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I borrowed a powered snake style drain gun for some toilets and shower stalls, from an HVAC guy who said that liquid drain cleaners were next to useless. The short version is that the drain cleaner succeeded where the snake gun failed. After a while, I took a look online and saw some pneumatic drain guns powered by BB-gun style CO2 cartridges. Are any of these better than any other? If not, are any of these more appropriate to domestic drains?

Clearly I would prefer not to add liquid drain cleaner, containing god-knows-what-all, to the municipal water supply even though I know the manufacturer and the city say it's safe. The only thing I haven't tried yet is the pneumatic gun. Can it replace liquid drain cleaner?

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I haven't seen the drain guns for plumbing, only for HVAC condensation lines (for which a shop vac also does a pretty good job and has multiple uses). But a pneumatic drain gun is going to have a similar effect as a plunger, pushing out a clog as long as it's before or at the vent pipe, but not after. For anything after the vent pipe, you'll need a snake to physically remove it. Personally, I would save my money and just use a plunger. As for the chemical clog removers, they will kinda work as long as it's clogged and not a slow drain where all the chemical cleaner would pass through before impacting the clog.

That said, a snake, plunger, and many of the other clog removers are only going to create an opening in the drain. If you have a reoccurring problem with clogs, then you need a chemical cleaner that removes buildup from your pipes. If you have tried the liquid cleaners that remove buildup, multiple times, and still have a reoccurring issue, then make sure you're not putting anything down the drain that would cause a clog, like grease, oils, fats, salad dressings, etc. And if after all that, you're still having issues, I would suspect an issue with your drain pipes, e.g. an improper slope, undersized drain lines, improper venting, etc.

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So aside from having "liquid plumber" on the bottle, how do I tell drain cleaner form what you call a "chemical cleaner"? To clarify, we had a complete clog and a slow drain. I'll post the brand name of the chemical we used if it helps, but of greater concern, how would I go about surveying and diagnosing the structural problems you describe? –  jamesson Oct 10 '11 at 13:48
    
@jamesson, the liquid cleaners are usually labeled for whether they penetrate through standing water and get to the clog, or if they are more like a foaming type that doesn't work with standing water. Structural issues vary, and some may have visible symptoms (like gurgling from bad venting), but they often require opening up the floor/ceiling/wall and visually inspecting the drains, which is why I leave that as the last resort. –  BMitch Oct 10 '11 at 14:00
    
Can I rent a borescope? or are those only for sale? –  jamesson Oct 10 '11 at 14:49
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