Using a Drain Snake: A Comprehensive Guide to Clearing Clogs

Manual Plumber / Using a Drain Snake
Images /

Clogged drains can be a nuisance, but fortunately, they are often easy to clear with the right tools.

One such tool, the drain snake, is particularly effective at removing blockages from your plumbing system.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore using a drain snake, including what it is, when to use it, how it works, and important safety tips to keep in mind.

What is a Drain Snake?

A drain snake, also known as a plumbing snake or drain auger, is a thin, flexible metal cable coiled into a protective drum.

This tool is designed to be inserted deep into a drain to pull out or break up clogs.

A professional-grade drain snake (or auger) can push or “punch” a clog through to loosen it, making it easier to remove.

While some stubborn clogs may require the assistance of a plumber, most blockages caused by soft debris can be removed using a drain snake.

This simple, low-cost device is a valuable addition to your toolkit, saving you time and money by enabling you to clear clogged drains without calling in professional help.

When to Use a Drain Snake

Drain snakes are most effective for clearing slow-draining or completely blocked sinks, showers, or tub drains caused by soft clogs located up to 15 to 25 feet down the line.

Snaking or augering a drain can often resolve water drainage issues that cannot be remedied by chemicals, plunging, or using a plastic hair snake.

However, it’s important to note that drain snakes are not suitable for retrieving heavy items, such as rings, nor can they cut through solid obstructions in drainage pipes.

Signs You Might Need a Drain Snake

Consider using a drain snake if you notice the following issues:

  1. Slow-draining water in sinks, showers, or tubs
  2. Standing water that does not drain
  3. Foul odors emanating from your drains
  4. Gurgling noises coming from your pipes

How Does a Drain Snake Work?

A drain snake’s cable can be up to 25 feet in length, with a corkscrew-type spring at the end designed to remove clogs from drains.

To use a drain snake, you manually push the cable from the drum into the drain.

When the corkscrew end encounters an obstruction, the drum is locked in place, allowing the cable to turn.

By turning, the sharp end of the cable snags the obstruction, allowing it to be pulled back and removed.

Types of Drain Snakes

There are various types of drain snakes available, each designed for specific applications.

Understanding the differences between them can help you choose the right tool for the job.

Manual Drain Snake

A manual drain snake is the most common type and is suitable for most household clogs.

This type of snake is hand-cranked, with a cable that is manually fed into the drain.

Manual drain snakes are cost-effective and easy to use, making them a popular choice for homeowners.

Electric Drain Snake

An electric drain snake, also known as a power auger, is a motorized version of the manual drain snake.

It is more powerful and efficient at removing stubborn clogs.

Electric drain snakes are typically used by professional plumbers, but they can also be rented for DIY use.

Toilet Auger

A toilet auger, or closet auger, is a specialized type of drain snake designed specifically for use with clogged toilets.

It features a rubber sleeve to prevent damage to the porcelain coating of the toilet bowl.

A regular drain snake can be used in a toilet, but it may cause damage to the bowl.

Toilet augers work by rotating a handle on one end, guiding a long metal tube and cable into the toilet’s drain towards the clog.

How to Use a Drain Snake

Using a drain snake is a relatively straightforward process, but it’s essential to follow the correct steps to ensure success and avoid potential damage to your plumbing system.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a drain snake:

1. Prepare the Area

Clear the area around the drain, ensuring that you have plenty of room to work.

If you’re working on a sink, you may need to remove the P-trap (the curved pipe beneath the sink) to access the drain.

If you’re working on a shower or tub, remove the drain cover.

2. Insert the Drain Snake

Feed the end of the drain snake cable into the drain opening, turning the handle clockwise as you push it further in.

Continue feeding the cable until you encounter resistance, indicating that you’ve reached the clog.

3. Engage the Drum

Once you’ve reached the clog, lock the drum in place to prevent the cable from moving.

This will enable you to apply more force when turning the handle.

4. Break Up or Retrieve the Clog

Turn the handle clockwise to engage the corkscrew end of the cable with the clog. If the clog is soft, the cable will snag and pull it out.

For harder clogs, the turning motion will help break it up, allowing it to be flushed away.

5. Remove the Drain Snake

Once you’ve successfully cleared the clog, carefully pull the drain snake cable back out of the drain, turning the handle counter-clockwise as you do so.

Be prepared for the possibility of dirty water and debris being dislodged as you remove the cable.

6. Test the Drain

After removing the drain snake, run water down the drain to ensure that it is flowing freely and that the clog has been successfully cleared.

If the drain is still slow or blocked, you may need to repeat the process or consider calling a professional plumber.

Safety Considerations When Using a Drain Snake

Using a drain snake is generally safe, but it’s important to take certain precautions to protect yourself and your property.

Follow these safety tips when using a drain snake:

  1. Wear safety glasses and gloves to protect your eyes and hands.
  2. If the drain contains drain-cleaning chemicals, flush the drain with water before snaking it, if possible. If water is not draining, be careful when pulling out the drain snake to avoid splashback.
  3. Do not pour caustic chemicals into the drain before snaking it.
  4. Be sure to pull the cable straight out when removing it. Turning it counter-clockwise may loosen the obstruction and re-deposit it in the drainage pipe.
  5. If the snake becomes stuck, lock the thumbscrew in place and turn the drum and cable in reverse, while slowly backing the cable out of the drain. Continuing to turn the drum and cable in the same direction may cause the cable to kink up and become even more stuck.

Renting a Drain Snake

If you don’t have a drain snake or toilet auger at home, consider renting one from a home improvement retailer.

Most stores offer small and medium-sized snakes and augers suitable for kitchen and bathroom use, making it a cost-effective option for occasional use.

In Conclusion

Using a drain snake is an effective method for clearing clogged drains and can save you time and money that would otherwise be spent on professional plumbing services.

By understanding what a drain snake is, when to use it, how it works, and the safety precautions to take, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle most household clogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like