Everything You Need To Know About Using A Plumber’s Snake

Unclogging drains is a universal headache that every adult has encountered at some point. Whether it is a blocked kitchen sink or a slow-draining bathtub, the pursuit of an effective solution can be daunting. Enter the plumbing snake! This is a tool respected for its ability to tackle those stubborn clogs that just will not budge with a plunger. It is also one of the most misunderstood tools in a plumber’s toolbox with many questions and misconceptions about its use.
Below, we will demystify the plumbing snake, a tool that is incredibly useful in the world of home plumbing. From understanding what it is to learning how and when to use it, we are diving deep into everything you need to know about plumbing snakes.

What is a Plumbing Snake?
A plumbing snake is a tool that you can use to remove clogs that block drains and piping. It looks similar to a hose but has a much different purpose. A plumbing snake is a long, flexible metal cable with a small, uncoiled spring on one end and a handle on the other. As you use a plumbing snake, it uncoils down the drain, eventually reaching the obstruction that is blocking the piping and causing the backup.
Plumbing snakes are often used when the clog is too big for a plunger to free. These tools are much more powerful than plungers, but they are a bit trickier to use. Plumbing snakes can be used on tub and shower drains, kitchen sinks, and bathroom sinks. Toilets require a particular toilet snake, so it is unsafe to use a typical plumbing snake for these clogs.

Drain Augers vs. Drain Snakes
Having introduced the concept of the plumbing snake, it is important to delve into a common area of confusion: the difference between drain augers and drain snakes. Though these terms are frequently used interchangeably, there are some differences that set one apart from the other, particularly concerning their intended purpose and design.

Drain Snakes: A drain snake is a long, flexible wire-like tool that removes blockages from pipes. The “snake” portion of the tool resembles a coiled metal cable that can be inserted into the pipe to break up clogs and debris. It comes in manual and powered varieties, making it suitable for all clogs. A drain snake is similar to an auger but with one key difference—it has sharp teeth along its length rather than a spiral end. Also, they are typically smaller in diameter than a drain auger.

Drain Augers: Drain Auger typically has thicker and more rigid cabling combined with a motorized or hand-crank mechanism to push and pull the cable inside drain pipes. A Drain Auger has a long spiral cable that can go deep down into the drains and even sewers to dislodge clogs. This tough contraption is designed to disintegrate debris from a deep-formed clog or even pull them out with a hooked end, depending on the severity of the clog, to restore the flow of water in your drain pipes.

Which Types of Clogs Require Drain Snakes?
With a drain snake in hand, you have the power to eliminate all the most common types of clogs, such as:

Hair: Strands and clumps of hair tangle together in the bathroom drain and slow or completely block the flow of water.
Food debris: Leftover pieces of food rinsed down the drain accumulate and create a clog.
Cooking grease: Solidified fats, like bacon grease, narrow pipes and eventually block the entire passageway.
Soap scum: Soap leaves behind a thick residue on the inner drainpipe surfaces, creating a blockage.
Objects: Toys flushed down the toilet, big chunks of food dropped down the kitchen sink drain, and other objects can all clog the pipes.

How To Use a Plumbing Snake
Using a plumbing snake is a matter of feeding the snake through the pipe until you reach the clog and pulling it out. It is important to turn the snake as you push, creating a push and twist motion as your feed it into the pipe. The snake should stop when you find the clog, at which point you should pull it out gently, repeating as necessary, and finishing up by running water through the cleared pipe.

Step 1: Remove Traps or Drains
Remove the drain cover using the tools necessary for your specific cover. If the drain features a plug, carefully remove the trim piece and extract the plug assembly using a drain wrench.
Depending on the type of drain—sink, shower, or tub—you may be able to remove the first section of drainage pipe, making it easier to move the drain snake into the pipes:

Sinks: Under the sink cabinet, remove the P-trap. The P-trap is the 1-1/4- to 2-inch-diameter curved pipe shaped like the letter P. Unscrew the plastic nuts. Release the P-trap and drain the collected water in a container.
Bathtubs: The trap can be accessed through the overflow portion of the drain. A manual snake may be difficult to use here; an electric snake is much better at getting around the trap and down the pipes.
Showers: Gently pry off any screens or covers with a flat-head screwdriver. Using a plug wrench, remove the drain by turning it counterclockwise.

Step 2: Extend Cable
Fully extend the snake past the obstruction, then turn the handle. Continue to push and turn the handle of the snake until the handle reaches the metal tube, meaning the snake is fully extended. Then, turn the handle clockwise 5-10 times, then 5-10 times in the other direction to loosen the obstruction.

Step 3: Snag Obstruction
Once you have carefully fed the snake down the drain, you will need to navigate the auger through the twists and turns of the pipes until you feel resistance. That resistance is your signal that you have hit the clog. To effectively dislodge the blockage, firmly yet gently crank the snake handle. If the clog doesn’t yield immediately, patience is key—maneuver the snake back and forth to chew away at the buildup.

Step 4: Retract Cable
Once you feel the clog has been dislodged, slowly retract the plumbing snake, turning it counterclockwise.

Step 5: Clear Drain Snake
Clear the debris from the end of the drain snake. Twist the debris counterclockwise to remove it; you may need to use a paper towel or other disposable cloth to remove and dispose of the clog.

Step 6: Test Drain Flow
After removing the snake, clean off any debris or residue from the tool. Run water or flush the toilet to test if the clog has been successfully cleared. If the water drains freely, congratulations; you have successfully used a plumbing snake to clear a clog!

Call the BEST Plumber for Drain Cleaning
If you are having trouble with one or more of the above blocking your drains, call Best Plumbing Services at 951-788-1321 for professional drain cleaning methods. Located in Riverside, California we are family owned and operated with over 10 years of experience. We take pride in our service and expect each job to be completed as if it were our own home or business. Our Licensed Plumbers and Technicians will be professional, clean and polite.