How to Use a Plumbing Snake

Jun07 By Plumbing
Plumber snaking a bathroom sink

When a stubborn clog affects your kitchen or bathroom sink, you need the proper plumbing tools to get things flowing smoothly again. First, try clearing the clog with a plunger. If that doesn’t do the trick, a plumbing snake is your next best bet.

Drain snakes are more powerful than plungers because they tear up the clog directly rather than attempting to force the clog-free with air pressure. Snakes are also safer for your plumbing—and the environment—than drain cleaning chemicals. Learn how to use a plumbing snake correctly to increase the chances of clearing the clog yourself.

What is a Plumbing Snake?

Also known as a drain auger, a plumbing snake is a long, flexible metal cable with an uncoiled spring or “claw” on one end and a handle on the other. Consumer plumbing snakes are about 50 feet long and coil up for easy storage. When fed into a clogged drain, the head eventually reaches the obstruction, breaking through the blockage and allowing water to flow freely again.

How to Unclog a Drain with a Plumbing Snake

  • Prep the work area: Set a towel and bucket below the sink to catch water and debris. Then, don rubber gloves and goggles, especially if you previously attempted to clear the clog with drain cleaning chemicals.
  • Check the P-trap: Consider removing the P-trap, the bent portion of piping beneath the sink. Empty any gunk into the bucket and clean the trap thoroughly. If the blockage is here, you may not need to snake the drain after all!
  • Manually thread the drain snake into the pipe: Insert the head into the drain or through the access point in the wall (if you removed the P-trap).
  • Uncoil the snake: Rotate the handle at a consistent speed to send the snake further into the drain. Gently wiggle the wire if you reach any bends in the pipe that slow your progress.
  • Break up any obstructions: If the snake hits a solid mass, crank the handle back and forth to help the rotating head pierce the blockage.
  • Reel the auger back in: Once you have fed the coil to its full length, start reeling it back in. The clog may come out with the snake or break into small pieces, allowing it to flow down the drain.
  • Reassemble the P-trap and test the water flow: With the snake and the obstruction successfully removed from the drain, you can reinstall the P-trap and turn on the water. Hopefully, the drain flows freely now!

If your attempts to snake a drain don’t produce the results you’re hoping for, it’s time to call Puget Sound Plumbing and Heating. Our plumbers use state-of-the-art drain inspection cameras and hydrojetting technology to pinpoint and remove even the most stubborn clogs caused by grease, foreign objects, and invasive tree roots. Please contact us online or call (206) 350-0079 today to request drain cleaning services in Seattle, WA and surrounding counties.

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