How to Unclog a Drain with a Snake

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Snake your drain the right way

Snake your drain the right way

Pesky clogged drains or slowly draining pipes are always a hassle to deal with.  If the clog is bad a professional plumber may be required to get the job done correctly.  Here we cover a few tips to try yourself before calling the plumber. If neither cleaning the trap or plunging clears a plumbing clog, your final weapon is a drain auger also known as a drain snake.

This tool, a coiled spiral snake that’s usually about 1/4-inch thick with a handle on one end.  You push the snake into the clog and crank it to drive the snake farther into the obstruction to break up the clog and flush through the drain.  Most importantly the snake helps you gain access to the clog so that you can pull it out. Snakes are especially handy because they’re long enough to reach clogs that are deep within a drainpipe.

Your best defense against clogs is to avoid them in the first place. The following are some common-sense practices to use:

  • Use a sink strainer

  • Take care of your garbage disposer: When using a garbage disposer, run cold water at full volume while the machine is chopping up the garbage; leave the water running for a full minute after you shut off the disposer. This precaution flushes the garbage completely out of the small-diameter sink drainpipe and into the larger main drainpipe, where it’s less likely to cause a clog.

  • Watch what you dump down your drain: Do-it-yourselfers often flush building materials down the drain. To prevent these clogs, never dispose of leftover building materials in sink drains.

You can purchase or more cheaply rent a manually operated or an electrical drain auger for a few bucks. The equipment is easy to use, but please follow operating instructions. The basic process:

  1. Push the end of the snake into the drain opening and turn the handle on the drum to initiate the augers journey down the drain.

  2. Keep pushing the snake into the drain until you feel resistance.  Piping curves and bends can require you to apply pressure when cranking the handle to get it to bend around the tight curve in the trap under the sink. After turning the curve, the snake usually slides through easily until you hit the clog.

  3. The first method of removing the clog – Rotate the snake against the blockage until you feel it push through and feed freely into the pipe.  The rotating action enables the tip of the snake to attach to the clog and spin it away or chop it up.

  4. If the clog is a solid object, the auger head should entangles the object. If you don’t feel the auger breaking through and cannot get the snake further into the drain, pull the auger out of the drain — you’ll likely pull the clog out with it.

  5. No your clog should be removed – either it flushes down the drain; at other times, the clog comes out attached to the snake.  Run water full force for a few minutes to be sure that the drain is unclogged.

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