, pipes, and drains to reach the source of the clog and completely dissolve it.

Can Drano damage pipes if left too long? ›

NOPE. Drano® will not damage pipes or plumbing. Drano® products are powerful enough to dissolve nasty clogs, but they will not harm your plastic or metal pipes, so there's no need to worry. In fact, Drano® Max Gel Clog Remover contains a special ingredient that prevents pipe corrosion.

Can plunging make a clog worse? ›

Attempting to force a clog through a toilet with a plunger can often make the problem worse. Instead, create a seal and slowly push down on the plunger before pulling it back sharply. The suction can help pull the clog back up toward the bowl, breaking the blockage and allowing gravity to take over.

Will Coke unclog drains? ›

Does Coke Unclog Drains? Sodas like Pepsi or Coca-Cola can clean the grime off of pipes because of their acidity. However, this is not a quick solution because these sugary sodas leave behind their own film: sugar syrup.

Does pouring bleach down the drain help with clogs? ›

It is not a great drain clog remover. Bleach has no effect in dissolving the common culprits of household drain clogs, like hair, food scraps and grease. Also, pouring bleach can harm the integrity of your drains and pipes. It's a lose-lose scenario.

How do you unclog a deep clogged? ›

Pouring a cup of baking soda and then a cup of vinegar into a drain pipe can produce a chemical reaction that is sometimes effective at clearing deeper blockages. Make sure to follow up with hot water to melt away any remaining debris.

How many times does it take for Drano to work? ›

Drano® Liquid Drain Cleaner starts working to unclog your drain on contact. After 15 to 30 minutes, clogs are substantially minimized or dissolved. A final blast of hot water flushes away what's left of the clog.

Is it better to let Drano sit longer? ›

If Drano is left to sit too long, it can cause severe damage to your pipes, septic system and other components of the plumbing system. This is because Drano is highly corrosive and can cause severe damage with even short-term contact. If it sits too long, it can cause irreversible damage to pipes, seals and joints.

What is the best sewer drain cleaner? ›

  • 1 Drano Drain Clog Remover – Best Overall.
  • 2 FlexiSnake Drain Clog Remover – Most Effective.
  • 3 Green Gobbler Drain Clog Remover – Most Eco-Friendly.
  • 4 Drainsoon Drain Clog Remover – Best Anti-Skid Handle.
  • 5 Instant Power Drain Clog Remover – Most Compatible.
Jan 17, 2023

Can you leave baking soda and vinegar in drain overnight? ›

If it's still clogged, pour one cup of baking soda and one cup of vinegar down the drain, followed by two cups of boiling water. Let it work overnight to clear the drain.

What works better than liquid Drano? ›

Using a solution of baking soda, vinegar, and hot water

For more stubborn clogs, a combination of baking soda, vinegar, and hot water may do the trick.

Why does baking soda and vinegar not work on drains? ›

When you are using a baking soda and vinegar solution to clean out your drain, you are actually causing the rubber and plastic that are used for the drain's pipes to be eaten away by the mixture. Over time, this rubber and plastic will break down, causing the drain to become even more blocked.

Why is my drain still clogged after snaking? ›

If your snake isn't unclogging your drains, it could be because the thumbscrew is loose, the clog is too severe, or the auger is dirty. Or maybe you just need a refresher on how to use a drain snake. A drain auger (snake) is a simple, inexpensive necessity for every homeowner.

Do plumbers use Drano or something else? ›

Plumbers Say You Should Never Use Drano. Drain cleaners are a popular solution when homeowners notice a clogged drain. But it's also one of the most commonly misused products out there. Any plumber will advise against its use.

Can you pour Drano in standing water? ›

If standing water remains, use Drano® Max Gel Clog Remover. It pours straight through the water and attacks the clog directly.

What eats grease in pipes? ›

Use a 50:50 mix of boiling hot water and white vinegar. The hot water will melt the fat; the vinegar removes it from the lining of the pipes, and the flow of the water will carry it away down the pipe, so follow up with more hot water in a few minutes.

Does vinegar dissolve drain clogs? ›

Baking soda, vinegar and boiling water can help clean drains naturally, but you may need something stronger, like Liquid-Plumr, to fully unclog those really tough drain clogs.

What causes most drain clogs? ›

Most bathroom drain clogs result when dirt, skin flakes, and especially hair binds to soap scum on the walls of drain pipes. Over time, this gunk accumulates and reduces water flow.

How long does it take Drano to clear a drain? ›

Drano® Liquid Drain Cleaner starts working to unclog your drain on contact. After 15 to 30 minutes, clogs are substantially minimized or dissolved. A final blast of hot water flushes away what's left of the clog.

What happens if you pour too much Draino? ›

The harmful chemicals in Drano can end up being corrosive to your pipes. Drano has been known to cause toilet bowls to crack, soften and break PVC pipes and break older corroded pipes. Over time, the continued usage of Drano can lead your pipes to corrode, crack and eventually fail.

