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.

How To Use A Plumbing Snake

This article describes how to use a plumbing snake to unclog blocked drains step by step. A handyman (or woman) with some basic tools, a little time and a drain auger should be able to tackle most clogged drains in a domestic setting. Why call in a professional when it's so easy to learn how to use a plumbing snake?


Make sure you have a bucket and plenty of towels ready before you try to snake a drain. Lay the towels around your work area to soak up any water and protect fittings from any debris which you might retrieve during this operation.

Remove the drain cover or grill:

You will need to gain access to the drain in question so the drain auger can do it's thing. This will normally mean removing the cover from the drain.

Feed in the Plumbing Snake:

For most small jobs around the home a manual device should suffice, although there are electric models available if your job is more significant. You can even get an attachment for a power drill. Whichever type you use, start by feeding the auger head down into the drain. Rotate it a little as you feed it in.

Find the blockage:

Continue feeding in the cable, pushing the drain auger gently until you feel it come up against the blockage.

Retrieve the blockage:

Rotate the head of the plumbing snake until you can feel it biting into the blockage. Ideally you will be able to get a grip on the blockage with the auger and retrieve it back out of the drain. Place the material in the bucket for disposal later.

The idea is to try not the push the blockage further into the drain. However, in some circumstances it may be unavoidable. It this case, you can use the head to chew away at the blockage until it breaks down and is dislodged.

Wash Away any Loose Debris:

Once you have retrieved the material which was blocking the drain, run hot water down the drain for at least 5 minutes to wash away any remaining debris which was not already removed.

Read more about How To Use A Plumbing Snake.

Toilet Auger - A Different Kind Of Plumbing Snake

What is a Toilet Auger (also known as a water closet auger or just closet auger)? How is it different to a Plumbing Snake?

A toilet auger is a tool whose sole purpose is for use in lavatory fittings. How is it different to a drain auger?

A Toilet Auger Is Shorter

A Toiler Auger is shorter and stiffer than a standard plumbing snake snake. This is because most lavatory blockages occur quite close to the opening of the drain. The u-bend is quite tight and is the most common place for most material to become lodged.

It Has A Protective Sheath

A Toilet Auger is normally sheathed inside a protective rubber or plastic tube. This tube prevents the closet auger from damaging the porcelain surface of your bathroom fixture. It enables the cable to pass through the u-bend with causing scratches or other damage.

The Toilet Auger's Protective Tube Has A Bent End.

One end of the protective tube of the closet auger is bent. This mimics the shape of the drain and enables you to navigate the tight bends within most toilet drains.

Do you need one?

I would suggest it is a necessary item in any home handyman's toolkit. For a reasonably small sum, you can buy a closet auger and put it away until the next time your toilet fixture becomes blocked and the hardware store is closed.

Read more plumbing snake information.