When you face a sink, toilet or bathtub clog, you might wonder if you really need a plumber for the job, or if you can clear the clog yourself. Yes, it is possible – but that doesn’t always mean you should.

Before you attempt to snake any of your home’s drains, review this information from our licensed Cincinnati plumbers regarding home snakes and how to use them. If you’d rather leave the job in skilled hands, call Apollo Home today to schedule drain clearing service.

Different Types of Drain Snakes

If you want to know how to snake a drain, the first step is to familiarize yourself with the types of equipment available for use. Another helpful point to know is that drain snakes are also referred to as “plumbing augers,” or simply, “augers.”

There are a few different types of plumbing snakes/augers available to help you. 

  • Cable drain augers use a corkscrew end attached to a long, flexible hose cable. There is a manual crank you turn to extend the auger through the drain line.
  • Flat tape augers have an auger tip attached to a flat cable. These augers are designed for use in small pipes with a 2-inch diameter or less. This auger’s cable is less flexible, so it provides a bit more leverage to dismantle larger plugs.
  • Power augers have their own motor which moves the cable, or there are models available that you are able to attach to your own power drill. Because of the motor, the cable rotates faster than a manual auger, which helps to bust through clogs.
  • Toilet closet augers are designed to bust through blocks in toilet bowls. They are manual crank or paired with a power drill. These augers feature a flexible cable designed for easy maneuvering through the toilet’s plumbing lines.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Snaking Your Drain

For smaller clogs, snaking your own drain is possible. Routine, minor sink clogs from hairballs or food remnants are typically located in the u-shaped trap directly below the sink or only a few feet deeper in the drainpipe. They may be cleared by using a light-gauge, hand-operated auger. Typically, these are 1/4-inch diameter and no longer than 10 or 15 feet.

Follow these steps:

  • Access the drain by removing the stopper, P-trap and/or overflow assembly, depending on the type of drain you want to use.
  • Get your drain snake ready by loosening the screw that allows the cable to be let out from its housing.
  • Insert the auger tip into the drain.
  • Turn the crank to extend the auger cable through the drainpipe.
  • If you meet resistance, it may be a pipe bend or you may have reached the clog – usually, a bend comes up first. Tighten the screw to hold the cable just enough to stop it from turning. Turn the crank clockwise and use moderate pressure to work the cable into the drain.
  • Once past the resistance, loosen the screw and continue to feed the cable through the drain – this time, do it by hand and not by the crank.
  • When you hit resistance again, this is probably the clog. Continue to push the auger tip through the clog. 
  • Now, pull the cable back into the auger housing by hand to retract the cable from the drain line. 
  • Pull out the auger tip from the drain line and remove clog material caught on the tip.
  • Repeat the snaking process two or three times if needed to remove more clog material.
  • Reassemble the drain stopper, P-trap and/or overflow assembly.
  • Turn on the faucet full flow for several minutes to flush the line.

How Long Does It Take to Snake a Drain? 

Snaking requires a fair bit of patience. The process involves carefully feeding the auger through the drain line, inch by inch. With clogs several feet down the line, this process takes some time.

The amount of time it takes to clear the clog also depends on its size. Bigger clogs take longer to break up and remove. With bigger blocks, it may be necessary to repeat the process a few times to fully break up the clog.

What Drains Can I Use a Snake On? 

You need to know which drains will work for this process. DIY snaking is really only appropriate for the following drains and only if you are confident in doing so:

  • Kitchen sink
  • Bathroom sinks
  • Toilets
  • Bathtubs
  • Showers
  • Floor drains

One very important drain line is not on this list – your sewer line. If a sewer line is clogged, the clog exists quite far down the line from your access points through a sink, tub or toilet drain. The basic plumbing augers available for homeowner use may not extend far enough to reach the clog. 

Stubborn, deeper clogs require larger, longer and more powerful snakes. If you opt for the do-it-yourself approach, you need a powered snake from a rental facility. These thick, heavy-duty snakes are driven by an electric motor and may be up to 100 feet long. Aside from the expense of renting this equipment, the downside for the DIYer is that the size and power of these snakes is more than adequate to fracture fragile household drain pipes when used without experience. This can mean far more costly repairs than a simple clog.

Also, sewer lines are wider than the individual drain lines extending from your plumbing fixtures. For a clog to form here, it’s typically larger in size. Using a plumbing auger is only useful for busting up clogs about the size of the auger head, and your tool may be ineffective against a larger sewer line clog.

Leave sewer line blocks to the pros. Professional plumbing augers are more powerful, but even so, snakes don’t clean the drain. While a snake may dislodge the clog and resolve the immediate problem, accumulating sludge coating the wall of the pipe means clogging will likely recur. 

Sludge can only be removed by a plumbing professional equipped with specialized cleaning equipment like a powered drain auger with rotating blades sized to the diameter of the plumbing, or a hydro-jetting system that utilizes high-pressure hot water streams. A plumber is able to inspect your system and identify the material in your lines to recommend an effective course of action.

Clogged Drain Snake Not Working? 

If you followed the procedures above and your drain is still clogged, it’s time to contact a plumber. When you need plumbing help, turn to Apollo Home for punctual, professional service. Our clearing services bust through tough plugs to restore optimal drainage from the plumbing fixtures throughout your house. Call us today to schedule service.