How do I know if my drain pipe is clogged? ›

How Do You Know if Your Drain is Clogged?
  1. Slow Sink Drains. Are you annoyed that your sink fills with water when you wash your hands or brush your teeth? ...
  2. Backed-Up Plumbing Fixtures. ...
  3. Sewage Smells. ...
  4. Musty Drains. ...
  5. Pests in the Pipes. ...
  6. High Water Bills. ...
  7. Standing Water. ...
  8. Gurgling Sounds or Air Bubbles.
Apr 16, 2021

Is it OK to pour boiling water down shower drain? ›

Do NOT pour boiling water down your sink or toilet. In recent years, DIYers looking to find a green alternative to chemical products have suggested pouring a potful of boiling water into a clogged sink or toilet to clear a clog.

Will Flushing make a clog worse? ›

However, if the clog is especially tough, your plunger may not be enough. So, what else can you do to clear a badly clogged toilet? The first thing you should do is stop flushing. If your toilet doesn't drain, persistent flushing will only fill the bowl with more water, making the problem worse.

What should you not do with a clogged drain? ›

What Not To Do With Clogged Drains
  1. Use Harsh Chemicals. One of the worst things you can do to a clogged drain in Wilton, CT is to pour harsh chemicals into it. ...
  2. Add Water. If the drain's already clogged, don't add more water. ...
  3. Plunge It. You probably have a toilet plunger. ...
  4. Ram Something Sharp Into It.

Why pour hydrogen peroxide down the drain? ›

Hydrogen peroxide works by eating any organic matter that is clogging up the drains. It dissolves organic matter, turning it into smaller pieces that are easier to flush out. This makes it effective at dissolving food gunk or balls of hair that often clog drains.

How do you unclog a drain overnight? ›

When it comes to clog removal, mix one part of baking soda with one part salt and four parts of boiling water. Dump this mixture down the drain and let it sit overnight. Flush your drain with hot water in the morning.

Does apple cider vinegar unclog drains? ›

Unclogging drains

Using ACV, however, is a natural solution to unclog drains (that really works!). Recipe: Sprinkle ½ cup of baking soda into your drain, then follow with 1 cup of apple cider vinegar. It will foam. After a few minutes, flush the drain with hot water.

What eats away hair in a drain? ›

Use Baking Soda and Vinegar

Baking soda and vinegar is a very powerful combination that can help clear nasty hair clogs. Besides helping dissolve hair in your drain, baking soda also has disinfectant qualities that can fight fungi and bacteria.

Can dish soap unclog a drain? ›

Greasy clogs can be cleared with dish soap and hot water.

For this method to work, the drain needs to be cleared of water. Squirt dish soap down the clogged drain and then pour boiling water down the drain. Grease is eliminated! 3.

What soda unclogs drains? ›

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a kitchen staple that can work wonders to clean clothes, appliances, and even drains that are smelly or clogged.

How does Dawn dish soap clear a clogged drain? ›

What about Dawn dish soap? It would break down any fats in the drain and provide lubrication for the clogs to get through the pipe.

Can you leave Drano in the sink overnight? ›

This product is meant to be left for 6 to 8 hours to slowly dissolve the build-up in your drains. This makes it safe to let the Drano sit overnight (for example, if you are Drano Max Build Up Remover to improve a slow-running toilet as regular Drano can not be used to unclog a toilet drain.)

How long does it take liquid Drano to work? ›

Drano® Liquid Drain Cleaner starts working to unclog your drain on contact. After 15 to 30 minutes, clogs are substantially minimized or dissolved. A final blast of hot water flushes away what's left of the clog.

What happens if Drano doesn't go down? ›

Plunge it Out

When Drano won't go down the drain, grab a plunger instead. Many people think that these are only good for toilets. However, they can create suction that can dislodge your clog. If you're using a plunger, choose one that is suited for the type of clog you're dealing with.

How long should you flush Drano with hot water? ›

After 15 to 30 minutes, clogs are substantially minimized or dissolved. A final blast of hot water flushes away what's left of the clog.

Can I pour Drano in standing water? ›

If standing water remains, use Drano® Max Gel Clog Remover. It pours straight through the water and attacks the clog directly.

How often should you pour Drano down the drain? ›

It's a good idea to have some Drano® Max Gel Clog Remover so if you do get a clog, you're prepared. Also, use Drano® Max Build-Up Remover in each of your drains on a monthly basis. It's made of enzymes that remove gunk that can lead to a clog.

Does Drano harden in pipes? ›

Over time, drano can harden and become like cement. This will eventually require much more expensive repairs. It is recommended to use a camera and a snake to attack the cause of the clog. If you don't have the tools or the time to perform the work yourself, hire a plumber who can get it done quickly and correctly.

Can baking soda and vinegar unclog a drain? ›

Baking soda, vinegar and boiling water can help clean drains naturally, but you may need something stronger, like Liquid-Plumr, to fully unclog those really tough drain clogs.

How do you unblock a badly blocked sink? ›

Baking Soda and Vinegar

Make sure you clear any standing water in the sink first, then pour a cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow this with a cup of vinegar, and immediately put the rubber stopper in the drain. The mixture will fizz, and push the clog down. Follow with hot water from the tap to finish flushing.

What do you do if your drain won't unclog? ›

Pour 1 cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by 1 cup of vinegar. Plug the drain using a drain stop or rag, and allow the mixture to work its magic for at least an hour. Rinse with boiling water. Repeat as necessary.


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