The 10 Best Enzyme Drain Cleaners
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in March of 2018. If panic typically sets in when you realize your pipes are backed up, relax. Although most household drain cleaners use toxic chemicals that are bad for your plumbing and the environment, these selections use natural enzymes to gently keep everything flowing smoothly without causing any damage. We've included options good for everything from toilets to garbage disposals to septic tanks. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 04, 2020:
For most at-home applications, it remains tough to top either Green Gobbler Refresh or Bio-Clean. We've opted to add the Bio-Clean Ultimate Kit, rather than just the bottle, since this option gives you a great bang for your buck, coming as it does with a tub of cleaner, a magnet that reminds you when it's time for a treatment, and a hair removal tool. This last isn't a big, robust snake, but it can handle many hairy messes, especially when paired with a good plunger.
If you're looking for a commercial choice, we still like Black Diamond Stoneworks Get Serious and Helix Laboratories DrainScrub. These come in large tubs and can help prevent nasty smells, and just like the rest of these cleaners, they're safe for the environment and your pipes.
Finally, after some consideration, we opted to add a general enzyme-based cleaner that can be used on drains, AmazonCommercial Multi-Purpose. It won't do much good against strong blockages, but it's useful as an ongoing maintenance tool, and it can be used to clean other items in your home, to boot.
May 10, 2019:
Drain cleaners that use enzymes to break down grease, oils, fat, hair, bath tissue, and other buildup have the environmental upper hand on their chemical-laden brethren. And while many are potent and will get the job done, the trade-off is that you may need to wait a bit longer for the magic to work. In many instances, prevention is the best method, and since these cleaners are safe for plumbing, septic systems, and the environment, they're ideal for monthly or weekly maintenance to keep clogs at bay.
For commercial applications, look to Black Diamond Stoneworks Get Serious and Helix Laboratories DrainScrub. Consider FDC Break Down for situations where a fast-acting solution is required. Zep ZDC16 is great if your building has ancient plumbing, while Green Gobbler is effective for garbage disposals and emits a zesty orange scent while it works. Bio-Clean is another tried-and-true formula that uses a combination of enzymes and bacteria to eliminate organic matter. Each container is good for 100 uses and can be used in all manner of drains, from the kitchen to the bathroom, and even motorhomes and cat litter pans.
Nature's Soldiers was affected by availability concerns, so we supplanted it with Enzyme Magic Digester, which is much easier to administer, as it requires no preparation.
Best Sanitizers BSI-350 Facilities requiring large quantities of a strong, reliable cleaner can look to Best Sanitizers BSI-350, which comes in 5-, 55-, and 275-gallon containers. Whether used as a curative or as part of preventative maintenance, it will get the job done and is designated appropriate for use in many processing plants. bestsanitizers.com
A Brief History Of Drains
Poor drainage caused untold deaths over the years, as it led to contaminated water supplies and facilitated the spread of disease.
The thought of living in the past can seem incredibly romantic. There's nothing quite like the image of sword fights and wild adventures and vast stretches of unexplored country...and then you remember, "Oh yeah, the smell."
Effective sewage systems are relatively new, and the problem of waste disposal has long plagued humanity. Poor drainage caused untold deaths over the years, as it led to contaminated water supplies and facilitated the spread of disease.
That's not to say that the idea behind sewage systems would have been foreign to our ancestors, though. As early as 2500 B.C.E., cities in what is now Iraq had sewers connected to water-flushed toilets, while in the Indus Valley locals created brick-lined septic tanks complete with drains.
The most famous ancient drainage system of all, though, was the Roman aqueducts. Started in 312 B.C.E., these conduits brought water into the city from clean sources in the surrounding area. This kept human waste out of the drinking water, especially since the aqueducts were paired with preexisting sewage ditches.
The rise of Christianity around this time had a rather nasty side effect: many early believers felt it was unholy to be clean. This caused the aqueducts to fall into disrepair, and many European cities reverted back to open drainage ditches. Chamber pots were emptied directly into the streets, with only the occasional rain to wash their contents away, and pedestrians had to be careful not to get doused by an inattentive dumper.
This nastiness helped contribute to widespread disease, including the Black Death in the 14th century C.E. The situation improved somewhat following the Crusades, as European soldiers took ideas about plumbing from their Muslim adversaries and brought them back to their homeland. Despite having clear evidence that better methods were available, though, open sewers remained the norm through much of the continent.
In London in 1858 and 1859, an abundance of effluvium poured into the Thames, creating such a horrific stench that it became known as "the Great Stink." This led to a push for closed, underground sewage systems.
Waterworks began to appear in England and the United States in the 19th century, and flush toilets weren't far behind. There was still the matter of what to do with wastewater once it was created, with some arguing that it should be routed to farmlands and others suggesting that it should flow to natural bodies of water. The latter group won out, and soon rivers, lakes, and oceans were being filled with sewage.
Rather than decide not to fill nearby water sources with filth, public health officials decided to merely filter the liquid before it was consumed. This largely meant simply keeping solids out of the supply; once the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, processes were implemented to tackle pollutants at a microscopic level, as well.
While we've certainly made great strides since the days of the aqueducts, clean water is still not a given in all parts of the world, and disposing of waste remains a concern. These issues are likely to dog us for the foreseeable future.
The good news, however, is that we're far less likely to get splashed with the contents of a chamber pot than our ancestors were.
How Enzyme Drain Cleaners Work
There's nothing like the sinking feeling you get when you see the water in your sink or toilet refuse to drain — or worse, start to rise. That's the point most people reach for chemical cleaners or the plunger, but it may be worth your while to give enzyme-based options a shot first.
They have less of an impact on the environment, as well, as you're simply introducing naturally-occurring microorganisms into a favorable habitat.
These cleaners are filled with bacteria and other microorganisms that munch on organic matter that causes clogs, like grease, hair, and excrement. Soon, they chow through enough of the blockage to cause it to loosen enough to be flushed through the line.
That said, clearing clogs isn't really their forte, since the above process takes a fair amount of time. They're much better at preventing obstructions, as they can keep everything flowing smoothly.
Because they're organic, they're extremely gentle on your pipes. They have less of an impact on the environment, as well, as you're simply introducing naturally-occurring microorganisms into a favorable habitat.
It's a smart idea to treat your pipes and septic tank with enzyme-based cleaners regularly. You may still want to keep a harsh pipe cleaning product or an auger on hand for emergencies, but consistently adding maintenance doses to your system should help lessen the need for the strong stuff.
Of course, never forget that every single one of these products will probably fail you when your entire family visits on Christmas Eve. That's just a law of the universe.
Tips For Keeping Your Pipes Clear
While you can find a variety of effective options for clearing clogs, an ounce of prevention still beats a pound of cure.
Installing a hair catcher in the tub is a smart idea, as well.
The most important thing you can do is be mindful about what you're putting down the drain. Don't pour grease down the kitchen sink, as it can congeal in the line and potentially cause huge problems. The same goes for substances like cement or joint compound. Installing a hair catcher in the tub is a smart idea, as well.
Likewise, your garbage disposal is undoubtedly convenient, but never forget that its primary purpose is to make plumbers money. Throw food waste in the trash, or better yet, compost it.
Take the time to flush the lines periodically, as well. This could mean completely filling the sink with hot water and then draining it to force a large volume of liquid through the pipes, or it could mean using baking soda, vinegar, or other natural cleaners to de-gunk things. You can then follow up with a dose of enzymes.
All of these solutions are relatively quick and easy, especially when compared to trying to deal with an emergency. Then again, nothing clears a house full of unwanted relatives quite like a backed-up toilet.