How to Snake a Clogged Drain

A drain snake can clear clogged drains when a plunger fails.  The snake is more powerful and a good tool for sure when you need it.

You definitely need to know how to use it properly though.  The snake can damage your pipes and cause leaks.

So read through these steps to see how to unclog a drain with a snake.  You can also watch the video.

Types of Plumbing Snakes

These are the three types of plumbing snakes:

  1. Toilet auger.  This snake has a large handle and short cable.  It is made specially to not scratch the porcelain bowl.  Never use another type of snake in a toilet.
  2. Small drum auger. This is the snake to use for common kitchen and bathroom clogs.
  3. Extra long drain auger. The extra length of this snake gets those clogs that are further down the line.

How to Use a Plumber’s Snake

Step #1

Using a Plumber’s snake is a messy job.  Wear clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.  Put down some old rags around your work area as well.

Step #2

Remove the P-trap.  Some consider this step optional.  You can skip this step and see how it goes clearing the drain.  Usually best though to go ahead and remove it.

The P-trap will often unscrew just using your hands.  If not, you can use an adjustable wrench.

Once removed, inspect and clean the P-trap.  If you’re super lucky you’ll have found your clog.

Step #3

Take a quick look into the pipe for clogs.  If you’re lucky and see the clog you can remove it using a wire hanger.

Step #4

Gently yet firmly push the head of the snake into the drain.  Don’t exert too much pressure with the snake.  It is possible to damage the pipe so use caution.

If you didn’t remove the P-trap you can run cold water while you snake.

Step #5

Start uncoiling the snake with the handle.  Keep the handle of the snake close to the drain.  If it gets too far away the snake won’t have enough force.

Go slow and rotate slowly.  If you can’t push any farther you may have come to the blockage.

Step #6

Once you get to the blockage you’ll need to use the snake to get it out.  Rotate the snake back and forth as you take it up and down.  The motion will break up the blockage.

Listen carefully as you work on the blockage.  Scraping noises may damage the pipe.  Stop and reposition.

One tip while you work to break up the blockage.  Sometimes the snake won’t rotate.  Go ahead and pull out the snake.  If you’re lucky you’ll pull out the blockage.

Continue working on the blockage until the snake goes beyond the location of the blockage to its full length.

Step #7

After the blockage has been removed, clean off the snake.  Then replace the P-trap.

Step #8

Now try out the sink.  Hopefully the drain is clear.


What if Snake Isn’t Working

Sometimes it happens that the first try at snaking out a drain isn’t successful.

Here are some things to check if the snake isn’t working.

The old clog is still attached to the snake.  You’ll need to clean off the old clog.  The snake won’t be able to break up a blockage if it already has a clog.

The thumbscrew is loose.  The thumbscrew is the piece that connects the handle and snake.  If it’s loose the snake will not rotate when the handle is turned.  So you’ll need to tighten the thumbscrew to remove the blockage.

The clog is too tough.  Some blockages are simply too severe to remove with a hand snake.  In that case you’ll need to rent a power snake or hire a pro.

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