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Drano Not Working? 4 Ways to Unclog a Drain When Drano Fails

Clogged drains are a homeowner’s nightmare, especially when products like Drano fail to fix the problem.

If you’ve tried Drano but it’s not clearing the clog, don’t panic.

Although a stubborn clog can signal the need for a plumber, there are often far easier (and cheaper) solutions to try first.

In this guide, I explain what to do when Drano is not working. These tips apply when any liquid drain cleaner fails, not just Drano.

Read on to learn: 

  • What causes stubborn drain clogs that Drano doesn’t fix
  • How to identify the problem without professional help
  • How to remove the clog without Drano and prevent future ones from happening
  • When to seek the help of a professional plumber

So, put down your phone and set your wallet aside for a moment –– you might be surprised at how easy it is to fix this problem on your own…without spending hundreds of dollars.


Use the links below to navigate the article:


Why Drano Doesn’t Always Work

Before we get into why Drano can fail, it’s worth reviewing what makes it effective most of the time.

The main ingredients in Drano include: 

  • PolydimethylSiloxane (defoaming agent)
  • Sodium silicate (corrosion inhibitor)
  • Sodium hydroxide (binder and caustic)
  • Sodium hypochlorite (bleach)

These ingredients work in tandem to cling to, break down, and remove clogs by producing chemical heat. The heat loosens the clogged material from the pipe walls.

Drano Drain Cleaner
Drano Dual Force Drain Cleaner

Once loosened, you can flush the clog with hot water. That step also prevents the clog from recurring.

So, the question remains –– why does Drano sometimes fail to remove a drain clog?

Understand that clogs vary. Drano is ideal for removing clogs made of organic and soluble matter such as hair, grease, or soap scum. Unfortunately, non-organic or more stubborn clogs may persist after using Drano.

These clogs can be made up of a solid object lodged in the pipe, or it can be due to a softer but dense material, such as clay or cosmetics. In these situations, the material will remain inert when exposed to Drano, so the clog will either stay in place or only partially break down.

It’s also possible that the clog is simply too severe and too significant for Drano to remove. In this instance, you will likely need to remove the clog via manual means or call a professional to diagnose and fix the problem.

Finally, you may be using Drano wrong or ineffectively, making it less efficient. Examples include not using enough Drano to fix the clog, using the wrong Drano product, or rinsing your drain too soon after applying Drano.

What Not to Do When Drano Doesn’t Work

Alright, so you’ve tried Drano (correctly), and it hasn’t fixed your clogged drain. What now?

Before we get to that, here’s what not to do after the clog persists. This information is essential, as it concerns your safety and the safety of your home’s water system.

Never use another chemical product on top of Drano. Drano is highly volatile and contains harsh chemicals — adding another agent can cause explosions, corrosion, toxic fumes, or worse.

For that reason, don’t try to reach into the drain and pull the clog out after using Drano. Avoid any techniques that could splash Drano in your direction. If your skin comes into contact with Drano, you’re likely to get a nasty burn.

Any attempts to access the pipes or add more chemicals to your drain after using Drano may result in injury or damage to your home. If the Drano isn’t working, you’ll need to use safe, mechanical means to remove the clog.

What to Do When Drano Doesn’t Work

Now that you know what to avoid if Drano fails to work, let’s review the safe and effective solutions to a stubborn drain clog.

Solution 1: Plunger

This is one of the simplest solutions, as it involves only one tool (which you probably already have), no specialized knowledge, and a minimal time commitment.

Materials and Tools:

  • Plunger –– a flange plunger is preferable, but a cup or rounded one will do if that’s all you have available

Instructions:

  1. If you’re unclogging a sink drain, block the overflow (hole near the top) before plunging. Doing so will increase the suction and increase the plunger’s effectiveness.
  2. If there is no standing water in the tub or sink, fill it until about an inch of water is over the drain.
  3. Remove the drain cover.
  4. Carefully place the plunger’s cup over the uncovered drain, making sure to create a seal around the opening. Pump the plunger up and down 3-5 times.
  5. Repeat as necessary until the clog comes loose.

One thing to note about this method is that Drano could still be sitting in the drain when you plunge it. In that case, the chemicals could splash onto you and cause burns. In fact, Drano warns against using a plunger during or after using its products.

Warning on Drano bottle to not use it with a plunger
Warning on Drano bottle to not use it with a plunger

That said, be very cautious to avoid splashing. If the drain is partially clogged, rinse it several times, allowing the water to drain slowly before plunging. Wear protective gear to cover your skin, eyes, and mouth and proceed at your own risk.

