The plumbing system inside your home is probably something you don't think about until a drain clogs or needs repair.
Whether water drains too slowly or won't drain at all, you need a fast solution to clean out the clog without damaging your plumbing. That's why it's important to know how to use a drain snake in your home.
In this article, we'll talk about what causes a blocked drain, popular ways to remove clogs, what a snake drain is, how to use it, the best products to use, and preventative measures to avoid clogs.
Why Do Drain Pipes Clog?
Drain clogs are a part of indoor plumbing. Most blockages 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:
- Accumulation of dirt, hair, soap scum, and skin flakes, which can flow down the drain in the shower and tub drains and kitchen and bathroom sinks
- Flushing non-flushable materials like baby wipes, cotton swabs, and feminine hygiene products
- Pouring oil, fats, and grease down the kitchen sink (these can stick to the pipe's interior)
Common 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. While the most popular method may be plunging, there are a few other methods you can try.
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.
Take Apart the U-Pipe
Some clogs are too hard to plunge, so they require a different clearing method. You may choose to take apart the U-pipe for bathroom and kitchen sinks and unclog the drain trap manually. This is the U-shaped curve underneath the sink to prevent clogs from clogging the home’s entire drain pipe system,
Clogs need to be close to that part of the plumbing for this method to work.
However, a clog can also develop farther down the pipeline. In this case, you may not be able to reach it without additional plumbing tools or professional assistance.
A less drastic and less abrasive approach is relying on everyday home items to remedy clogs. Pour baking soda, baking soda and salt, or baking soda and vinegar down the drain and let it sit overnight. Then, use hot water to clear the drain.
Alternately, fill grease-filled drains and clogged toilets with dish liquid or soap. Let it sit overnight and clear the drain with hot water.
A third method is straightening a wire coat hanger to clear drains. Make a hook and stick it down the drain to break and pull up nearby clogs. Run hot water to clear the drain.
When to Call a Professional Plumber
A plumbing service can clear clogged drains. These 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, even if it's outdoors near tree roots.
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 to any of these questions is yes, you'll need to contact a plumber to treat the clog and any possible underlying problems your drain lines may have.
However, you can solve many clogs yourself if you have a drain snake or drain auger. Let’s take a look.
What Is a Drain Snake and Drain Auger?
A drain snake (also called a plumbing snake) is one of the best tools to clear a drain line. Snakes can handle a small, 1.25-inch to 2-inch-wide drain. Augers are the same as drain snakes, but they deal with 1.5-inch to 3-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.
You can easily learn how to use a drain snake yourself. Compared with calling a plumber, it's affordable, efficient, and convenient.
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 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. It’s perfect for clogs stuck deep inside drain pipes.
- Flat tape augers: These snakes have a flat cable with an auger tip. They are designed for small pipes with a 2-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. You can use it with either a manual crank or 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 on 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.
How to Use a Drain Snake
A DIY snake or auger can help with minor sink, tub, toilet bowl, and shower clogs. Here’s how to snake a drain step-by-step.
- 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 cable 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 for Plumbing Emergencies
Many drain snakes and augers on the market are designed to perform specific tasks for various drains. Practice learning how to use a drain snake with some of the best products available.
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 3-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 2- or 4-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 3 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 1 to 3-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.
Drain Blockage Prevention Tips
The best way to prevent a clogged pipeline is to know what you can and cannot put inside the pipe. For instance, you can avoid pouring oils and fats down your kitchen sink 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.
Also, use a drain screen or sink stopper, and you may never have to know how to use a drain snake. It will let water through while catching items like food, hair, soap scum, and paper. Removal, cleanup, and re-installation are effortless.
Don't grab just any stopper or screen, however. The SinkShroom is the best choice to collect items that don't belong down the sink. Great for bathrooms and kitchens, the SinkShroom’s I-shaped design of holes, cutouts, and a bowl-shaped end can catch small, round, long, and unusual debris such as hair and jewelry. It's also removable, easy to clean, and simple to reinstall.
Shroom and a Drain Snake: The Dynamic Duo
Learn how to use a drain snake now because stubborn clogs can appear in your drain anytime. Furthermore, a plumber has several clients with drain trouble, so don't expect them to fix your plumbing problems right away. Knowing how to snake a drain will save you time and money.
In addition to snaking, invest in a Shroom product. Their hair catchers, clog cleaners, and drain protectors are the best items to use if you want to prevent clogs from forming.