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Do Nontoxic Drain Cleaners Actually Work?

If you’d asked me about enzyme drain cleaners last week, I probably would have wondered 1) if they were really less toxic and 2) if they really worked. I know, I know, pick a side: either it’s too strong or too weak, it can’t be both.


While the sodium hydroxide (lye) in most drain cleaners isn’t that bad for the environment (it breaks down into its component parts easily), it is very toxic straight out of the bottle. It can cause burns on contact, and ingesting it necessitates a trip to the emergency room. Biokleen Bac-Out Drain Care’s only warnings, on the other hand, are to drink water if it’s swallowed. And it says very prominently on the bottle that it’s not tested on animals. Score one for Biokleen.

Even my trusty Consumer Reports called enzyme cleaners “too wimpy.” But I’m pleased to report that the Biokleen did work. Possibly even better than Drano, for a slow drain. Instead of Drano’s 16 ounces, Bio-Kleen only called for 8 ounces. I left it in overnight, and the next morning my tub was working fine. I guess Biokleen wins.

Probably the least toxic option would be baking soda and vinegar, chased with a kettle of boiling water. But I’ve tried it before, and although it was fun (it felt a little like a middle school science project) it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. Maybe it would make sense as a maintenance task, to keep the drains clear, so I never have to use the Biokleen again. On the other hand, I do still have 3/4 of a bottle left…


Comment from Sophie
Time March 23, 2011 at 10:05 am

I think this blog post caused a run on BioKleen, because I went to THREE different Whole Foods and Harvest Co-op and didn’t find it. I settled for this one:

It smells really, really good, but my drain was really getting slow, and it took about a bottle and a half (approx. 6-8 oz. every evening for a week) to see a major improvement. I think this one is better for maintenance. I think I’m going to order the BioKleen online! I hate having to call my super every time my drain gets slow.

The other option is to buy an auger, but I’d rather pour nice smelling things down my drain than pull gross smelling things out of it…

Pingback from Pragmatic Environmentalism
Time March 29, 2011 at 10:34 pm

[…] the Biokleen made our tub drain well—for about a week. Then it started running slow again, and for some reason […]

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