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How To Use A Plumber's Snake For Unclogging A Drain

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As much as we may hate it, clogged drains are an inevitable reality for most homeowners.

The frustration mounts further when even with regular DIY maintenance, you see filthy water refusing to drain through the pipe. And that’s the time you look for efficient tools to get it cleared.

How To Use A Plumber's Snake For Unclogging A Drain Photo

One such tool is the plumber’s snake. Although the name may tell you otherwise, it is really helpful, especially for intense clogs. If you have tried and failed with a plunger, then the plumber’s snake is kind of a middle ground between that and some other heavy duty device.

But first-timers can have a difficult time figuring out its operation. Apart from that, using it the wrong way can tear your pipes or create leaks.

So, we’ve curated this instructions guide to walk you through the right steps.

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How Does A Plumber’s Snake Work?

Before we begin with the step-by-step procedure, allows us to discuss in brief how this tool actually works. A plumber’s snake (also known as a drain auger) is a long, flexible metal consisting of two main sections - an uncoiled spring (auger) and the handle.

The auger resembles a drill bit or corkscrew and can be coiled up when not in use. Generally, plumber’s snakes designed for residential use are no less than 50 feet long. Moreover, the handle may be rotatable or even feature a crank for greater convenience.

As you may have guessed, the auger goes inside the drain while you guide it via the handle. Now, let’s look at the steps to do so correctly.

How To Use A Plumber’s Snake For Unclogging A Drain?

Step 1

You may want to begin with wearing something, which you don’t mind getting dirty since you can expect a fair bit of mess. At the same time, lay a couple of rags or old towels beneath the pipe/sink you’re unclogging.

Step 2

Next, start pushing the auger into the sink. Ensure that you’re using a slow and steady motion, and not being too aggressive as it may damage the pipe. Furthermore, make sure that the full length of the snake isn't too long for your drain.

Step 3

By keeping the handle as close to the sink opening as possible, start uncoiling the auger. Use a consistent rotating motion, and don’t try to speed up or down. The more slack the auger has, the less force you’ll be supplying.

Step 4

If you feel any resistance during uncoiling the auger, then it’s quite possible that the spring has hit an obstruction. At this point, try to break the blockage with swift up-and-down or back-and-forth (like stirring) movements.

However, be careful not to jam it against the pipe walls. If you hear a scraping sound, stop immediately and adjust the auger’s position. Once you think you have done enough, pull the coil out of the sink. While small particles are likely to break down, bigger obstructions can get stuck in the coil.

For stubborn obstructions, you may have to employ two or three rounds of ‘snaking’. Use the towel or rag below to shake off the accumulated debris. After you finish, pour hot water through the drain to flush out the debris through the drainage pipe. Likewise, clean the auger thoroughly to get rid of any unwanted collection.

Step 5 (Optional)

In case of intense blockage, you may have to clean the P-trap or P-bend, which is the curved piece of pipe below the sink. It connects the sink to the larger drain pipe and is usually made of PVC or metal.

Removing this part isn't very difficult as you can do it either with your hands or by using an Allen Wrench. Once you're successful with the dismantling process, tap the pipe on the towel to get rid of the buildup inside. If you’re lucky, you may end up not using the plumber’s snake at all!

Even if this doesn’t complete the job, removing the P-trap will be helpful in snaking as you will have more space to move the auger. But make sure that you place the rags directly under the sink to catch all the gunk without creating a mess.

Step 6 (Optional)

In addition to removing the P-trap, you can also detach the trap arm that lies between the P-trap and the actual wall pipe.

Reach out for the plastic or metal nut, which connects the arm trap to the wall pipe. Then, using the same technique as above, loosen it to remove the piece and clean it on the towel placed below. Another advantage of removing the arm trap is that it gets you closer to the drain pipe.

Take a good look at the drain pipe for any obstruction. If you spot it, try cleaning the pipe from your position. If not, get hold of your plumber’s snake.

Note: if you don’t spot a nut, it means that the pipe is sealed and can’t be removed.

Step 7

As the last step, re-install the P-trap or arm trap (if applicable) and check for any potential damage.

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Final Words

Unclogging a drain with a plumber’s snake is not very challenging, especially if you know the right way of using it. Moreover, the electric-powered variants will get your job done with half the effort and time required for their counterparts. So, investing in one is a good idea.

That being said, dismantling pipes can be rather difficult, especially if you have little to no experience with tools. It also brings the risk of improper reinstallation, which can then lead to leaks. Besides, using a plumber’s snake too frequently can cause irreparable damage to the drain pipe.

Here at FixedToday, our highly trained plumbers are adept in various pipe maintenance services, so that you don’t face the hassle of unclogging one yourself. What’s more, we are available all day, every day.

Call us to book a drain inspection today.

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