Enzymes vs bacteria in drain treatment – cost and performance comparison

Drain sanitation and regular maintenance practices are extremely essential for several reasons such as: to improve the lifespan of drainage structures and ultimately wastewater collection infrastructure, to eliminate any foul odor due to decomposition of organic waste matter, to facilitate faster drainage and eliminate issues with drain clogs or blockages, and finally to avoid or minimize capital intensive repairs. Drainage systems including pipes and plumbing in residential and commercial systems are exposed to a broad range of waste organic matter, dirt, debris, etc. that accumulate on the surface of pipe walls over time eventually causing drain clogs. Wastewater from commercial places especially restaurants and food processing plants include fats, oils, and grease in addition to regular organic matter which makes the pipes highly susceptible to blockages and occasionally wastewater overflows. To prevent or remedy such issues there are several treatment options available:

  • Chemical Treatment – this involves use of strong disinfectant chemicals like hypochlorous acid or caustic soda. The chemicals react with the organic matter disintegrating it and thus facilitating normal flow of wastewater through the pipes.
  • Mechanical Treatment – this involves use of a mechanical device such as an auger (a flexible piece of metal with special attachment at the end) that is inserted down the drain to remove the clog.
  • Biological or Microbial Treatment – this method uses naturally-occurring microbes mainly bacteria to remove a broad range of contaminants or unclog drain pipes. Most bacteria have a high affinity towards complex hydrocarbons present in organic waste matter in sewer pipes. These bacteria use/digest the complex hydrocarbons producing carbon dioxide, water, and soluble fatty acids. Bacterial treatment can involve use of direct living pathogens or bacteria that are sold in spore form or use of enzymes that are a group of non-living proteins that operate as tools that accelerate chemical reactions between bacteria and organic matter, thus facilitating digestion of the waste/organic matter.

Both bacterial and enzymatic cleaners are more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives than the tradition chemical cleaners. Bacterial and Enzymatic Cleaners are considered safer compared to Chemical Cleaners in that they do not create harmful chemical fumes that can irritate or burn eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. However, what is the primary difference between Bacterial and Enzymatic Chemicals in terms of performance? This article provides a brief comparison of bacteria and enzymes used in drain cleaners with respect to their performance and cost. It is part of a new venture by Sani Service on Bio Cleaning of Sewer Pipes. Saniservice is now an exclusive distributor of SmartPipe Systems product viz. Biotroop BL-20 for efficient, ecological, and sustainable cleaning and maintenance of sewer pipelines across the UAE especially in commercial applications such as restaurants,  cruise lines, real estate operators, shopping malls, industry, and water treatment facilities. SmartPipe System provides wastewater and pipe management solutions to sanitize drainage pipes and sewers without chemical or heavy flushing. All products are environmentally friendly and use natural microbial pipe treatment solutions based on live microbes.

Saniservice has been at the forefront of providing their customers with the latest products and sustainable, ecological disinfection treatment technologies available for sewer pipe maintenance and cleaning.

With “Bio Cleaning of Sewer Pipes”, Saniservice aims to educate and inform their customers about the fundamentals of residential and commercial grease trap maintenance and sewer disinfection treatments primarily used for preventing pipe blockages and odor control.


To compare the performance or effectiveness of Bacterial and Enzymatic cleaners it is imperative to understand the mechanism behind both these types of cleaners. However, it should be noted that Enzymatic cleaners are a derivative of Bacterial products. Bacterial cleaners primarily constitute live unicellular organisms viz, microbes or bacteria that decompose the organic matter present in sewer pipes and drains in the presence or absence of oxygen. Bacteria secrete natural enzymes that ultimately decompose the organic waste matter and convert them to carbon dioxide and water. Figure 1 to the right shows a typical lifecycle of the bacterial cleaning process.

Enzymatic cleaners on the other hand, are a group of chemical compounds or proteins (not live) that breakdown the organic waste matter. Based on their affinity for the general class of organic matter, enzymes are classified as:

  • Protease – Enzymes that attack protein-based waste such as blood, meat, feces, etc.
  • Lipase – Enzymes that attack fats, oils, and grease
  • Amylase – Enzymes that attack starchy food such as rice, potatoes, etc.
  • Xylenase – Enzymes that attack plant-based food such as vegetables
  • Cellulase – Enzymes that attack wood fibers present in paper and paper products


The Biotroop BL-20 is a bacteriological/microbial based disinfectant. Its primary composition includes Benzisothiazolinone which is an antimicrobial used in many types of cleaning products, including laundry detergents, stain removers, dish detergents, and more. The Biotroop BL-20 employs a natural bacteriological-based cleaning process that helps in removal of fat, oil, grease (FOG) and other organic matter from sewers that are most common in restaurants and can cause foul odors, release bacteria and other pathogens causing diseases, thus endangering public health. As discussed earlier, bacterial chemicals have advantages over enzymatic chemicals. The Biotroop BL-20 product is particularly beneficial in the following aspects:

  • Effective on biological wastewater treatment
  • Neutralizes Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) production, thus eliminating foul odors
  • Complete blockage prevention and consumption of grease






  1. Kohli, R. (2019). Application of Microbial Cleaning Technology for Removal of Surface Contamination. In Developments in Surface Contamination and Cleaning: Applications of Cleaning Techniques(pp. 591-617). Elsevier.
  2. http://www.uschemical.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/L000217_DRAIN-TREATMENT.pdf
  3. Sheridan, W. D. (1994). Reference Data Sheet For Chemical and Enzymatic Drain Cleaners. Meridian Engineering and Technology. Nov8.
  4. https://www.rsb.org.uk/images/07_Enzymes.pdf
  5. https://www.nycoproducts.com/resources/blog/simple-science-how-enzymes-clean/
  6. https://www.soundplumbinglv.com/blog/2017/january/why-is-drain-cleaning-maintenance-important-/
  7. https://www.smartpipe.fi/en/smartpipe/biotroop-product/


Meet our Expert

Abhiram Satyadev has a Masters in Environmental Engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, an MBA at Goldey Beacom College in Delaware, and a Masters Certificate in Standford University. He is currently the Program Manager, Potomac Interceptor for the DC Water in Washington DC. He is responsible for developing, implementing, and maintaining the Potomac Interceptor Renewal Facility specifically including operation and maintenance of odor control facilities at the Potomac Interceptor Sites and Pump Stations.

With Saniwater, he serves as our Research and Development Consultant and provides us with insights into his expertise. Read his section here on www.saniwater.com to know more.