Solution 2: Hair Clog Remover

A hair clog remover is a tool designed to remove hair-related clogs from a drain. It’s a budget-friendly tool that’s easy to use, safe, and doesn’t require any special knowledge. However, it only works on hair-based clogs, and it can be messier than using liquid drain cleaner.

Vastar 3 Pack 19.6 Inch Drain Snake Hair Drain Clog Remover Cleaning Tool

Most hair clog removers are 18-24 inches long and barbed to grab the hair, ideal for sink and tub drains. You can find them at hardware stores or on Amazon.

Materials and Tools:

  • Hair Clog Remover Tool (it should look like this one on Amazon)

Instructions:

  1. Remove the drain cover (Not sure how? Check out this guide).
  2. Slide the end of the hair remover tool into the drain as far as it will go.
  3. Slowly pull the clog remover out, taking care not to splash water as you go.
  4. Remove collected hair from the tool.
  5. Repeat as needed until the drain is cleared.

Solution 3: Drain Snake

Drain snakes are similar to hair clog removers but are longer and more durable. They are composed of a long, flexible cable with a coil at the end. Drain snakes can be up to 25 feet long, making them ideal for removing deeper and more persistent clogs that other methods can’t reach.

The downside of this method is that quality drain snakes can be expensive, and the tool requires removing the drain cover before using it. Some drain snakes also require an electric drill to rewind after use.

Materials and Tools:

  • Drain snake (like this one on Amazon)
  • Drill (if compatible)

Instructions:

  1. Remove drain cover.
  2. Slowly feed the snake into the drain, applying gentle pressure as you push the cable. Continue to do this until you feel the coil make contact with the clog.
  3. Once you have located the clog, carefully pull the cable back up, bringing the dislodged clog with it. Every drain snake operates differently, so refer to the instructions on the package.
  4. Continue until you have completely removed the clog.

Solution 4: Clean the Sink Trap

The sink trap is the first curve in the pipe that leads out from the drain. This area is more prone to clogs than others due to its shape and proximity to the drain’s opening. If you’ve noticed signs that your sink trap is dirty (such as repeated clogs), cleaning it is the best way to fix the problem.

The drawback to this method is that it’s more complicated than the others and may require specialized knowledge and tools. It’s also messier than other solutions and will only be effective if the clog is located in the sink trap instead of some other part of the pipe. Otherwise, you’ll want to try some of the other solutions.

Materials and Tools

  • Wrench or channel locks
  • Bucket
  • Bottle brush
  • Towels (to clean any mess left behind)

Instructions

  1. Place the bucket under the sink trap to catch excess water.
  2. Use the wrench to remove the nuts holding the sink trap in place.
  3. Remove the sink trap. Make sure you don’t lose any pieces, especially smaller ones like O-rings.
  4. Clean the sink trap completely using the bottle brush.
  5. Reassemble the sink trap and test for leaks.

What Drano Says to Do

I reached out to S.C. Johnson (the makers of Drano) to get their take on the issue.

I asked their product specialist, “What should I do when Drano is not working? What steps should I take?”

In short, S.C. Johnson’s advice is to try Drano twice. If that doesn’t clear the clog, try Drano Duel-Force Foamer Clog Remover because the foaming action does a better job loosening clogs, or call a professional.

Here’s S.C. Johnson’s complete response:

Typically, Drano® is very effective at removing clogs caused by hair, grease, or soap scum. For tough clogs or those further down the drain, two applications may be needed. If you’ve tried two applications or believe a foreign object is causing your clog, I’d encourage you to contact a professional plumber.

In the meantime, we have other Drano® products that may help! One I would recommend is Drano® Duel-Force® Foamer Clog Remover. The two ingredients combine to form a powerful foaming clog remover. The foaming action fills the pipe and thoroughly clears its walls, dissolving gunk. A blast of hot water flushes away what’s left of the clog in those hard-to-reach places.

When to Contact a Professional

Dealing with a clogged drain is frustrating, especially when Drano has failed and you’re forced to look at more difficult and potentially expensive solutions. Plumbers often charge a premium for their services, so do-it-yourself options are often worth trying.

Once you’ve assessed the clog, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you seeing even moderate improvement in drainage?
  • Have you attempted to snake, plunge, or clear the drain yourself?
  • Have you checked the sink trap for clogs that are stuck but easily removed?

If you’ve tried the solutions listed in this article but you’re still stuck with a clogged drain, it’s probably time to call in a professional.

Go to HomeAdvisor.com to compare prices and book a trustworthy local professional.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He’s studied consumer buying behavior for 10+ years and has managed marketing campaigns for over a dozen Fortune 500 brands. When he’s not testing the latest home products, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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