As much as we hate it, a clogged drain pipe is inevitable for most homeowners.
The frustration mounts further when you see filthy water refusing to drain through the drain opening or pipe, even with regular DIY maintenance. And that’s the time you look for efficient tools to get it cleared.
One such tool is the plumber’s snake or a drain snake. Although the name may tell you otherwise, it is constructive, especially for intense clogs and can even reach your sink trap arm or drain trap arm. If you have tried and failed with a plunger, then the plumbing snake or snake cable is a middle ground between that and some other heavy-duty device.
But first-timers can have a difficult time figuring out its operation. Also, using it the wrong way can tear your pipes or create leaks.
So, we’ve curated this instructions guide to walk you through the proper steps.
How Does A Plumber’s Snake Work?
Before we begin with the step-by-step procedure, we can briefly discuss how this tool works. Also known as a drain auger, a drain snake is a long, flexible metal consisting of two main sections — an uncoiled spring (auger) and the handle.
The auger resembles a drill bit or corkscrew and can be coiled up when not used. Generally, plumber’s snakes designed for residential use are no less than 50 feet long. Moreover, the handle may be rotatable or even feature a crank for greater convenience.
As you may have guessed, the auger goes inside the main drain pipe while you guide it via the handle. Now, let’s look at the steps to do so correctly.
How To Use A Plumber’s Snake For Unclogging A Drain?
You may want to wear something you don’t mind getting dirty in since you can expect a fair bit of mess. At the same time, lay a couple of rags or old towels beneath the pipe/sink you’re unclogging.
Next, start pushing the auger into the sink drain. Ensure that you’re using a slow and steady motion and not being too aggressive as it may damage the pipe. Furthermore, ensure that the entire length of the drain snake isn’t too long for your drain.
Start uncoiling the auger by keeping the handle as close to the sink opening as possible. Use a consistent rotating motion, and don’t speed up or down. The slacker the auger has, the less force you’ll be supplying.
The spring may have hit an obstruction if you feel any resistance during the uncoiling of the auger. At this point, try to break the blockage with swift up-and-down or back-and-forth (like stirring) movements.
However, be careful not to jam it against the pipe walls. Stop immediately and adjust the auger’s position if you hear a scraping sound. Once you think you have done enough, pull the coil out of the sink. While small particles are likely to break down, more considerable obstructions can get stuck in the coil.
You may have to employ two or three rounds of ‘snaking’ for stubborn obstructions. Use the towel or rag below to shake off the accumulated debris. After you finish, pour hot water through the blocked drain to flush the debris through the drainage pipe. Likewise, clean the auger thoroughly to get rid of any unwanted collection.
Step 5 (Optional)
In case of intense blockage, you may have to clean the P-trap or P-bend, the curved piece of pipe below the sink. It connects the sink to the larger drain pipe and is usually PVC or metal.
Removing this part isn’t very difficult as you can do it with your hands or using an Allen Wrench. Once you’re successfully dismantling, tap the pipe on the towel to get rid of the build-up inside. If you’re lucky, you may not use the drain snake at all!
Even if this doesn’t complete the job, removing the sink P-trap will help the drain snake as you will have more space to move the auger. But make sure that you place the rags directly under the sink to catch all the gunk without creating a mess.
Step 6 (Optional)
Removing the P-trap can also detach the trap arm between the P-trap and the actual wall pipe.
Reach out for the plastic or metal nut, connecting the arm trap to the wall pipe. Then, using the same technique as above, loosen it to remove the piece and clean it on the towel placed below. Another advantage of removing the arm trap is getting closer to the drain pipes.
Take a good look at the drain pipe for any obstruction. If you spot it, try cleaning the pipe from your position to get rid of the stubborn clogs. If not, get hold of your drain snake.
Note: if you don’t spot a nut, the pipe is sealed and can’t be removed.
As the last step, re-install the P-trap or arm trap (if applicable) and check for potential damage.
Unclogging a clogged drain with a plumber’s snake is not very challenging, especially if you know how to use it. Moreover, the electric-powered variants will complete your job with half the effort and time required for their counterparts. So, investing in one is a good idea.
Also, invest in a sink strainer to prevent drain clogs caused by garbage, food waste and other objects going down the drain pipe.
That being said, dismantling pipes can be tricky, especially if you have little experience with tools. It also brings the risk of improper reinstallation, which can then lead to leaks. Besides, when you use a drain snake too frequently can cause irreparable damage to the drain pipe.
Here at Fixed Fast, our highly trained plumbers are adept in various pipe maintenance services so that you don’t face the hassle of unclogging one yourself. What’s more, we are available all day, every day.
Call us to book a drain inspection or drain cleaning services today.