Clogged drains are a common nuisance that can happen in any home. Food particles, hair, soap scum, and other debris can gradually build up in pipe walls and block water flow. When you notice gurgling sounds, standing water, or slow-moving water down the drain, it’s a sign you have a clog.
Unclogging a drain quickly is important to restore proper plumbing function and prevent further backup and damage.
Two popular products used for stubborn drain clogs are Roto-Rooter and Drano. But which one is better? Here is an in-depth comparison of the pros and cons of Roto-Rooter vs. Drano to help you decide.
A Brief Comparison Table
|Cost||Expensive, $200-$500+ per job||Inexpensive, $5-$20 per bottle|
|Convenience||Must wait for technician appointment||Use anytime at home|
|Process||Augers, jetting, cameras||Pour and wait 15-30 mins|
|Effectiveness||Thoroughly clears any clog||Works for minor clogs|
|Safety||Professionals handle chemicals||Caustic chemicals, handle with care|
|Pipe Impacts||No long-term damage||Can corrode pipes over time|
|Permanence||Fixes underlying issues||Temporary solution|
|Ideal Use||Large clogs, sewer lines||Small sinks and tubs|
What Is Roto-Rooter?
Roto-Rooter is a professional plumbing and drain cleaning service that has been around since 1935. Their technicians use specialized high-powered machines to clear blockages in residential and commercial drain lines.
Some of their main services include:
- Drain cleaning – Uses cable machines with rotating blades (augers) to cut through debris and break up clogs. Often combined with high-pressure water jetting.
- Pipe inspections – Camera inspections check for damage and identify problem areas.
- Trenchless pipe repair – Repair broken pipes without excavation using pipe relining techniques.
- Water treatment – Install water softeners and filters to prevent mineral buildup.
- Plumbing repairs – From leaky faucets to sewer line replacements.
The biggest advantage of Roto-Rooter is that you don’t have to do any of the dirty work yourself. Their technicians have industrial-grade equipment far more powerful than any consumer products.
They can thoroughly clear out stubborn clogs and inspect the pipes to identify underlying problems.
However, the convenience of a professional service comes at a cost. Roto-Rooter is one of the pricier options for unclogging drains, with typical fees between $200-$500. Costs vary based on local rates and how extensive the clog is.
What Is Drano?
Drano is a household chemical drain cleaner found on the shelves of most grocery stores and home improvement stores. It comes in liquid and gel formulas designed to break down different types of clogs.
Some of the key ingredients in Drano include:
- Sodium hydroxide – Also known as lye or caustic soda. This is a corrosive base that reacts with greases and hair.
- Aluminum – Metal chips in the formula generate heat and gas to break up clogs.
- Surfactants – Detergent-like chemicals that penetrate and dissolve gunk.
- Bleach – Helps degrade and dissolve organic matter.
Here is how you use Drano:
- Remove standing water from the sink.
- Shake the bottle well and pour into the drain opening.
- Let sit 15-30 minutes as the formula fizzes and foams.
- Flush with hot water.
If the drain remains clogged after one treatment, you can repeat the process once.
The advantages of Drano are that it’s inexpensive and easy to use at home.
A typical 32 oz. bottle costs just a few dollars. It’s a convenient first solution to try before calling a plumber.
However, Drano has some significant downsides to consider:
Pros of Roto-Rooter
The main advantage of Roto-Rooter is the commercial-grade tools and technology that plumbers bring to clear your drains. Some of their most powerful options include:
- Cable machines – These devices feed a rotating steel cable down the pipe that has a spiral blade (auger) at the tip to slice through blockages. Modern machines have variable speeds and torque options to tackle tough clogs.
- High-pressure water jets – Many trucks carry jetters that propel water at up to 5000 PSI to scour pipes clean. This is highly effective at dislodging grease, soap buildup, and debris.
- Camera inspections – Tiny waterproof cameras on cables provide a live video feed inside pipes to pinpoint clogs. They can also check pipes for damage and leaks.
- Hydro-jetting – This is a combination of high-pressure water propelled through rotating jets on a hose to scrub pipes walls clean.
Consumer drain cleaners simply can’t match this level of cleaning power. The Roto-Rooter techs can thoroughly clear out even the most stubborn drain obstructions.
Finds Underlying Issues
In many cases, a clogged drain is a symptom of a larger problem, such as a ruptured pipe, root intrusion, or extensive buildup and corrosion. Professional drain cleaners have the tools to diagnose underlying issues:
- Camera inspections clearly show damage and problem spots.
- Techs can check pipes with electro-scanning to measure thickness and find leaks.
- Locating equipment is used to find damaged underground pipes outside the home that may need repair.
- Dye testing can check for leaks.
