Plumbing Snake

What is a plumbing snake?

A plumbing snake is a tool which is used to unclog drains and sewers. It consists of a long flexible cable with an auger on one end and either a handle or a motor on the other. Plumbing snakes can be either electrically powered or manual.

What's It Used For?

Plumbing snakes are typically used to unclog drains and sewers. The head of the sewer auger is fed down the drain on the end of the drain cable. Once the blockage is reached, the head of the device is rotated. The corkscrew shape of the auger will bite into the blockage and ideally the material clogging the drain can be retrieved then discarded. Alternatively the obstruction would be broken up and the drain cleared. This is not ideal as the material may travel further down the drain before causing a blockage again.

Electric Plumbing Snake:

An electric version uses an electric motor to power the head of the device. These models are more expensive and depending on the size of the motor, may be more suited to commercial use.
A good compromise may be the use of an attachment to a power drill. This type of drain snake fits as a standard attachment to a power drill and uses the drill's electric motor to power the auger.

Manual Plumbing Snake:

A cheaper solution for home use might be a manual model. This hand powered model is suitable for most smaller clogs around the home. Smaller clogs and infrequent use would normally not make an investment in an electric model a viable option. There is even a plastic drain snake available.

Plumbing Snake Rental:

Another option might be rental. If you have a bigger job to do, one for which a standard 1/4 inch cable will not be suitable, you may want to consider renting a larger device. Most tool rental companies carry them. The model you'll need will greatly depend on the job at hand (ie. the nature and location of the blockage).

However, some of the larger models aren't suitable in the hands of a novice. Because of the size and power of some of these drain augers, a beginner could do more damage than good. If this is the case, you might be better off calling your local plumber or rooter specialist to get you drain cleaned.

Read more about how to use a plumbing snake.