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A Homeowner’s Guide to Using a Plumbing Snake

Unfortunately, one of the most unpleasant parts about being the owner of your own home is that you have to handle any plumbing issues that pop up. From a clogged toilet to a clogged kitchen sink, you should have a plumbing snake available so that you can handle those unwanted clogs quickly and effectively. If you’ve never used a plumbing snake before, it’s fairly easy to get the hang of with the right guidance.

What Is a Plumbing Snake?

A plumbing snake is a handheld tool that you can utilize to unclog drains from the interior of your home. These units have a flexible auger with a helix-shaped hook. As you crank the auger by hand, the flexible metal line slowly makes its way down your piping until it reaches the clog inside of your pipe. Its helix-shaped head is specifically designed to shred up any dense material. You may hear plumbing snakes referred to as drain snakes or plumbing augers.

With that being said, it’s important that we make a distinction between plumbing snakes and drain augers. When you call a professional plumbing expert, they are going to bring a drain auger with them. This is a much larger device that is utilized to access clogged plumbing from the exterior of your home. Drain augers have much longer hoses than the plumbing snakes and range in size from 1.5 inches up to 3 inches. Additionally, many drain augers are outfitted with cameras that allow plumbing professionals to visibly see the blockage in your pipes.

Where to Buy a Plumbing Snake

Plumbing snakes are available at your local hardware stores and online. Most consumer models will have lengths of about 25 to 50 feet. If you’re unable to reach the clog with the 50-foot line, you’re better off calling a licensed plumber to handle the issue.

Prepping Your Drain

One of the biggest mistakes that homeowners make when using a plumbing snake is that they don’t properly prep their drain. In most cases, you’ll be using a plumbing snake to go down a sink drain to find a clog. It can be difficult to try to insert your steel line down your drain and through your P-trap.

It’s typically a better option to prep your drain by taking off your P-trap. Most p-traps are just plastic PVC that can be easily unscrewed by hand or with an adjustable wrench. It is essential to know that there’s going to be a little water in the p-trap, so you’ll want to have a towel below to catch that water as you remove it the trap.

Thread the First Few Inches Manually

When you first start to use the plumbing snake, you’ll want to pull it out a couple of inches and carefully insert those inches into your piping by hand. This will help to ensure that the head of the plumbing snake stays within the piping as you start to crank open the auger. You’ll want to start manually cranking in the handle of the auger to insert more of the flexible steel line into your piping.

You want to be relatively consistent with the speed that you’re using to crank the plumbing snake. You don’t want to go too fast as that could allow too much slack in the line. Realize that you want to have as little slack as possible throughout the entire process to help ensure that there is adequate tension on the steel line as it goes through your plumbing.

Identify Your Clog

As soon as the head of your plumbing snake comes into contact with the clog inside of your piping, you’re going to feel resistance. As soon as this happens, you’ll want to rotate the snake against the blockage until you feel it free up inside of the pipe. When you rotate the snake, this essentially allows the head of the snake to attach to the clog. Then, it will spin it and break it up into smaller, passable pieces.

If the clog doesn’t break up after you spin the plumbing snake, then it’s best to try and pull the snake back out of the drain. In some cases, you may find that you actually pull the drain out with the snake. This happens when the snakehead gets too entangled in the object to break it up, so proceed with caution. Overall, the goal of removing a clog from your piping can be done by breaking it up with the head of the snake or by entangling it and pulling it out.

Testing Your Drain

It’s always a good idea to run your plumbing snake back down your pipe and to ensure that you have removed the entire clog. If the snake goes down with no obstruction, it’s time to go ahead and reassemble your P-trap. Make sure that you ensure all the connections are tight so that it doesn’t leak water.

You’ll want to turn on the water and let it run at full force for a couple of minutes. This will help to flush down any remnants of the clog that is still in your pipes. If there’s still a clog in your drain, you’ll notice that the water will start to back up again.

Best Practices for Preventing Drain Clogs

While being able to successfully use a plumbing snake is a skill that every homeowner should have, the best way to deal with drains is to prevent them in the first place. You can do this by following some of our best practice tips below.

Both your kitchen sink and your shower drain are most likely to have unwanted objects entering them. In your kitchen, food particles and grease can easily accumulate and cause a clog in your piping. Most homeowners think that because grease is oily, it will simply run down their drain and out into their sewer.

In reality, the grease will start to solidify as it makes its way down your plumbing. It will turn into a gel-like substance that will become extremely adhesive for other objects that are flushed down your drain. It’s best to always put grease in a disposable container and throw it out with your trash. When it comes to your bathroom and your kitchen sinks, you want to make sure that you have strainers in them. This will help to catch any unwanted food particles, hair, and other objects that you don’t want going down your drain.

Another great best practice to help avoid clogs in your household plumbing is to pour a vinegar solution down your drains once a month. Simply take one cup of white distilled vinegar and pour it down each drain in your home. You’ll want to let each drain set for about 30 minutes before you start to use water again. After those 30 minutes, turn on the hot water and let it run for a few minutes down each drain to flush down any unwanted materials that the vinegar was able to dislodge from your piping.

Expert Plumbing Services

Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing offers expert plumbing services for the entire Tucson, AZ community. We also provide quality cooling and heating installation, repair, and maintenance, as well as mini-splits and energy audits. Our plumbing services include repair, installation, leak detection, and prevention, as well as drain cleaning and water heater servicing. We also provide 24/7 emergency service! Contact our office to get the expert help that you need today!