If you’re dealing with a clog too stubborn for a plunger but you’re not ready to throw in the towel yet, a manual drain snake may be your best bet. A plumber’s snake or drain auger is a tool that “snakes” down into pipes to remove clogs. Snaking a pipe is the middle ground between plunging and calling in the big guns like professional, powered drain augers.
Plumber snakes are more powerful DIY drain-clearers than plungers but also more difficult to use. They can be difficult to maneuver through sharp turns and twists. To avoid costly mistakes, learn how your snake works and how to use it correctly. Here’s everything you should know about how to use a drain snake.
How to use a plumbing snake (And what is an auger anyway?)
An auger is simply a tool designed for boring into something. A drill is a type of auger. A plumbing auger or plumbing snake is a long, flexible metal cable with a small, uncoiled spring on one end and a handle on the other. The auger head on the snake looks like a corkscrew. A home plumbing auger is usually around 20-50 feet long. The cable coils up into a circular housing when you’re not using it. Most home plumber’s snakes are hand-operated and have a rotatable handle or crank to release and maneuver the cable. By spinning the handle you rotate the coil to navigate through tricky areas.
Snaking a drain involves entering the drain directly to physically contact and then clear away the obstruction causing the clog. You begin by inserting the auger head into the drain and then feed the snake manually until you reach the clog. As the snake uncoils, it moves further through the drainpipe, until the head breaks through the obstruction. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of how to use a drain auger:
How To Use A Drain Snake:
1.Put on some clothes you don’t mind getting dirty and lay some old towels beneath the pipes you’re working on. Depending on the nature of the clog, your snaking procedure could get messy. This is especially important if you end up removing the p-trap.
2. (Optional but recommended) Consider removing the p-trap. The p-trap is the curving piece of pipe beneath the sink. It connects the sink to the greater drainpipe system in your home. The reason it’s curved is to prevent sewer gases from rising through the sink and into the home. P-traps are often made of PVC pipe, though they can also be metal.
You can manually remove the p-trap, either with your hands or with the help of an adjustable wrench. Once you remove the p-trap, you should thoroughly inspect and clean it out. If you’ve found your obstruction, you may not have to snake at all! Removing the trap often makes snaking easier by bypassing this difficult twist.
3. (Optional) Consider removing the trap arm. A trap arm is the part of the pipe between the p-trap and the actual wall pipe. It holds the p-trap in place and may curve again to reach the wall. Look for a plastic or metal nut connecting the trap arm to the wall. If you can find one, loosen it to remove the trap arm. If you can’t, then it’s possible the arm is glued in place; don’t attempt to remove it in that case. Make sure you clean out the trap arm like you did the p-trap once you remove it.
Removing the trap arm gives you the best access to the drainpipe possible. Look inside the drainpipe to look for any obstructions. If you can see the obstruction, try removing it from where you are. If you can’t, it’s time to use your snake.
4. Manually thread the auger head of the snake into the pipe. Insert the head of the snake into either the drain (if you didn’t remove the trap), or the access point on the wall. If you didn’t remove the trap, consider running cold water while you snake.
Don’t push the auger into the drain with a lot of force, or you could damage the drain entrance or pipe. Be patient and make sure the head and cable aren’t too wide for the drain you’re trying to snake.
5. Begin uncoiling the snake using the snake. Keep the handle of the snake as close to the entrance of the pipe as possible. The less slack the auger has, the more force you’re directing into the pipe.
Feed the line at a slow steady pace. If you feel resistance at any point while the cable moves through the pipe, you may have encountered the obstruction or simply a bend in the pipe.
6. Upon reaching the obstruction, rotate the handle to move the head back-and-forth while continuing to push. Try to break up the obstruction or round the corner but don’t jam the auger into the walls of the pipe. If you hear scraping noises, then you should stop snaking and re-adjust. Steady push and pull motions while turning the crank can help.
7. Pull the snake out and re-assemble the sink components. Check the auger head for remains of the obstruction and clean it off. If you removed the trap arm and p-trap, then you should re-install them at this point.
8.Test the sink. The snake should have successfully removed the obstruction and solved the clogging problem. If you still have a clog, then you could try repeating your snaking process. Just like plunging, however, using a drain snake too much can harm your pipes or drains. If a thorough snaking didn’t solve your problem, it may be time to call in the pros.
Expert Drain Cleaning, Los Angeles
Snaking is a surprisingly easy and accessible homeowner project. As long as you understand how to use your snake and have the patience to maneuver your snake, you should be able to remove pesky clogs from your sink, bathtub or toilet.
For the times when you just can’t beat that clog, no matter what you try. Don’t despair! After your snake, the next step is to call Mike Diamond. We’ve got the tools and knowhow to find and break up any clog outside of Los Angeles traffic.