What’s the Difference Between Drain Clearing and Drain Cleaning?

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(415) 942-6565

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What’s the Difference Between Drain Clearing and Drain Cleaning?

If you are experiencing drain issues, deciding which approach is best to take can be confusing. Especially when there are essentially two different methods when it comes to drain maintenance: drain cleaning and drain clearing. You can choose either option in order to clear up a clog, but depending on the nature of the debris buildup in your drain, one option might be better than the other. Essentially, clearing means to remove the debris and clog in your drain, while cleaning refers to completely clearing all the walls of the pipes and removing the various particles so that a drain clog won’t happen again in a long while.

In this article, we will go over the many different methods of drain clearing and drain cleaning there are and how they differ from each other regarding treatments for your system.

Drain Clearing

Drain clearing techniques involve drain clog removers that are meant to rid your drains of a blockage so that water can flow easily once again. It involves nothing further than simply removing the clogs to ensure smooth water flow. This type of operation is best for newer draining systems that do not have years of built-up debris within the pipes, so simply removing the drain clogs will be enough to leave the drain running smoothly for a long while without immediately clogging again.

If you need to have your drain cleared, there are a few different ways to tell that it is the best method for your clogged drain. If you have low water pressure throughout the water fixtures in your home, this could indicate a main drain blockage that needs to be cleared. Deep drain clogs that are extremely far down in the pipe are also a sign of a drainage clearing need. Both of these things will require professional drain clearing. Depending on the pipe, clearing will be the only thing that is required, but it is possible that you will need a more extreme drain cleaning to keep the drain from blocking up frequently.

For both professional and DIY drain clearing, there are multiple different methods that can be used to achieve smooth water flow.

Chemical Drain Cleaners

One of the biggest solutions for tough drain clogs is the utilization of chemical drain cleaners. Chemical cleaners typically come in liquid or packet form and can work on things like grease traps and septic systems, depending on the drain opener brand. The top brands, such as Green Gobbler and Liquid Plumr, can sit overnight and clear away drain clogs with the powerful chemical reaction within them that can break down particles like hair, toilet paper, soap scum, and other organic matter. You can also use a baking soda and vinegar mix to create a homemade drain cleaner.

  • Green Gobbler Drain OpenerThe Green Gobbler product claims to be septic-safe and can break down hair, paper, and grease clogs. This clog remover is available in two forms: a liquid container that you can simply pour down the drain or toilet, and a powder form that has been premeasured. According to the manufacturer, the Green Gobbler product is safe to use on the majority of plumbing systems, including septic tanks, sinks, showers, and toilets. In addition, this drain opener is resistant to bleach. This indicates that the chemical combination included in the drain opener’s liquid or powder might lower the surface tension of the liquid it dissolves in—the liquid that your drain opener solution is poured into. Though sometimes this specific drain opener needs to be left overnight so the chemicals may dissolve any particularly severe clogs, Green Gobbler drain cleaner can be an outstanding value for a short-term drain cleaner.
  • Liquid Plumr Clog RemoverAnother well-known drain cleaner is Liquid-Plumr, which clears clogged drains by breaking through hair obstructions using a gel solution. The Liquid-Plumr clog remover is not the best solution for clogged kitchen drains, though, because these drain cleaners are less effective on grease. When used on bathroom sinks or tubs, Liquid-Plumr clog remover works fastest—up to 15 minutes—and flushes away any loose hair, liquid, or other debris with hot water. If you have a clogged sink or shower, you will need to use the entire bottle of Liquid-Plumr clog remover to clear the blockage.
  • Vinegar and Baking Soda Drain CleanerIf you want to keep harsh drain opener chemicals out of your system, you can build your own drain clog remover solution with vinegar and baking soda for any drains that need to be cleaned in your sink, tub, or shower. Before you pour a small pot of boiling water down the drain, try to remove as much of the standing water as you can. You’ll have easier access to clear the drain as a result. First, add half a cup of baking soda, then half a cup of vinegar. Pour another small pot of hot water into the drain after letting the mixture run through the drains for around ten minutes. To remove any remaining material, flush the drain with hot water afterward. After doing this a few more times, if the obstruction is still there, you might need to have a plumber come out for an examination. Take care not to add half-cup portions every time, or else a new drain clog could form.

Always remember to wear personal protective equipment, such as gloves and eye protection, whenever you are using a chemical drain clog remover. The nature of the harsh chemicals can be very harmful if you get them on your skin, and they can also be harmful to things like porcelain surfaces if there is a mess. Even if you are using natural remedies like baking soda and vinegar, it is important to use caution when handling any type of drain cleaner to avoid spills. Pouring an incorrect amount of chemical drain cleaners or baking soda and vinegar solutions can result in damage to your drains.

Drain Snaking

Finally, if you choose not to use a liquid drain cleaner, there are a variety of hand tools that are excellent for clearing up obstructions that are deep within the pipes. One common item that may be used to remove hair clogs from bathroom drains is a drain snake, which is designed to reach down into the pipe. Toilet clogs can be removed with a device similar to an auger drain snake, which also has protective barriers to shield porcelain surfaces from harm. Wearing personal protective equipment is essential when dealing with these instruments since they might destroy pipes if you do not operate cautiously. So, utilizing them can be harmful.

