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How to Use a Plumbing Snake

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A plumber using a plumbing snake to unclog a drain

If your drains are running smoothly, you likely aren’t thinking about them during your day-to-day life. However, when you’re dealing with a clogged drain, the situation quickly becomes stressful and overwhelming if you aren’t able to clear it and are dealing with an overflow. 

Whether it’s a commercial drain or residential, drains can easily clog over their lifetime, especially if substances other than water are flowing through them. 

A plumbing snake is one of the most effective ways to clear your drain. The tool is easy and safe to use. Keep reading to learn how to effectively use a plumbing snake to clear your drains!

Why Plumbing Snakes? 

When dealing with a clogged drain, your first thought may be to reach for household chemicals to clear up the blockage. While these chemicals may seem like an easy solution, they could actually be harmful to your drain pipes. Using a plumbing snake is a safer and more effective option. 

A plumbing snake is a long wire that’s fed through a circular tool. The snake is designed to break up blockages throughout drain pipes. When in the pipe, the wire spins around, either from manual turning or a power tool attached to the snake. 

Causes of Drain Blockages 

Your drains go through a lot. Even if substances seem to be flowing smoothly through the pipes, they can slowly leave residue behind, causing larger buildups over time. To reduce the risk of your drain clogging, try and reduce the hard substances that flow through your drain pipes.

Common causes of drain blockage include:

  • Hair 
  • Soap 
  • Dirt 
  • Oil 
  • Grease 
  • Fat 
  • Food waste 
  • Feminine products 
  • Flushable wipes 
  • Mineral build-up 
  • Plants and leaves 
  • Tree roots 
A plumber cleaning a bathtubs drain with a plumbers snake

How to Use a Plumbing Snake 

If this is your first time using a plumbing snake, we’ve got you covered with a simple and effective set of instructions. Even if you’ve used a snake before, take a look to see if there’s more you can be doing to improve your drain quality. 

The steps required to properly use a plumbing snake to unclog a drain

Step 1: Identify a Clogged Drain 

Your drain can clog for a variety of reasons, but the effects of a clogged drain are all going to look very similar. If water is no longer smoothly flowing down your drain or you’re noticing water is collecting around the drain, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a clog. 

Step 2: Selecting Your Plumbing Snake 

There are 2 common types of plumbing snakes: manual and electric. Manual snakes require you to turn a handle to clear the blockages. Instead of turning the handle with an electric snake, they’re attached to a power tool, such as a drill. The power tool will then spin the snake for you. 

Both types of snakes are effective and easy to use. 

Step 3: Feed the Wire 

To feed the wire down the drain, ensure the thumbscrew is loose on the side of the snake. Then, gently feed the wire down the drain. During this process, it’s important to be patient. Start by feeding only about 6 inches down the drain.  After you’ve fed the wire, hold the device about 6 inches away from the drain entrance and tighten the thumbscrew. 

Step 4: The Spin Cycle 

Now you’re ready to start unclogging! Depending on your snake, you’ll now need to either turn the handle manually or with your power tool. While turning the handle, slowly move the device closer to the drain entrance, lowering the wire. 

Continue turning the snake until you reach the drain entrance. 

Step 5: Lowering the Wire 

Now that the first part of the drain is clear, you’re ready to move forward. Pull the device back up to 6 inches, loosen the thumbscrew, lower the wire another 6 inches, tighten the thumbscrew, and start the spinning.  

Continue this process until you’ve reached the bottom of the pipe. 

Step 6: Clearing Debris 

Once you’ve reached the bottom of the pipe, it’s time to remove the debris that’s been broken up. To do so, turn on running water. Allow the water to run until you’re no longer experiencing the effects of a blockage. 

Step 7: Recovering the Wire 

Bringing the snake wire back to the surface is another opportunity to clean your drain pipes, ensuring they’re spotless.

When you’re done running water, place the device at the entrance of the drain and start pulling the wire up while spinning (still only to 6 inches). After you’ve reached 6 inches, lower the device back down to the drain entrance and repeat until the wire is back at the surface. 

Step 8: Enjoy a Clear Drain 

Once you’ve recovered your plumbing snake, you may notice there is some debris caught on the snake. This is an easy way to identify the culprit of your clog. 

After you’re done, you can now enjoy a smoothly running drain! 

Commercial & Residential Plumbing 

Understanding how to effectively use a plumbing snake is a great skill for everyone. However, if you’re dealing with an extreme blockage, a plumbing snake may not always be able to completely clear the pipe. In these cases, you can count on us.

Interested in learning more about our air, plumbing, and heating services? Give us a call

Written by Thomas Howard

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