Having a clog in a drain is frustrating and inconvenient. Whether water drains too slowly or won't drain at all, you'll need a fast solution to clean out the clog without damaging your plumbing.
When clogs occur, many people turn to chemical drain cleaners they find at their local store to eliminate the obstruction in their pipes. Unfortunately, those chemicals are highly corrosive and can cause severe rusting in pipes, further damaging the plumbing system. Plungers are useful, but they likely won't work against tight impactions.
Instead, it's best to have a drain snake in your home for these types of situations. These low-cost tools can help free up clogs in your toilet, shower, tub, and sinks.
The History of Drains
The modern drainage and sewer system is an intricate network of pipes that carries wastewater and waste solids from your home's drains to a designated place, like a wastewater treatment facility. The plumbing system inside your home is probably something you don't think about until a drain clogs or needs repair. Even though flushing a toilet and not thinking about the waste again is commonplace now, that wasn't always the case.
The earliest example of a sewer and drain line goes back to the time of the Babylonians. They used a simple hydraulic system to rid a home of unwanted waste.
The Babylonian system used buckets to push waste through clay or wood pipes to lead the material away from the property. Around that time, the Roman Empire enacted hygiene standards and regulations. They are the ones who suggested wastewater should flow down separate pipes in the city.
By the Renaissance Era, sanitation standards in Europe decreased. At one point, conditions were so bad in Great Britain that the River Thames became a community toilet full of human waste and gray water. Poor hygiene and cleanliness standards contributed to the spread of many deadly diseases, such as cholera.
By 1830, the stench of waste was so putrid, living in cities like London was almost unbearable. Between the smell, several cholera outbreaks, and contaminated drinking water, people needed a new way to eliminate waste from their homes.
That period was known as The Great Stink, and it helped develop what you know today as the modern toilet and sewer system. Cities began to install sewer pipes and connect them to toilets, sinks, and other channels to better the environment. While ancient Babylonians and Romans used clay and wood for their lines, modern civilization uses extra durable materials like brass, copper, and plastic.
Why Does a Drain Clog?
Drain clogs are a part of indoor plumbing. Most obstructions are easy to avoid, but that doesn't mean the problem will never occur.
Some of the most common causes for a drain clog in your home include:
- The tub, shower, and bathroom sink can accumulate dirt, hair, soap scum, and skin flakes, which can flow down the drain.
- Non-flushable materials like baby wipes, cotton swabs, and feminine hygiene products can clog toilets.
- Kitchen sinks develop clogs when you pour oil, fats, and grease that can stick to the pipe's interior.
Popular Ways To Clear Drains
Getting rid of a drain clog in your toilet, sink, shower, or tub can be a hassle if you don't have the right equipment for the job. The most popular method may be plunging.
You can use hand plungers in sinks and toilets, but they work best for toilets. With this tool, you need to use a little force to create a tight seal around the drain with the plunger's head. By moving the handle up and down, you can clear the clog in the drain line using suction.
Some clogs are too hard to plunge, so they require a different method for clearing. You may choose to take apart the U-pipe for bathroom and kitchen sinks and unclog the drain trap manually.
This pipe is usually directly under the sink, but clogs need to be close to that part of the plumbing for this method to work. However, a clog can develop farther down the pipeline. You may not be able to reach it without additional plumbing tools or professional assistance.
Should You Call a Plumber To Clear a Clogged Drain?
Another option for clearing clogged drains is to contact a plumber. These plumbing professionals know pipes and sewer systems inside and out. They can pinpoint the clog's location and find a practical solution for clearing and cleaning it.
You may be able to clear a drain without professional assistance. Small problems like a sink drain with hair or a tissue-packed toilet are easy fixes with the right tool or machine.
Before you decide to contact a plumber for your clogged drain, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the clog creating an uncontrollable mess?
- Is the water flowing slowly through other drains in the house?
- Does the drain belong to a frequently used sink or toilet?
If the answer is yes to any question, you'll need to contact a plumber to treat the clog and any possible underlying problems your drain lines may have.
What Is a Snake Drain and Drain Auger?
A drain snake is one of the best tools available to clear a drain line. Snakes can handle a small one-and-a-quarter-inch to two-inch-wide drain. Augers are the same as drain snakes, but they deal with one-and-a-half-inch to three-inch-wide drains.
Drain snakes and augers consist of a long cable that you insert into drain lines to clean out clogs like hair and soap scum buildup. The cable is flexible enough to maneuver through the twists and turns of a pipe without damaging its structure. The cable head has a special tip or attachment designed for snagging or breaking through the clog.
Using a drain snake or auger is best for clearing clogs because it's affordable, efficient, and convenient. You don't have to waste time or money on a plumber who may also use a snake. Several varieties are available to help unclog a toilet, tub, shower, and sink drain:
- Power Augers: The machine has a motor to generate enough power to push the cable through the drain. The line will spin quicker than a manual drain snake because of the motor, so it's best to use it for busting through tight clogs.
- Cable Drain Augers: This manual auger has a corkscrew end on the head of a long cable. You manually turn the crank to push the auger through the pipe until it attaches to the clog.
- Flat Tape Augers: These snakes have a flat cable with an auger tip. They are designed for small pipes with a tw0-inch or less diameter. The cable is not as flexible as other drain snakes, but you can use them to clear more significant obstructions in a small pipe.
