how to use a plumbers snake - man using drain auger on shower drain

How to Use a Plumber’s Snake (With 3 Recommendations!)

If your tub or toilet drain is clogged and the plunger isn’t working, don’t give up!

Here’s how to use a plumber’s snake for an easy, affordable alternative to calling a plumber.

What is a Plumber’s Snake?

A plumber’s snake (or drain snake) is a long cable that is used to unclog toilets and drains.

Sometimes, what we refer to as a snake is called, and sold as, an auger. To clarify, a drain auger is designed with sinks in mind. A closer auget is for the toilet. Whatever you call them, plumber’s snakes come in many sizes and shapes, but their essential function is the same.

Most people believe that the snake their professional plumber twists down a plugged pipe is expensive. It doesn’t have to be. You can find snakes for anywhere from about $10 to well over $1000. But no matter how simple or fancy, they all do the same thing.

how to use a plumbers snake - drainx brand drain snake with parts labelled
This DrainX brand drain snake image shows all the parts of a drum-style plumber’s snake. The turning knob makes it easy to get the cable into the drain and remove it.

How to Use a Plumber’s Snake to Unclog a Drain

  1. Wear clothes you don’t care about getting dirty and a pair of rubber gloves.
  2. Place a towel underneath your toilet.
  3. Insert the auger head of your new plumbers snake into the pipe you’d like to unclog. Avoid using force as this is how you can cause more damage to your plumbing system.
  4. Firmly grip the plumber’s snake. Keep the handle as close to the pipe entrance as possible to avoid slack. Rotate the handle at a consistent pace. Don’t try to rush it or rotate it too quickly. If you feel pressure at any point while the cable moves through the pipe, you may have encountered the obstruction.
  5. Rotate the handle of your plumber’s snake continuously and at a constant pace. Once you’ve reached the blockage, rotate and move the head back and forth and up and down. This method will help the auger/snake break down the obstruction in your pipe. Don’t jam the plumber’s snake on the walls of your pipe. If you hear loud scraping noises, stop snaking and readjust.
  6. If you think the auger might be stuck in the obstruction, consider pulling the snake out of the pipe. In some cases, the obstruction may come out with it. Continue snaking until you no longer feel resistance and the snake uncoils to its full length.
  7. The snake should have successfully removed the obstruction and solved the clogging problem.
  8. Finally, flush your toilet to see if it is in working order.

What if That Doesn’t Work?

Repeat the snaking instructions above or check out this video for visual instructions if you still can’t clear the clog from your drain.

If you still can’t clear the drain, it’s probably time to call a professional plumber.

3 Plumber’s Snake Recommendations

Here are 3 different plumber’s snakes that we can recommend with confidence:

1. VEVOR Electric Drain Auger

  • Heavy-duty steel frame
  • Strong base, supports wire core cable and enclosed drum, and durable
  • Built-in GFCI offers safety
  • Springs can easily negotiate multiple 90-degree bends while maintaining their effectiveness and without damaging the pipe
  • Humanized trapezoid joint, convenient, and easy installation
  • Air activated foot switch
  • Motor speed 160 RPM
  • The power electric drain cleaner is compact and portable for easy navigation and placement
  • Ideal for drain/pipe cleaning

2. RIDGID 42007 K-750 Drum Machine

  • Drain snake cable is a C-100 3/4-inch (20 mm) x 100 foot (30.5 m) inner core cable used for heavy-duty blockages and ideal for 4 to 8 inch (100-200 mm) line up to 200 feet
  • AUTOFEED control powers cable in and out of the drain at a rate of up to 20 feet (6 m) per minute with the push of a lever, making drain cleaning more effective
  • The tough, corrosion-resistant cable drum is easy to clean, designed for quick removal, and withstands harsh treatment, dents, and abuse
  • Handle, large wheels, loading wheel, and kickstand improve the stability, transporting, and loading of the drain cleaning equipment into a service truck or van
  • Equipped with reversible 500W induction motor and a pneumatic footswitch to drive the drain cleaning cable 200 RPM

3. Drainsoon Drain Auger, 25 Feet

  • A more affordable option to a traditional plumber’s snake
  • 25 feet of flexible steel wire makes it easy to reach difficult clogs further down the line
  • An ergonomic pistol grip simplifies its use and makes it comfortable to handle
  • Can be used on multiple types of clogs around the home
  • Easy storage due to it being housed in a durable ABS drum

Final Thoughts

You’ve now learned the ins and outs of how to use a plumber’s snake (or drain auger). As you can see, unclogging a drain isn’t intimidating if you know what you’re doing.

Although there are clogs you’ll never be able to handle yourself, remember that a professional plumber is usually just around the corner from you.

Check our YouTube channel if you’d like to learn more about this and other great DIY plumbing tips and hacks.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need help with drain clogs and blockages. 

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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