How to Use a Plumbing Snake Correctly

How to Use a Plumbing Snake Correctly

If a plunger doesn’t work on your clogged drain, it may be time to break out the plumbing snake. Before you do, though, make sure you’re using it correctly to avoid damage to your pipes.

Advance the snake slowly into the pipe opening. Don’t push it too hard, as this can cause damage to your pipes or the snake itself.

Insert the Snake

When a drain line gets clogged, your first instinct is to reach for a plunger. However, if the blockage is too much for your plunger to handle, it’s time to try a plumbing snake. A plumbing snake (also known as a drain auger) is a spiraled piece of metal that’s attached to a long cable, allowing you to break apart or dislodge obstructions in your pipes.

Before using your plumbing snake, prepare the area. Clear the workspace, and position towels or buckets to catch any water that might splash out. Then, remove the trap arm or p-trap from the sink to make it easier to access the clogged pipe. Next, insert the snake’s head into either the drain or access point on the wall. It may be helpful to run cold water over the pipe while you’re snaking.

Once the snake’s head has entered the clogged pipe, slowly rotate it clockwise to feed it into the drain. If you feel resistance, it means you’ve reached the clog. Apply steady pressure while rotating the snake to break up and pull out the obstruction.

Getting around bends in the pipe is one of the most challenging parts of using a plumbing snake. Fortunately, this becomes easier with practice. If you hit an obstruction and your snake refuses to go any further, check the thumbscrew on the drum of the snake to see if it’s loose. Loose thumbscrews can kink the cable, making it difficult to steer.

It’s also important to note that there are different types of plumbing snakes, with bladed or coiled heads, depending on the type of clog you’re facing. A coiled snake is ideal for hair clogs, while a bladed snake can cut through solid obstructions. If you’re unable to find or purchase a plumbing snake, you can always fashion one out of a wire coat hanger. It won’t be as effective as a professional tool, but it will do the job in a pinch. After you’ve successfully removed the clog, flush your drain to ensure all of the debris is washed away.

Rotate the Snake

A plumbing snake is one of the most popular tools for clearing drain clogs. It is a long metal cable with an auger on the end that you push into your drain and turn as you feed it into your pipe.

When you feel resistance, you’ve encountered the obstruction that is causing your clog. Push and rotate the handle slowly, but steadily. Be careful not to move too fast or you could damage the drain entrance or pipe walls. Listen for scraping noises to indicate that you are on the blockage.

Some clogs are more stubborn than others. It may take several rounds of snaking to get the clog broken up and out of your pipes. If you are unable to break up the clog, it is best to call a plumber.

The key to using a plumbing snake correctly is knowing how to move the snake into the right direction and how to get around corners. If you find that your snake is getting stuck in the corner of the trap under the sink or you are unable to turn the head of the snake, you likely need to tighten the thumbscrew. This is a small handle on the side of the snake drum.

There are different types of plumbing snakes available to fit your unique drain and pipe size. Regardless of which type you choose, the basic design is the same. Each comes with a long, slim metal cable with an auger on the end and a handle to turn it as you push it into your pipe.

A drain snake’s auger design can be either bladed or coiled. A bladed auger can cut through more stubborn blockages, such as those caused by tree roots. A coiled auger is usually more effective for hair clogs.

The first step in snaking is to remove the trap arm and p-trap from the drain. After the pipe is exposed, clear the area around the pipe and place towels or a bucket strategically to catch any water that might splash out. Then, manually thread the auger end of your snake into the drain or access point on the wall (if you removed it). Push and rotate the handle to feed it into the pipe until you feel resistance, indicating that you have reached the clog, very akin to the methods employed by the Winston-Salem plumbers.

Break the Clog

Clogs are frustrating, and they’re usually a sign that you’ll need some extra leverage to dislodge them. Sometimes, a few pumps of a plunger or a quick concoction of baking soda and vinegar will clear the drain or pipe, but other times, you’ll need a little help from your trusty plumbing snake.

The first thing to do when you’re ready to start snaking is to remove the P-trap and trap arm from the affected drain. This will give you more access to the pipe and allow you to uncover any obstructions that may be causing the clog. Next, you’ll want to locate your snake and uncoil it. Many home plumbing snakes have a spring that can be uncoiled by simply rotating the handle. It’s important to do this at a steady pace, as too much force could damage the drain entrance or pipe.

Once you’ve uncoiled your snake, insert it into the drain and push it down. It’s a good idea to use a flashlight when doing this so that you can see where the snake is going. Aim for the spot where you think the clog is located. If you’re not sure, try pouring water down the drain to see if it moves around and dislodges any visible debris.

You’ll know when you’ve reached the clog because you’ll feel some resistance as the snake passes through the obstruction. Depending on the type of snake you have, its head will either have blades that cut through the clog or a coiled design that can hook onto the clog and pull it up. If you have a power snake, it will have an auger that’s hooked to a motor and is capable of doing more work than manual varieties.

Once the clog is broken up or pulled out, you’ll need to reassemble the P-trap and flush the drain with water. This will ensure that all debris is cleared from your pipes and prevent clogs from returning in the near future. Once you’re finished, be sure to clean the snake and coils with hot water before storing it away for future emergencies.

Retrieve the Snake

If you find that your plunger has failed to unclog your drain, it may be time to try a plumbing snake. Unlike plungers, which can cause damage if used improperly, plumbing snakes are relatively safe and easy to use. By following a few simple steps, you can successfully use a plumbing snake to clear your drain and prevent future clogs.

First, make sure that you have all of your supplies ready before starting. Put on an overall coat and gloves to protect yourself from getting dirty, and place a few old towels around the working area. Once you’re prepared, push the end of the plumbing snake into the clogged drain and crank the handle to start it moving down the pipe. As the snake feeds through the pipe, continue rotating it slowly until you feel resistance. This is usually when you’ve reached the clog, but if not, keep cranking and rotating until you do.

It’s important to remember that the head of your plumbing snake can get stuck in the clog at any point. If you do experience this, pull the snake back out and start over. Alternatively, you can also try pushing it further into the pipe to break up the clog or grab onto it. Then, you can rotate and push the snake again until the obstruction is broken up or caught in the head of the plumbing snake.

After the plumbing snake has cleared the clog, it’s a good idea to flush out the pipe by running water through it for a few minutes to ensure that it’s completely cleaned out. Then, you can reassemble your sink and pour water down the drain to confirm that it is functioning normally.

Once you’ve retrieved the snake, it’s important to clean it and store it properly for next time. Use a mixture of warm water and dish soap to wash the snake thoroughly, then rinse it out and dry it before storing in a dry location. Keeping your plumbing snake in good condition can help you avoid future clogs, so it’s worth taking the time to do it correctly!

John Clayton