Clearing vs. Cleaning

Many homeowners and businesses face issues with their drains, leading to the dreaded call to a professional or the hurried search for a DIY solution. Often, terms like clearing vs. cleaning are used interchangeably when discussing drains. However, understanding the difference between these two can help you make more informed decisions about maintaining and fixing your drainage system. Let’s delve into the nuances of both processes.

Floor drain, running water in shower, tinted black and white image

Clearing a Drain:

Clearing a drain generally refers to the removal of obstructions or blockages that hinder the free flow of water. This could mean anything from a clump of hair to accumulated soap residues, or even bigger issues like tree roots penetrating the drain. Clearing the drain entails pushing through the blockage with an auger machine so that the effluent can flow again.


There are a few common techniques used for clearing drains:


Using a plunger to create a vacuum, then pushing and pulling rapidly can clear minor blockages in toilets, sinks, and bathtubs.

Drain Snakes or Augers:

This is a long, flexible tool that’s manually turned. It can also be electrically machine-driven. This machine is used to reach the obstruction, break through the blockage, and break it up.

Chemical Drain Cleaners:

While they can be effective, they are not recommended for frequent use. They can corrode pipes and harm the environment. They can also cause vapour clouds which is harmful to your health.

When is it Necessary?

You’ll know it’s time to clear your drain when water starts draining slowly, there’s a backing up of water, or you hear gurgling noises from your drain. If left unattended, blocked drains can lead to more serious plumbing problems.

Cleaning a Drain:

Clearing focuses on removing obstructions, cleaning is all about scrubbing the walls of the drainpipe and ensuring the drain is free from build-up that can cause blockages. Cleaning focuses on the overall health of your pipes, ensuring they are free from grime, grease, and minor build-ups. This process takes longer but is a better choice if you want your drainpipes to be back as close to new as possible.


Professional Drain Cleaning Services: For a thorough cleaning, professionals can use specialized equipment to ensure that every inch of your drain is spotless.

Hydro Jetting:

A high-pressure stream of water is used to clear out obstructions. This is particularly effective for tougher blockages, like tree roots and heavy grease or sludge build-up.

Flex Shaft:

This equipment has carbide tip chain knockers on the end of the cable that chew through almost any blockage. It cleans the pipe walls so that there is virtually no debris left behind.

Drain Vision:

Drain vision sees everything inside your drain pipes. This equipment uses video technology to view what is going on while the hydro-jetter or flex shaft is being used. This ensures that your pipes are at their cleanest by visually inspecting every inch of your drain. It is also a great tool to ensure the main drain is in good shape before purchasing a house.

Natural Solutions:

Baking soda followed by vinegar is a popular homemade solution. This effervescent combination can break down minor obstructions and clean the sides of the pipes.

Enzymatic Drain Cleaners:

These are eco-friendly cleaners that contain bacteria and enzymes that eat away the organic material in a drain.

Regular Flushing:

Simply flushing your drain with boiling water once a week can prevent the build-up of residues.


When is it Necessary?

Regular cleaning is a preventive measure. It’s good practice to clean your smaller drains at least once a month to avoid the accumulation of residues. Cleaning your main drain line at least once a year is recommended if you have root issues. If you notice foul odors emanating from your drain or frequent minor blockages, it’s a sign that your drain needs cleaning.

Why Distinguishing Between the Two is Important:

  1. Understanding the Issue: Recognizing the difference between clearing vs. cleaning a drain can help you address the issue more effectively. For instance, if there’s a major blockage, simply clearing might not suffice and a thorough cleaning might provide peace of mind. Continuous clearing might address immediate issues but neglect the long-term health of your drains.
  2. Cost-Efficiency: Regular cleaning can prevent major blockages, saving you the cost of intensive drain-clearing procedures or potential pipe repairs in the future. Not to mention the clean-up costs that can be associated with a sewer backup.
  3. Environmental Concerns: Regularly clearing drains with chemical solutions can harm the environment. Cleaning with eco-friendly methods is gentler on both your pipes and the planet.
  4. Lifespan of Drains: Proper cleaning and timely clearing can enhance the longevity of your drainage system, preventing early wear and tear.


While the terms ‘clearing’ and ‘cleaning’ might seem similar at first glance, they cater to different aspects of drain maintenance. Clearing is more of an immediate solution to existing blockages, while cleaning is a preventive measure to ensure the long-term health of your drains. Regularly cleaning and timely clearing of your drains can save you time, money, and the hassle of major plumbing issues in the future. Remember, a little attention to your drains now can prevent a major headache later. That’s the nuts and bolts on clearing vs. cleaning. Contact us for more info.