Enzyme vs. Bacterial Drain Cleaners: The Difference Explained

Bacteria Floating Around

     An effective drain cleaner is a necessary part of any drain or septic maintenance routine. If you’ve been using a chemical cleaner, you may be wondering if there’s a more environmentally friendly product, and more importantly, if it’s as effective as your current brand. Fortunately, a variety of biological drain cleaners are now widely available, but which one is right for your home or business?

Using Biological Cleaners

     There’s no shortage of chemical drain cleaners on the market today, but biological cleaners are gaining popularity and with good reason. Once thought to be less powerful than their caustic counterparts, biological cleaners have been shown to clear drains—and keep them clear—just as effectively. Some even cost less than brands made with harsh chemicals.

     Chemical cleaners, on the other hand, have been known to cause cracks in pipes that eventually lead to large leaks. Because they are made of natural products, biological drain cleaners won’t damage your pipes, even after repeated use. In restaurants and other settings where fats, oils, and greases (or FOG) is present in drain pipes, these all-natural cleaners are safe to use as often as needed to maintain a clear drain line. Biological drain cleaners are also safe to use around humans and pets, even in sinks! They won’t leach chemicals back into the water supply, either. However, not all biological drain cleaners are created equal.

Enzyme Drain Cleaners

     One common type of biological drain cleaner is enzyme-based. These non-living organic compounds are safe to use in homes, commercial kitchens, and other businesses regardless of pipe age or material. Enzyme drain cleaners are fast-acting and can get to work right away breaking down fats, oils, and greases. Rather than fully digesting FOG, however, enzymes simply liquefy it, allowing it to continue through your pipes and drainage system where it could possibly solidify again, causing additional problems or clogs. In fact, some municipal water treatment systems have prohibited the use of enzyme drain cleaners, and they may not be suitable for some septic systems.

     Because enzyme cleaners are non-living, they won’t reproduce, so more of the product is needed than bacterial cleaners, and more frequent treatments as well. Enzyme cleaners are also difficult to manufacture. These characteristics typically make enzyme cleaners more expensive than bacterial cleaners. In addition, different enzymes target different types of waste. Some, for example, attack FOG while others attack protein or starches. The cleaner can only be effective if it’s targeted toward the waste in your drainage system. Some research may be necessary to select the right type of enzyme drain cleaner for the unique needs of your home or business.

Bacterial Drain Cleaners

     Like enzyme drain cleaners, bacterial cleaners are all-natural and safe to use around humans and pets. They can also be used in pipes without concern for cracks or leaks over time. Bacterial cleaners can survive in a wide range of temperatures and pH levels as well, and they actually help to maintain a healthy, natural pH balance in drainage or septic systems.  Because bacteria reproduce at very high rates, less product is required to clear a drain, and treatments may be needed with less frequency.

     Bacteria actually release their own enzymes and can detect the type of waste present in order to release the correct enzymes to attack it. However, unlike enzyme drain cleaners that only liquefy FOG, bacterial drain cleaners will actually fully digest any fats, oils, and greases that may be in your drainage system, resulting in fewer clogs down the line. This makes bacterial drain cleaners a safe and effective option for septic systems as well.

Choosing the Right Drain Cleaner for your Home or Business

     Drain maintenance is an important part of any drainage or septic system. When safety and environment are a concern, the best choice is a biological drain cleaner. Both enzyme drain cleaners and bacterial drain cleaners provide safe, all-natural drain cleaning solutions for your home or business. However, one major drawback of enzyme cleaners is that they only liquefy the fats, oils, and greases found in your drains. While the liquified FOG can then freely move down the drain line, it may solidify again, causing additional clogs later on. Because bacterial cleaners fully digest FOG, they are not only safe but highly effective as well.