The best drain cleaners are ones used regularly to maintain the free flow of water through the pipes. Weekly flushing of drains with boiling water is the easiest and most effective way to prevent internal buildup of pipe debris and prevent drains from becoming clogged. Bits of grease, hair, soap scum and other waste tend to attach to the inside of pipes restricting their ability to conduct water flowing through them. Household drains develop buildup over time, sometimes clogging completely, blocking all water flow. Weekly cleaning of drains with boiling water helps deter this buildup and prevent clogs, though it's important to note that this method is not appropriate for use with PVC pipes.
When drains do clog or become slow, a good drain cleaner is necessary. Some of the best drain cleaners can be made at home without harsh chemicals. To open up a slow flowing drain try pouring one cup of powdered sodium borate (Borax) into the drain. Follow this with four cups of boiling water. Let that stand for 25 minutes and then flush the drain with cool clear water.
For general drain cleaning, use four tablespoons of washing soda dissolved into two quarts of hot water. Pour this slowly down into the drain and let sit for 15 minutes. Follow with a hot water rinse.
A great garbage disposal cleaner utilizes two cups of white vinegar mixed with two cups of cool water. Freeze this completely in ice cube trays and use periodically by grinding the cubes in the disposal to help keep drains clear, clean, and smelling fresh.
Many choices and brands of drain cleaners are available for purchase. Most commercial drain cleaners are usually either biological or chemical. Biological drain cleaners use enzymes to eat away at the build up in pipes. They work best on organically based clogs like hair and soap scum but are not as effective as chemical cleaners at removing mineral deposits. Biological drain cleaners tend to work slower than chemical but are safe for septic systems.
Chemical drain cleaners are generally made of hazardous chemicals and can damage septic systems. They come in liquid and foam forms. Chemical drain cleaners usually contain sodium hydroxide (lye) which is very caustic. Lye’s corrosive properties are good for eating away at drain build up, but can burn skin and aggravate the throat and nose. Avoiding prolonged contact with sodium hydroxide is a good idea.