Utility of "gel" drain cleaners vs. standard liquids

One of these days I swear I’m going to take the bathroom sink apart and get that clog out for good, but in the mean time:

Is there any difference (performancewise) between these “fast acting” gel drain cleaners and the liquid predecessors? I was going to pick up a gel one the last time to see if it’s any better, but the higher price and fact that the directions were exactly the same (pour, wait 15 minutes, rinse) put me off. The ingredients list was also the same except the gel cleaner had “biosulfite solids” or something. I presume this is the thickening agent and not the miracle panecea.

I was told that the difference was that the solid(er) stuff will sit on top of the clog instead of passing through. This makes sense on the surface (as it were), but again, seeing the exact same instructions made me wary.

DO NOT USE DRAIN CLEANERS! I work in rental property management, and there’s two things you should know about drain cleaners: They don’t work very well, and plumbers hate them. If the damned thing doesn’t work, how do you clean out a pond of lye infected water? Regular unclogging runs us $50, if you add a drain cleaner, it’s $150. Lye is a dangerous, nasty chemical and you don’t want it in your house.

For minor clogs, bail out as much water as possible, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain followed by several cups of boiling water and let it sit. Other this is enough. If this doesn’t work, go to the hardware store and buy a snake. It will last forever, is easy to use, and won’t pollute the environment.

Forget the drain cleaner liquids and get a snake for bathroom & kitchen sinks.
Your clog is most likely due to hair which requires a caustic to disolve it.
The ‘snake’ is just as effective and far safer.

There is a thread regarding plumbing snakes, electric snakes, flat tapes, etc. which I cannot refer to without using the search function.

Snaking is cheap. It’s good for the soul. It gives you a real sense of accomplishment.

Some of the best homeowning advice ever was passed by a friend. She asked her mother whether she ever used drain opener. The mother’s reply:

“When I rented? Yes. When I owned, NO.”

I’ve worked extensivly as a plumber in addition to other related trades. Snaking is not hard and makes you feel like a man when you get done. People look at you with awe when they know you just spent an hour snaking out some combination of giant turd+pinecone+whole roll of toilet paper some young [expletive] shoved down a toilet.

And those foaming pipe snakes chemicals are crap. Ever try and get both chemicals to flow out of that divided bottle at the same time?

I’d love to run a snake down my bathroom sink drain, but the damn drain stopper won’t come out! It’s one of those ones with the little plunger behind the tap to move it open and closed, but you can never pull the stopper all the way out of the drain. I have looked under the sink for some kind of release; nada. Anybody know how to release this kind of stopper?

Fear Itself, you might have to give it a quarter or half-twist but i’m not sure which direction.

I don’t like admiting it, but when I’m done snaking, I often feel like a man. Especially if there’s a girl involved…

OK, consider this little battle against ignorance (and costs for my landlords who were nice enough not to raise the rent this last go-round) won. Next time it clogs, I’m off to the hardware store.

Although I may have the same problem as Fear; the drain plug is busted. Busted enough that the super gave up on it (mostly because we told him not to once he started getting angry).

Fear Itself: I think you mentioned you tried this, but there should be a little levery contraption behind the drain pipe from which you can disconnect the unit.

I, for one, am still interested in the answer to the OP’s question.

I have a couple slow drains, and I have no patience for taking them apart and fiddling around inside. I don’t need to plumb in order to feel like a man, and in fact, as a man (and a cynical, heartless bastard), I pride myself on thinking rationally ($3 + 15 minutes = faster drain without the hassle) instead of emotionally (snaking = manly).

I had no idea there was a gel-type drain cleaner until I saw a commercial for it last night. It’s ironic that Drano, a brand that also sells liquid drain cleaners, would run an ad about how it doesn’t make sense to use liquid drain cleaners.

Having joined the ranks of the Landed Gentry a few years ago and thus being responsible for all the drains in my castle I’ll second the “Do not use drain cleaner” advice. They have never worked for me and usually result in exactly what the plumber said, a pool of standing caustic water.

Try removing the trap (P-shaped bent pipe underneath the sink) and cleaning it out. Bail the standing water first. You’ll probably need an adjustable wrench to unfasten the trap (put a plastic basin underneath to catch any water that is standing in the pipe).

Put on some rubber gloves and scrape out the crap (dirt & soap scum & dead skin & other ick) from the pipe leading down from the sink, also from the pipe where it leads into the wall (also a lot easier to snake out this way if that’s where the clog is), then scrape the P-trap clean and hose it out good. Reassemble and run the water to make sure that you’ve gotten rid of the clog and that you don’t have a leak.

I did this for all the sinks in my house and was amazed at how choked the P-trap was with crud. Everything runs smooth now, only took an hour of my time and no risk of chemical burns.

Am I the only one for whom drain cleaner actually works? I put some down my bathroom sink a couple weeks ago, and now it’s draining at least twice as fast.

May I add a couple of questions to the OP?

I live in a condo where the drainage from the bathroom sink is only fair. So, once in awhile, I’ve gone to the store and paid good money to get a leading brand of drain cleaner goop which I then literally pour down the drain.

Okay, you folks don’t seem to be drain cleaner fans for the most part, but I’d like to know how much to believe the advertising claim, “Safe for all pipes”. I think I know enough chemistry - maybe not - to understand that a strong alkali could take out grease and hair plugs, and be safe for metal piping. …but what about plastic piping? Does the claim of “safe” really mean just “safe enough if not overused, won’t do too much damage for the length of time you’ll probably live where you do” -?

Yeah, I gotta call the plumber sometime, especially since the blockage might be a ways down the pipes, caused by who knows.