Helpful Tips for Using a Plumbing Snake Correctly

Every homeowner dreads having to deal with a clogged pipe. Unfortunately, it’s highly likely that you’re going to have to deal with a clog every now and then if you own a home. Fortunately, a plumbing snake can be your saving grace when the situation arises.

What Is a Plumbing Snake?

A plumbing snake, also referred to as a drain snake, is a type of device that can be used to unclog your piping. This piece of equipment comes in a handheld design with an enclosed spool of thick metal cable. At the outermost part of the metal cable is a helix-shaped coiled hook. The concept is that the hook comes into contact with the clog and shreds it into smaller pieces as you move the metal cable.

Most plumbing snakes are designed with 25-foot or 50-foot metal cables. They can be utilized for most plumbing lines throughout your home and are specifically designed to access your plumbing from the interior drains of your home. Every homeowner should have a plumbing snake in their toolbox so that they can quickly handle any clogging issues before they get worse.

Plumbing Snake Versus Drain Auger

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to get confused by the terms plumbing snake and drain auger. While it may seem that these terms can be used interchangeably, that’s simply not the case. Drain augers are what licensed plumbing professionals utilize to unclog your plumbing. These augers are specifically designed to access your household plumbing via the exterior of your home through your main sewer line.

Drain augers tend to have much larger spools and come in a variety of cable widths. Many plumbers even attach a camera to their auger system to help identify what’s causing the clog. To keep things simple, drain augers are used by professionals, while plumbing snakes are used by homeowners.

Start by Prepping Your Drain

Many people immediately start pulling out a long length of their snake cable and feeding it down the drain. There are a couple of reasons that this might be setting you up for an unsuccessful experience. First, it can be quite difficult to steer your cable and snakehead through the drain and through the curve of the P-trap.

It’s best to start by locating and removing the P-trap. Most P-traps are simply screwed on by hand and can be easily removed. You may need to use an adjustable wrench if you can’t get the P-trap loose by hand. Be careful when removing your P-trap as it will have a small amount of water in it. It’s best to remove it over a bucket or towel to collect the excess water. Once removed, you can easily feed your plumbing snake into your piping without any resistance.

Be Mindful About Cable Slack

The second problem with the approach that we discussed above is that you don’t want too much slack in your cable. The less slack you have, the tighter and sturdier the cable will be to maneuver as it goes through your piping.

Simply start by removing only a couple of inches of metal cable out of your plumbing snake. You’ll want just enough cable out so that you can easily insert the head of the cable into your piping. Once the head is in, then you can start to hand crank the auger to allow the cable to come out.

Be Consistent Until You Face Resistance

As you unspool the metal cable, you want to do so in a slow and consistent manner. Trying to crank the auger of the plumbing snake too quickly can allow too much slack into the line and ruin the tension that you need to unclog your drain. As you’re feeding the cable, be mindful of how it feels. As soon as you notice any resistance on the cable, then you’ve likely run into your clog.

At this point, you want to stop cranking the cable. Rotate the snake against the blockage. Try moving it up and down as well as side to side. The idea is to use the tip of the metal cable to shred the material creating the clog. When you break up the clog, you should feel the resistance completely let go.

If you’re unable to alleviate the resistance of the clog, then try pulling the plumbing snake back out of your piping. Sometimes the helix-shaped head will get materials from the clog stuck in it and end up bringing the entire clog back out with it. If you notice a lot of material coming out with the tip of your plumbing snake, then you likely were successful at breaking up the clog.

Ensure That You Removed the Clog Fully

Once you make progress by pulling out the clog with your plumbing snake or feeling the resistance break away, you may think that you got the entire clog out. This may not be the case, or you may have multiple clogs. While you have the P-trap off, it’s a good idea to always run your plumbing snake back down the piping to double-check. If you make it further down your piping than you did the first time and you do so with no resistance, then you’ve likely cleared out the entire clog.

Flush Water Down Your Drain

Go ahead and remove your plumbing snake from the drain. You’ll want to clean the plumbing snake thoroughly before wrapping it back up in the handheld spool. Make sure that you reinstall your P-trap and tighten it up securely.

Once everything is back together, you’ll want to run the water for a few minutes. This will help to flush down any remaining debris from the clog. It will also help to verify once again that you got all of the clogs out of your system. If the drain starts backing up, it’s an indication that you have another clog further down your piping.

Helpful Tips While Using Your Plumbing Snake

While using your plumbing snake is fairly simple once you perform the steps that we outlined above, there are some helpful tips that can make the process even easier for you. First and foremost, take a moment to prepare yourself properly. If you have disposable or rubber gloves, you’ll want to put them on. You may even want to consider wearing goggles to avoid backsplash.

Not only could your plumbing snake be going down a sewer line that contains human waste, but it’s also going to come into contact with any chemical drain cleaners that you’ve used in the past. You don’t want to have that chemical residue get stuck on your plumbing snake and end up on your bare hands.

Expert Plumbing Services

If you’d rather not do this yourself, our professionals at Express Plumbing Heating & Air provide efficient drain cleaning and a full range of expert plumbing services to the entire Boise community. We also have technicians available to handle your heating, cooling, and indoor air quality equipment installation, maintenance, and repair. Besides that, we take care of UV lights and duct cleaning. Contact our office today to schedule your next service appointment.

Brad Jordan

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