How To Use A Plumbing Snake

Gary Johnson
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Causes of Clogged Drains

A clogged drain can occur for a variety of reasons. Hair is probably the most common cause of most clogs, although food particles, plastic bags, and other debris can also cause a blockage. These clogs can sometimes be removed by plunging, though in severe cases it’s usually necessary to reach in the pipe with the snake, which can be a somewhat messy business.

  • Overlong drain hair is the leading cause of clogs. Hair can wrap around the drain and form a block if not removed.
  • One of the main reasons for clogs is the movement and removal of hair in the drains. If you have any pipes, especially the sink, which is quite open and without a grate, then the chance of getting your hair caught up is a lot. Not to mention the chance of getting your hair wrapped around the drain, and then not being able to get it out.
  • Another cause of clogged drains is hair. Just like hair can get caught up in your hairbrush in the shower, it can also get stuck and clog up the drain. Over time, the hair may rot, or if you have a leak and have left for too long, the water can cause the hair to become sticky.

Ways of Unclogging Drains

A plumbing snake is a metal hose is used by plumbers to unblock drains. The wire bends and twists around inside the pipe to remove the blockage, giving you an alternative to the more destructive paper clip style plungers that will still work but may require some elbow grease to clear the pipes.

If this is a common occurrence, then it’s a good idea to check if it’s possible to install an L-shaped pipe leading off the toilet, with a side outlet pointing directly into a waste disposal system and a drain nearby, or directly into a sewer connection.

If you’re still experiencing problems, you need to ask yourself whether your plumbing has simply reached the end of its lifespan.

The Drain Snake Explained

One of the most common types of clogs found in p-traps is from long hair that gets tangled around the Drain Snake.

This clog is made worse if you are a short hair person that takes baths instead of showers. In either case, it only takes one long hair to create a clog. The drain snake is attached to a typical garden hose and the water is turned on. Never force a snake down a drain using your bare hands!

Depending on the type of clog, it may only take a few seconds to remove the clog or it can take a few minutes to dislodge the long hair wrapped around the drain.

Make sure you flush a good amount of water down the toilet while using a snake in the drain. This makes sure not to dislodge any extra things in the toilet bowl or drain such as toilet paper, etc.

How Does a Plumber’s Snake Work?

You may be wondering how a plumbing snake works, but don’t worry, it’s pretty simple.

A plumbing snake is more like a cable than anything else. It has a metal coil that conducts electricity safely, and it can be uncoiled and straightened out to allow for more length.

Some snake cables are made from softer rubber so that they can be used on older plumbing systems, such as galvanized pipes, without doing damage.

The snake is used by a plumber to snake through a pipe line. It is flexible, and actually lifts out clogs when pulled.

Once you have removed the clog, you can use a pipe cleaner to scrub out your pipe line and restore it to full functionality.

This tool is extremely useful for people that live in areas with older systems. You may not want to consider how many of the local homes were built before there was such a thing as a plumbing snake.

This means that most of the time your online plumbers will be using a crescent wrench to straighten-out a snake or clog collector to remove the clog.

Where to Use a Drain Auger?

At first, you may be surprised to find that you have a snake in the house for something other than a pet. However, just because you are not trying to catch a mouse doesn’t mean you won’t be using the snake for the same problem: clearing a blocked drainpipe that causes unpleasant smells and eventual overflow.

To get rid of blockages you can:

  • Use a pair of pliers to remove material from the pipe, but this isn’t the best option as it may break or splinter the pipe, and you may be left with a leaking pipe.
  • Use chemicals to unblock pipes, but this is a messy and inefficient solution as you need to keep pouring chemical until it unblocks the drain.
  • Use a snake, but this is the best option if you have a drainpipe that is blocked all the time.

When you have a blocked drainpipe, you need to keep water moving through the pipe, or you will end up with a clogged pipe and a flooded house. The snake never gets any larger in diameter than your pipe, and it carries the blockage out of the drain.

How to Properly Snake a Drain

Drain snakes, as boring as using them may seem, are a handy tool to have around the house. With just a little bit of practice, you can become a pro plumber.

If you are planning on using your plumbing snake to unclog a clogged sink or tub, first put on some rubber gloves. Then, pour a generous amount of liquid toilet cleaner into the drain. The ACID in the cleaner will help dissolve hair and soap.

Next, turn on the hot and cold taps and use the brush attachment on your snake to scrub all of the soap and hair off of the sides of the drain. The hot water will help the soap and cleaner break down more.

Once the drain is clear of all the debris, use your plunger to dislodge the rest of the clog. If you snake the drain BEFORE you use the plunger, you will have better luck.

Please note: Plunging should only be attempted if you have given your snake a good, but not perfect, attempt first. If you continue to work on the clog long after the snake has stopped moving, it could cause the clog to move further down into the pipes. Once the plunger has dislodged the clog, use your snake again to remove any residue. Also, if you have a reverse water valve, use it to prevent this from ever happening again.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

Is it safe to use a snake to unblock pipes?

Certainly. In the UK it's the preferred method of clearing most blockages.

Does the snake damage the pipes?

It's a myth that plumber's snakes damage pipes. Unlike the old drain augers, they are specifically designed to push the debris further down the pipe.

Do I need an experienced plumber to clear my main sewer?

Unless the blockage is near to your house, you don't have to use a plumber at all. Many of the big DIY chains stock a range of sewer snakes so it is possible to unblock your own pipes. The video below explains how.


This is a short guide and we hope that you found it useful.

The plumbing snake is probably an unfamiliar device for many people, but it proves to be one of the most useful equipment that is not a necessary part of every household.

A plumbing snake is an unyielding hose with a spiral, flat blade inside a flexible case to allow it to clean pipe or hose blockages.

Nevertheless, we hope you find the best solution for every situation and problem in the future by using this guide and that you will also keep this guide in good order and it will be there for you when you need it.