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The All-Encompassing Guide to Using a Plumbing Snake

The most important thing to know about plumbing snakes is that… they’re not real snakes. While a cobra wearing a utility belt does sound pretty cute, it would probably be much less skilled at removing plumbing clogs. Plumbing snakes can go by a lot of different names. Sometimes they’re called a rooter, an auger, or a toilet jack. Different plumbing snakes have different specific uses, but they all fulfill the same primary function: clearing clogs.

Plumbing snakes can be incredibly easy and effective, but only if you know how to use them right. Each type of plumbing snake works a little differently. To get the most out of yours, you should know what it’s for and how to use it. We want to help. Here’s everything you should know about your plumbing snake, and how to use it the right way.

What are the different kinds of plumbing snakes?

Most plumbing snakes are made the same way. They’re a long metal cable with a loose coil, or auger, at the end. Beyond this same basic design, however, there are several different kinds of snake, with several different functions. The kind of snake you’ll want to use depends on what you need it for. Here are the three main varieties:

Hand spinner

These are thinner than other plumbing snakes. They’re used for clearing sink or bathtub drains. You should use a hand spinner if you need to clear a clogs in a narrow space. Hand spinners are good for under-the-sink and shower drain clogs.

Closet auger

Closet augers are a bit more heavy duty than hand spinners. They use a hook-shaped metal tube with a plastic boot on the end. The hook effectively breaks up clogs while the plastic boot prevents it from damaging the pipes. Closet augers are great for toilet clogs, because they won’t damage the porcelain.

Drum auger

A drum auger is meant for the heaviest, thickest clogs. The tip of this plumbing snake has modular blades that can cut through tree roots and other intense blockages. We recommend against using drum augers at home, because the blades can be very dangerous.

How do I use a plumbing snake?

  1. First, push the end of the snake into the opening for the clogged drain. Turn the handle on the drum that contains the coil. Start to feed the coil down the drain.
  2. Keep uncoiling the snake. Push the head into the drain until you feel pushback. Crank the handle until you can’t anymore. The resistance will be obvious.
  3. Once you’ve hit the clog, start rotating the snake. This will allow the auger at the end of the snake to get stuck inside the clog. The process is similar to how you would use a corkscrew to open a wine bottle.
  4. After it’s in, keep twisting until you start to feel the clog break up. You’ll know you’re breaking up the clog when it starts to get easier to twist the snake.
  5. Now, pull it out. There might be some grossness attached to the end, but that’s good! If it’s attached to the auger, that means it’s no longer in your drain.
  6. Once you’ve removed or broken up the clog, run the water for a few minutes. The water will help wash away any gunk that’s still left in the drain.

If you’re interested in using a plumbing snake, please remember that they can do damage to pipes if you don’t use them correctly. Be careful and make sure you know what you’re doing before you start. Snakes can clear clogs very effectively, but they can also create even worse problems.

If you have questions about plumber’s snakes or need help clearing a clog, give Ben Franklin a call anytime. We’re always happy to spread our plumbing knowledge and help make sure your home’s pipes flow right.