- Toilet Augers: A toilet auger is designed to push through obstructions in the bowl. It can have either a manual crank, or you can use a drill to produce more power. The auger has a flexible cable to snake through the toilet's plumbing easily.
Do Drain Snakes Work?
A drain snake or auger is an excellent tool for removing hard-to-reach debris in a pipeline. Snakes and augers come in different sizes to accommodate various pipe lengths. You can get one with a standard 25-foot long cable or a 50-foot long snake for clogs deep within the plumbing system.
It's best to reserve the tool for tough clogs that a plunger can't remove in a toilet, shower, tub, or sink. Even with difficult clogs, you can move the flexible cable with a power drill or manual crank until it dislodges enough of the clog to allow water to flow down the drain freely.
Drain snakes and augers are generally safe to use if you need help eliminating a toilet, sink, or tub clog. The primary thing to remember is to find the right snake or auger for the type of drain you need assistance with and to follow directions closely. Otherwise, you can injure yourself, whether you're using a hand crank auger or a motorized machine.
How Do I Use a Drain Snake Myself?
Minor sink, tub, toilet, and shower clogs can benefit from a do-it-yourself drain snake or auger application. To dislodge drain clogs with this equipment, follow these steps:
- Get access to the drain by removing the overflow assembly or stopper.
- Loosen the screw to your drain snake's or auger's cable housing.
- Use your hand to carefully insert the head of the cable into the drain and through the pipe.
- Using your hand, turn the manual crank or turn the motor on to feed the cable further into the drain line.
- You may feel resistance on the line either from a bend in the pipe or the clog. Tighten the screw holding the cable to its housing to keep the length of the cable in place.
- Rotate the auger cable clockwise and apply slight pressure to feed the line deeper into the drain. If the cable moves, you can continue to feed the snake into the pipe.
- If you can no longer feed the cable into the drain, the snake may be at the clog. Apply pressure again to push the auger tip into the obstruction.
- Retract the snake by hand to bring up the debris stuck on the end of the cable.
- Repeat the process until you remove most of the obstruction material.
- Reassemble the drain plug or overflow assembly.
- Allow the tap to flow for a few minutes to ensure that the clog is gone.
Best Drain Snake Products
Many drain snakes and augers on the market are designed to perform specific tasks for various drains. Below are some of the best snakes available for plumbing emergencies at home.
RIGID 6 Feet Toilet Auger
As one of the best augers specially designed for toilets, this equipment includes a 72-inch tube to fit inside any commode and a three-foot metal cable with a bulbous, coiled auger head. The cable has a vinyl covering to protect the toilet from scratches and other damage.
The RIGID 6 Feet Toilet Auger cable is incredibly flexible and easily catches wads of toilet paper or flushed jewelry and toys.
Husky 1/2 Inch x 50 Foot Drain Auger
The best snake for clogs deep inside a drain is the Husky Drain Auger. With 50 feet of rust-resistant cable and spring steel wire, you can get to clogs a standard drain snake can't reach.
It's best to use this long snake for the main sewer, laundry, or driveway drain. Its design allows for maximum thrusting action to clean a two- or four-inch drain and remove buildup.
FlexiSnake Drain Weasel Sink Snake Cleaner
If someone in your home has long hair, this tool is the best choice for constant bathroom drain clogs. Hair is one of the primary reasons a sink, tub, or shower drain clogs. However, this drain snake design allows for easy use to remove problematic hair and debris from a drain.
It features a hand crank with an 18-inch flexible cable to snake down any sink or tub drain. Its tip has many micro-hooks for grabbing hair trapped in the plumbing.
DrainShroom is another handy tool for tackling hair clogs. As part of the lineup from the makers of the award-winning TubShroom, this is one of the best tools for trapping clog-causing hairballs.
The 42-inch snake is long enough to handle sink and tub clogs, usually within three feet from the drain opening. For tough jobs, you can attach the tool to any power drill and achieve maximum results.
TACKLIFE Automatic Drain Auger
If you need help eliminating a tough clog, turn to the TACKLIFE Automatic Drain Auger. It's a cordless, battery-operated drain snake that can push through even the most severe clogs with ease. The machine is best for one to three-inch drain widths.
The snake not only handles drains inside your house. You can also use it on gutter downspouts and lawn irrigation systems. The snake has a 25-foot long cable with a corkscrew tip. Thanks to its lithium-ion battery, it retains enough power to get the job done.
How To Prevent Drain Clogs
The best way to prevent a clogged pipeline is to know what you can and cannot put inside the pipe. For instance, pouring oils and fats down your kitchen sink can cause the materials to solidify inside the line. You can prevent that issue by storing old grease and oils in a container and throwing it in the trash.
Using the commode to dispose of paper towels, diapers, and feminine hygiene items can produce damaging clogs in your home's main sewer line. It's best never to flush these materials.
To prevent this issue, you should only flush waste and toilet paper. Tissue can also clog, but you can use the ToiletShroom plunger to push the clog out quickly. With its unique design, the ToiletShroom will also keep the inside of the commode drain clean to prevent buildups.
Other TubShroom items are perfect for clog prevention. Besides the DrainShroom snake for dislodging clogs, the brand also offers the original TubShroom plug and hair catcher, the StopShroom drain cover, and the StopShroom Plug for sinks and bathtubs. Their hair catchers and drain protectors are the best items to use if you want to prevent clogs from forming.