By finding and addressing underlying problems, Roto-Rooter can provide long-term drain solutions rather than just a quick fix.
Less Mess and Damage Risk
Doing your own drain cleaning carries some messy risks. Harsh chemical cleaners like Drano can splash and leak, damaging your fixtures. Putting too much mechanical force down a drain with improper equipment can also lead to cracked pipes or broken garbage disposals.
The professional equipment and experience of Roto-Rooter techs means the job gets done neatly and safely. They have specialized tools that move through bends in pipes without damaging them. Their high-pressure jetters safely scour away gunk. And their trucks carry equipment to collect waste so it doesn’t spill.
Assistance Under Difficult Circumstances
In some drain backup scenarios, calling a professional is the only viable option:
- Main sewer clogs – Only pros can handle obstructions in the main waste branch that connects all your home’s drainage pipes to the outdoor sewer line.
- Outdoor pipe blockages – Roto-Rooter has equipment to clear clogs in underground pipes outside the home leading to the sewer.
- Kitchen sink double bowl clogs – The divided setup of a double bowl kitchen sink often requires professional augers and scoping equipment to fully clear both sides.
- Holding tank blockages – If you have a septic system, specially designed equipment is needed to clear both the inlet and outlet pipes on the underground holding tank.
- Roof vent obstructions – Clogs in your drainage system’s roof vents require professional access for proper cleaning.
Peace of Mind of Experts on the Job
When facing a serious drain issue, it can be stressful and frustrating trying to remedy it yourself with consumer-grade drain cleaners and tools. Hiring a professional like Roto-Rooter takes that burden off your shoulders.
Licensed, trained, and experienced plumbers have the expertise to get drains working again quickly and completely. You can relax rather than struggling with makeshift solutions that might make the problem worse. Roto-Rooter technicians can also provide maintenance tips to help prevent future clogs.
Availability for Emergency Situations
With over 75 years of experience, Roto-Rooter specializes in emergency drain cleaning and plumbing services. Their technicians are available 24/7, including nights and weekends.
In a plumbing catastrophe like a major sewer line break or septic tank malfunction, being able to get skilled assistance right away minimizes property damage and health hazards from waste backup.
Cons of Roto-Rooter
The biggest downside of Roto-Rooter is the cost. Having professionals handle the work with high-end equipment does not come cheap.
For simple tub or bathroom sink drain clogs, you’ll typically pay $200-$300. Main sewer line obstructions that require hydro-jetting and extensive cleaning might cost $500 or more. Those are just average rates, too – if multiple bathrooms are involved or excavation is needed, the costs pile up quickly.
While professional drain cleaning is undoubtedly the most thorough option, the bills can be difficult for many households to stomach.
- Potential for Over-Service
There is also a risk that inexperienced customers could get oversold on unnecessary services. Some Roto-Rooter techs might try pitching additional services like pipe lining and cleaning that may not be required but do generate revenue.
Always get a clear diagnosis of the problem and be wary of add-on services unless pipes are extremely deteriorated or damaged. Get a second opinion if unsure whether recommended repairs are mandatory.
- Scheduling Hassle
During peak demand times, Roto Rooter may not be able to have a technician at your home right away. You may have to wait several days or longer for an appointment if they are backed up with jobs. In contrast, you can use a liquid drain cleaner as soon as you notice a clog.
Pros of Drano
- Low Cost
The biggest advantage of Drano is its affordable price. A 32 oz. bottle that can treat multiple drains costs less than $10 at most stores. Considering a Roto-Rooter cleaning can cost hundreds, Drano seems very economical in comparison. It offers the convenience of clearing simple clogs yourself without paying for house calls.
- Quick and Easy
Drano is designed for anyone to use with minimal effort. Just shake, pour it in, wait, then flush – the entire process takes less than 30 minutes. No bulky equipment to haul out or complicated steps. The simplicity is ideal for quick relief of minor clogs.
- Versatile for All Drains
The liquid formula can be used in all types of household drains, including sinks, tubs, and shower stalls. The gel version is specially formulated to stick to vertical pipes and target soap buildup and hair in bathroom sinks and showers. There are even industrial strength formulas designed for tough sewer line clogs.
- Breaks Down Organic Matter
The alkaline sodium hydroxide and hypochlorite bleach ingredients in Drano help break down and dissolve hair, grease, food waste, and other organic gunk clogging pipes.
The heat reaction and foaming help penetrate and push through the organic mess. For organic-based clogs (rather than mineral deposits or roots), Drano can effectively break it down.
- Prevents Complete Blockages
Regularly treating drains with Drano can help prevent minor clogs from becoming complete obstructions. The detergents help keep pipe walls clean.
