Plumbing Snake: How to Use One

Drain clogs are nasty. They’re not only gross but they can wreak havoc on your plumbing by causing water backup and damaged pipes. For homeowners battling a clog, the best tool to break it up is a plumbing snake. It’s a long, thin auger with a crank handle on one end and they’re available at just about any home improvement store if you want to tackle the clog yourself. If the plumbing snake is used correctly (and safely) you can take care of the problem without calling a plumber.


What Does a Plumbing Snake Do?

There’s a good reason your local emergency plumber keeps at least one plumbing snake on him for every job! They’re extremely useful in breaking up clogs. Since they’re long and thin, they can fit into nearly any plumbing fixture. The hand crank on one end allows for you to smoothly push the auger into the pipe containing the clog. The way plumbing snakes break up clogs is by gently rotating the auger into them. As you crank one end, the snake uncoils and moves further down the pipe until it reaches the obstruction causing the clog.


A Plumber’s Secret: How Plumbing Snakes Work

As you turn the handle of a plumbing snake and watch it feed itself down the drain, you’ll notice it moves rather smoothly. Once it stops moving smoothly, you’ve encountered one of two things. Either the snake has reached the clog, or it’s in the u-bend of whatever pipe you’re unclogging. Provided it’s reached the clog and not just working its way around a twisting pipe, the snake is about to spring into action. If the problem is a large single clog, the auger picks it up and will inevitably pull out the obstruction when you pull the snake back up from the drain. Smaller clogs are dragged up the auger’s ridges during the removal, achieving the same effect. Plumbers consider them their right-hand tool because of how easily they remove clogs without damaging the pipes or requiring much unscrewing or drilling.


How to Remove Clogs with a Plumbing Snake

There are a few steps in removing a clog using a plumbing snake. The first one is to be as safe as possible! Wearing clothes you don’t mind getting dirty, putting on safety goggles, and keeping the room well ventilated should all be done before touching the tools. After that, open any drain covers and place them to the side. Take the end of the plumbing snake and gently insert it into the drain. On the other end, turn the handle and let the snake slowly uncoil down the drain. You should not feel grinding or resistance beyond very minor pushback! If this happens, call a plumber and have them determine what’s causing this (it may be a serious issue with your pipes). You’ll eventually feel the snake hit the obstruction. Continue cranking the handle until you feel the obstruction minimized, and then gently pull the snake back out.


Caring for your pipes after the snake

Once the plumbing snake has been pulled out and the clog has been removed, clean the area and flush hot water through for a solid minute or two. This will ensure any residual buildup follows the pipes’ course and doesn’t cause an ancillary clog. If you’re having difficulty flushing water through, try snaking the drain again. More than two times is never recommended! If you can’t free the pipes from the clog within two snakes, it’s best to leave it to a professional. Their advanced tools can reach areas you may not be able to. For more plumbing tips or help with a clog contact Sin City Plumbing.

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