The above methods will all be highly effective if you need to unclog a drain. They can also be performed either professionally or by yourself, so long as you have the proper instructions and plumbing knowledge.

Drain Cleaning

Drain cleaning is a more long-term solution for your pipes when it comes to your system. Though a liquid drain cleaner will be advertised as cleaning drains, real drain cleaning will have to be strong enough to clear multiple clogs as well as clean the walls of the drain from particles like hair, grease, and other organic matter. This will be a much more in-depth project than clearing a drain clog and will have to be performed with professional equipment and machines.

You will most likely require drain cleaning if you are experiencing multiple drain clogs in a short period of time and you have not had your drains cleaned through a deep professional drain cleaning in a few years, meaning there are significant collections of organic matter along the walls of the pipes. A deep drain cleaning will leave you with clean drains and without the worry of future clogs for a long period of time. Tough drain clogs can usually be taken care of through full drain cleanings.

These are the techniques and equipment used in professional drain cleaning:

Hydro jetting

Hydro jetting is one of the best methods for ensuring a well-cleaned drain. This drain cleaner technique involves using a jetter machine that shoots a strong blast of water through a system that can obliterate tough drain clogs as well as completely clean the walls of the pipes since it can flush out all the built-up soap scum and grease that stick to the walls of the pipes and cannot be eradicated by a drain clearing method such as snaking. While drain cleaners such as Liquid Plumr or even the baking soda and vinegar mixture can unclog drains and provide good general maintenance as far as cleaning your drain, having the deep cleaning that hydro jetting can offer performed every couple of years can significantly clean out your system and help to prevent frequent drain clogs.


A flex-shaft machine contains a spinning cable that can be inserted into the pipe and break away any tough clogs, as well as clean the walls of the pipes by scraping away the hard debris. This can offer a full cleaning of your drain or sewer while ridding you of tough clogs. The benefits of this type of cleaning are similar to those of the hydrojetter; only the flex-shaft machine does not contain water that can also get all of the loose matter flushed out. This is still a drain cleaner option that can lead to fewer clogs in your drain over time and more clean drains for sinks, showers, toilets, and more.

Liquid Drain Cleaner

Drain cleaner products will claim to be able to unclog and clean your drain. While this can be true to a point, the two above-described methods are much better for your system since repeated use of liquid drain cleaners can cause damage to your system over time. Most drain opener products will have chemical mixtures in them that can be helpful in dissolving tough drain clogs caused by hair, paper, or other debris, but can also be too abrasive to the pipes if used over and over again. However, they can be a solution for maintenance once in a while if you are unable to access any other drain cleaning options. You can get excellent value on brands such as Green Gobbler and Liquid Plumr. The baking soda and vinegar drain cleaner option is a good alternative if you do not want to be constantly pouring chemical drain cleaners into your system. A baking soda and vinegar drain cleaner combination can be successful as a drain clog remover and does not contain as abrasive a reaction in the system. Drain cleaners are fine solutions for taking care of a backed-up sink and performing some maintenance here and there, but your best bet for full drain cleaning benefits that will keep your drains running smoothly for months to come is through professional hydro jetting or flex-shaft.

Other Drain Methods

Aside from drain clearing and cleaning, there are other drain techniques to be employed in order to make sure your system is operating as it should. This involves things like sewer pipe repair or replacement and rooter services for when roots have intruded within the pipe.

Oftentimes, roots can grow into your pipes since they are attracted to the moisture. This is very dangerous to your system since roots can sometimes find a way to break through and into the pipes. This will not only lead to cloggage in your system but also the problem of holes in your pipes created from the roots, where now other things can invade your pipes, such as water from flooding in the ground and into your pipes, which can cause the sewer to flood and backup. When you have a root problem, you will most likely require pipe replacement or repair, since it means there are holes in your pipes that the roots are growing into.

Rooter machines are able to pull out any roots that have taken place within your pipe, leaving them free of the tree root invasion as well as cleaning your pipe. But there are still the holes in the pipe that will need to be taken care of through pipe repair or an entire pipe replacement. You will have to call on professional drain cleaning services for these cases.

Getting Rid of Drain Clogs for Good

There are many different methods for both drain clearing and drain cleaning. Drain clearing involves simply breaking down a drain clog through anything from drain snaking to a bottle of drain cleaner. This can be used to unclog drains from hair, paper, or food clogs. Drain cleaning means implementing methods that will provide a deep cleaning to your system so that clogs can stay away for a long time and your pipes can be free of heavy debris like grease and soap. For these types of jobs, a hydro jetter or a flex-shaft are the best ways to go. There are also sewer pipe repair and replacement services if your system is damaged from root invasion. Roots can be taken care of through a rooter machine that can act as a drain cleaner and clearer. For cleaning drains, it is best to hire a professional plumber to get the job done rather than relying on drain cleaners or clog remover products.

For any troubles with the drains in your home, you can call on an expert plumber like John Owens Services to get the best in sewer and rooter service. Our professional drain cleaners will be able to clear away any clog within the pipes as well as give them a thorough cleaning that will ensure you can enjoy the full benefits of clean drains and that another clog won’t occur for a long while. Contact us by phone or online to schedule our exceptional service!

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(415) 942-6565
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(707) 452-3464



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San Rafael
(415) 942-6565
Santa Rosa
(707) 452-3464