Wondering how to snake a drain like a plumber? This article will teach you how to use a drain snake the right way to clear blockages in your pipes.
Some clogs are so stubborn that not even a plunger will help. Usually, this is because the clog is deep within your pipes, and you’re going to need a specialized plumber’s drain snake – also called a drain auger or a plumber’s auger – to dig the clog out.
A plumbing snake is a long, flexible metal cable with a plastic crank handle and guide. Plumbing snakes can be purchased at most home improvement stores for around $15 to $20. The clog-snagging end of the drain snake has several bendable sections and interchangeable tips that screw on – one might have an eyelet or corkscrew tip; another might be straight with small teeth or claws; yet another may include tiny barbs along its length.
Note: If you’re not sure where to start when looking for a plumber’s drain snake, or aren’t comfortable using one yourself, then be sure to give Western Rooter & Plumbing a call! Our plumbing professionals know how to use drain snakes and can unclog drains quickly, safely and efficiently.
Keep this guide handy – it might just save you an expensive maintenance call!
What is a drain snake?
A plumber’s drain snake – also commonly called a plumber’s snake, plumber’s auger, drain auger, or just auger when used in the context of plumbing – is a hand-cranked device that is used to unclog a drain when a plunger doesn’t work.
A plumber’s drain snake is used to unblock clogged drains or pipes. It consists of a long flexible metal tube with the sharpened end shaped like a coiled “S” which can be twisted down into your drain, where it either breaks up the blockage or pushes it through so that you can pull out what’s left.
Types of plumbing snakes include hand augers, electric drain line cable machines, and self-feeding rods/snakes.
How does a drain snake work?
A drain snake works by forcing the sharp end of the plumbing snake down into your clogged drain and then turning it until it either breaks up or pushes through whatever is causing the blockage. Most plumbing snakes also have a cable that you feed out as you twist the plumbing snake deeper into your drain, giving yourself extra reach if needed to get past bends in pipes and broken pieces of plumbing.
Instructions for using a drain snake:
First, understand that you’re probably going to get dirty in the process of using a plumber’s drain snake. The point of a plumber’s auger is to drill right through debris, meaning that it’s going to get dirty. And when you crank it back up, it’s going to bring that dirt with it. We’ll get into how you clean the plumbing snake later in this article, but make sure you’re ready for a mess ahead of time!
1 . Remove the P-Trap manually
A P-Trap is a plumbing component that you’ll find in most homes. The purpose of a P-Trap is to make sure sewer gas doesn’t come back up into the plumbing system and make its way to your living space. While it might not seem like a big deal, leaving your P-Trap on can make it more difficult to remove debris from the plumbing snake when clearing blocked drains and other plumbing problems.
It’s a good idea to remove it, because if you don’t have one in place anymore then that will cut out that middleman step from the process of using a plumbing snake for unclogging purposes. You can clean it later if need be – but by getting rid of this part altogether, all you need is a plumber’s drain snake!
2 . Put some towels or rags underneath your work area
This is going to get messy, so be sure that you’ve got some towels or rags underneath the plumbing snake tool before you get started. Make sure that they’re covering as much of your floor area as possible – especially if you’ve removed your P-Trap!
You’ll want to make sure that nothing is getting into any part of the plumbing system while this blockage is cleared out. If there are gaps in between tiles where grout used to sit (or anywhere else), then put something down there too so none of the mess gets through.
3 . Carefully force the drain snake into the pipe
You will want to be careful when threading the plumbing snake into the drain so that you don’t cause any damage to your plumbing or sewer line. Damaging these sewer lines can lead to plumbing problems, plumbing leaks, and other expensive plumbing issues. Don’t use too much force, or you could poke right through the pipe and cause an even more serious problem than a simple blockage!
4 . Start cranking the handle, pushing the drain snake deeper into the pipe
Now, once you’ve manually pushed the drain snake into the pipe, you should begin using the crank handle to rotate the auger towards the obstruction. You can crank it counterclockwise or clockwise to accomplish this.
5 . Rotate the crank in both directions to break up the obstruction
Now comes the fun part – you will need to use the plumbing snake tool in both directions (clockwise and counterclockwise) so that you can break up any debris or other blockages.
Once this is cleared out, remove the auger from the plumbing pipe slowly by turning it clockwise again. Once you feel you’ve removed it far enough from the obstruction, you can safely pull it out manually.
6 . Re-attach your P-Trap and check to see if the blockage has been cleared
You will want to re-attach your plumbing P-Trap using Teflon tape and pipe joint compound. Pipe joint compound is usually white, while Teflon tape often comes in yellow or blue packaging. Use plumbing grease on the threads before you screw it back together too!
Once everything has been put back into place, check for any water leaks that might have occurred during this process. If there are still problems with draining then call a plumber just to be safe – most blockages can easily be fixed by plumbing snakes alone but if not then they’ll need professional help immediately.
If your blockage hasn’t been cleared away, you may need to call a professional plumber – like Western Rooter & Plumbing. We are experts at drain cleaning and drain clearing, so you can trust our techs to do the right thing for your pipes!
7 . How to clean your plumbing snake
Now that you’re done using your plumbing snake, you should remove any plumbing grease or other debris from the tool before you put it away.
You can use dish soap, hot water, and paper towels to clean off the auger portion of your plumbing snake after each use so that there’s no messy residue left on it whatsoever. Once everything has been cleaned up nicely, store your drain cleaning equipment near where you keep all of your home improvement tools!
Should you snake a drain yourself, or call a professional plumber?
Now that you understand how to snake a drain, the question remains: is it better to attempt this yourself, or should you call a licensed professional?
If your plumbing is already damaged or faulty, then it’s best to call a professional. You can avoid creating even more costly damage if your plumbing system has any leaks already!
However, most drain clogs are very easy for plumbing snakes to fix – so they might just be able to do the job on their own and save you some money. Either way, if you’re not 100% confident in what you’re doing with this plumbing snake – or if there are any complicated issues involved (like broken pipes!), then you should definitely call a professional – like Western Rooter & Plumbing.
Don’t forget to share this blog post on social media so that your friends and family can learn how to snake a drain too!