So even if it doesn’t fully clear a major blockage, using Drano periodically can at least keep things flowing minimally and postpone major backups.
Cons of Drano
Drano’s active ingredients sodium hydroxide and bleach are extremely corrosive. There are hazards people should be aware of when handling and using this chemical cleaner:
- It can cause severe skin and eye burns if splashed on the body. Wear protective gloves and eye wear when using. Avoid fumes.
- Never mix Drano with other drain cleaners or acids, as toxic fumes can result.
- Don’t leave pets or children unattended near the product. If consumed, seek medical help immediately.
- Don’t use on clogs that involve any metal components, such as steel wool scrubbies – dangerous heat and gases can result.
Always carefully follow usage directions and maintain safety. Improper use can result in serious injuries or accidents.
The caustic ingredients in Drano have raised concerns about their potential impacts after washing down drains. The alkaline formula raises the pH of water. Wildlife exposed to chemicals like lye can become harmed.
While biodegradable, the bleach and sodium hydroxide take time to break down and become neutralized. Pouring Drano routinely is not an eco-friendly drain cleaning option.
Can Damage Pipes
The heat-generating chemicals used to penetrate clogs can sometimes be too corrosive for older pipes. Metal pipes can become oxidized, especially if Drano is used excessively. The buildup it dissolves can loosen brittle mineral deposits on pipe walls, causing pitting. Plastic pipes can also become weakened and warped.
Not a Permanent Solution
Drano is only a temporary fix – it does not resolve the underlying issue that causes clogs. Drano eats away at the immediate mass of hair and gunk in pipes but does not have lasting preventative effects. Once the chemicals flush out, pipes will start collecting buildup again. The clog often returns in time, requiring repeated Drano treatments.
Generates Bad Odors
The heat-releasing chemical reaction produces unpleasant odors as the ingredients break down in the pipes. This can linger and make bathrooms smelly even after the drain is open. Some even complain the scent sticks to hands after touching the product.
Can Harm Garbage Disposals
Pouring any kind of chemical drain opener down a sink with a garbage disposal can damage mechanisms like the motor, flywheel, or shredder blades. Drano’s heat and corrosive ingredients speed up wear and tear. Your disposal may become unreliable or fail prematurely.
Safety and Storage Hassles
Proper handling and storage are required with Drano and similar caustic drain openers. Always wear protective gloves when using and avoid contact with skin and eyes.
Never remove drain strainer completely when pouring it down. Keep containers out of reach of children and pets. Improper use leads to hospitalizations each year.
- Drano And Roto-Rooter for Bathroom Sink Clogs
For a simple bathroom sink clog, Drano can be an effective and affordable first option to try. But for more stubborn sink obstructions that persist after 1-2 Drano treatments, calling a professional may become the better solution.
Roto-Rooter has specialized augers and small cameras to really scrub bathroom sink pipes out completely. Their technicians can also check for issues like leaks or pipe damage contributing to clogs.
For severe bathroom sink backups that cause overflows, the ultra-pressurized hydro jetting tools of Roto-Rooter are the strongest option to eliminate blockages and get water flowing normally again. But this comes at a higher price.
- Drano And Roto-Rooter for Main Sewer Line Clogs
A main sewer line clog is a job that requires professional equipment and expertise. Chemical cleaners by themselves have little chance of reaching or fixing a complete clog outside the home in the main waste branch.
Roto-Rooter has industrial-strength augers that can tunnel through yard-long sewer obstructions and powerful hydro jetting equipment that can scour sewer walls spotless. They also use cameras to inspect the full length of pipes and pinpoint any damaged spots needing repair.
The combination of mechanical clearing, high-pressure water blasting, and visual inspection is extremely effective for fully restoring flow in blocked sewer mains. Roto-Rooter is the clear choice over basic liquid drain openers when facing a whole-home sewage backup.
- Drano And Roto-Rooter for Tub Drains
Bathtub drains with standing water are frustrating. Most commonly it’s wads of hair and soap scum causing the clog. For simple tub drain issues, Drano Max Gel is the best option. The extra-thick formula clings to vertical pipes and works on soap scum.
However, it may take 2-3 applications if there is extensive buildup. At that point, calling in Roto-Rooter to snake the drain may be better. Their techs can run augers the full length of the curved tub piping to pull out all debris.
For severe tub drain clogs with overflowing dirty water, skip the Drano and call the professionals. Roto-Rooter has waterproof cameras that can be snaked down the tub drain to see exactly what’s blocking it, while special augers can cut through the mass.
- Drano And Roto-Rooter for Kitchen Sink Clogs
The kitchen sink has some unique drainage issues because of the garbage disposal and double bowl setups.
Drano can help clear loose debris and small clogs.
But the chemicals can damage rubber gaskets and seals in the disposal.
And Drano alone often can’t clear clogs between the two sink bowls.
Roto-Rooter’s small cameras are very useful for scoping out kitchen sink drains and seeing the connecting pipes between bowls. Their different sized augers can clear debris in the disposal or reach deeper clogs between the two bowls.
So for most kitchen sink clogs beyond surface gunk, a professional approach is recommended. Roto-Rooter has the right tools to fully clear kitchen sink drains without damaging the garbage disposal in the process.
- Drano And Roto-Rooter for Shower Drains
Shower drains commonly get clogged with hair and soap buildup. Drano Max Gel designed for bathroom use can help eat away at the organic gunk. But hair and soap scum often collects again quickly.
Roto-Rooter offers more permanent shower drain solutions since the technicians can fully remove blockages and install small hair catchers to prevent future clogs. Their high-pressure hydro jetting tools can thoroughly cleanse shower drain pipes.
So while Drano gel can provide temporary relief, Roto-Rooter offers superior cleaning and preventative options for keeping shower drains flowing freely.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Plumbers generally don’t recommend using Drano or similar caustic drain cleaners too often. Here are some of the main reasons:
Pipe damage – Chemical ingredients like lye can corrode and weaken metal and plastic pipes over time, shortening lifespan.
Safety issues – Improper use of the corrosive product often leads to injuries.
Environmental impact – The chemicals washed down drains can harm ecosystems.
Doesn’t fix underlying problems – Drano alleviates the symptom of a clog but not the root cause.
Garbage disposal damage – Chemicals prematurely degrade disposal parts.
While handy in a pinch, plumbers usually point customers towards more permanent solutions.
Instead of reaching for the Drano as a first resort, plumbers suggest trying these safer options:
1. Plunger – Manual plunging can clear minor sink clogs without chemicals.
2. Baking soda and vinegar – An eco-friendly method to break down organics.
3. Preventative maintenance – Regularly flush pipes with hot water and trim sink strainers to catch debris.
4. Hair catchers – Inexpensive plastic gadgets trap hair before it reaches the drain.
5. Snaking – Manual and electric augers pull out hair and debris from pipes.
6. Hydro jetting – Powerful pressurized water blast to clean pipe walls.
7. Enzymatic cleaners – Safer biological additives to break down organics.
These methods are gentler on pipes and more effective long-term versus caustic chemicals. But for severe clogs, calling a professional is best.
The most powerful drain unclogging methods that plumbers use include:
High-pressure hydro jetting – Jets of water blasted through pipes at up to 5000 PSI. Removes years of built-up gunk.
Industrial-grade augers – Feed cables with rotating cutting tips down pipes to mechanically break up clogs. Commercial-grade models for plumbers are far stronger than DIY options.
Caustic soda – Also known as lye, this is sodium hydroxide in crystal form used to eat through thick organic clogs. Works faster than Drano but requires professional precautions.
Enzyme-based solvents – Contain bacteria that naturally digests organics in clogs. Safer than caustics but slower acting.
Acid solutions – Sulfuric or hydrochloric acid formulations help dissolve mineral deposits and corrosion.
These commercial and industrial methods provide the strongest unclogging power but require professional experience. Caustics like lye and acids especially should only be handled by experts.
Snaking a drain using a mechanical auger is generally better than using Drano if possible. Here’s why:
1. Pulls out debris rather than just dissolving it
2. Clears full length of pipes, not just the standing water
3. Doesn’t have splash risks or fumes
4. No damage to pipes from chemicals
5. Lasting results rather than temporary fix
For DIY drain cleaning, inexpensive plastic snakes are reasonably effective and safe. Of course, for quickest results and to fully clear pipes, a professional plumber’s powered augers work best. Either method is superior to caustic liquid uncloggers when done properly.
Dealing with a clogged drain can quickly go from annoying to a plumbing emergency if it completely blocks water flow. While products like Drano offer an inexpensive DIY approach, hiring professional drain cleaners like Roto-Rooter provides the most powerful and complete solutions.
Drano works well for minor sink clogs but comes with safety concerns and only temporarily eats away debris. Roto-Rooter’s commercial-grade equipment fully clears blockages and addresses underlying issues. Technicians can also inspect pipes and perform needed repairs.
Roto-Rooter offers reliable and long-lasting drain cleaning results but at a higher upfront cost. However, serious plumbing messes like sewer line backups require professional equipment.
Weigh the pros and cons of convenience, effectiveness, and costs. Utilize Drano periodically for maintenance but call in the professionals when faced with extensive obstructions. Taking steps to prevent clogs in the first place, like installing hair catchers, also minimizes problems down the road.