Plumbing issues can be a hassle, and sometimes a plunger or a chemical drain cleaners just isn't enough to clear a stubborn clog. In such cases, a plumbing snake can come to the rescue. A plumbing snake, also known as a drain auger, is a valuable tool that emergency plumbers and homeowners use to tackle tough clogs. In this blog post, we will explore what plumbing snakes are, the different types available, how they work, common uses, and provide a step-by-step guide on how to use them effectively.
What is a Plumbing Snake?
A plumbing snake is a flexible and elongated tool designed to clear clogged pipes and drains. It consists of a coiled metal wire or a flexible cable with a handle on one end and a corkscrew-like auger or cutting blade on the other. The auger or blade helps to break up and remove blockages in the plumbing system.
Types of Plumbing Snakes
There are two primary types of plumbing snakes commonly used:
Handheld Plumbing Snakes: Handheld plumbing snakes are manually operated snakes that are ideal for small to medium-sized clogs. They usually have a shorter cable length and are suitable for household use. Handheld snakes are affordable, easy to use, and can effectively clear most common clogs.
Power Plumbing Snakes: Power snakes, also known as drain snakes or drain cleaners, are motorized tools used by professionals for heavy-duty clog removal. They are equipped with a longer and more robust cable, making them suitable for commercial or industrial applications. Power snakes can quickly clear large clogs and are highly efficient.
How Do Plumbing Snakes Work?
Plumbing snakes, also known as drain snakes or augers, are invaluable tools used by plumbers and homeowners alike to tackle the pipe or drain until it reaches the clog. Once inserted, the user rotates the handle, causing the auger or cutting blade to spin. The spinning action helps to break up the clog or grab onto it, allowing for its removal. The flexible nature of the snake enables it to maneuver around bends and curves in the plumbing system, reaching clogs that are otherwise difficult to access.
Common Uses of Plumbing Snakes
Plumbing snakes are versatile tools that can be used in various situations. Here are some common uses:
Clearing Clogged Drains: Plumbing snakes and chemical drain cleaners are highly effective in clearing clogs in sinks, showers, bathtubs, and toilets. They can remove hair, soap residue, mineral deposits, and other debris that cause blockages.
Unclogging Toilets: A clogged toilet can be a major inconvenience. A toilet auger, also known as a closet auger, is a specific type of plumbing snake designed specifically for clearing clogs in toilets. The snake's flexibility allows it to reach deep into the toilet's trap and remove the blockage.
Removing Tree Roots: In some cases, tree roots can infiltrate underground pipes and cause significant blockages. Power snakes with cutting blades are designed to cut through roots, allowing for their removal and restoring proper flow.
Fixing Sewer Line Blockages: Plumbers often use power snakes to tackle stubborn clogs in main sewer lines. These blockages can cause backups and sewage leaks, and a power snake can effectively break through the obstruction.
How to Use Plumbing Snakes
Using a plumbing snake requires some precautions and proper technique. Here's a step-by-step guide:
Wear Protective Gear: Before starting, put on gloves and safety glasses to protect your hands and eyes.
Insert the Snake: Insert the snake's cable into the drain opening or pipe until you feel resistance. This indicates you've reached the clog.
Rotate the Cable: Begin rotating the cable clockwise while pushing it further into the pipe. The rotation helps break up or entangle the clog.
Break the Clog: If you encounter resistance, continue rotating and applying gentle pressure to break up the clog. Avoid excessive force, as it may damage the pipes.
Remove the Snake: Slowly retract the cable from the drain while continuing to rotate it. This action helps remove the clog or debris from the pipe.
Clean and Rinse: Once the clog is cleared, clean the snake with a cloth or brush, and rinse it thoroughly before storing it.
While using a plumbing snake can be an effective way to unclog drains and address minor plumbing issues, there are situations where it's best to leave the job to a professional plumber.
Plumbing snakes are valuable tools for resolving common plumbing issues such as clogged drains and toilets. They come in different types, including handheld and motorized snakes, each suitable for specific situations. By understanding how plumbing snakes work and following proper usage guidelines, you can save time and money by tackling minor plumbing problems on your own.
Can I use a plumbing snake on all types of pipes?
Plumbing snakes are generally safe to use on most types of pipes, including PVC, copper, and cast iron. However, exercise caution when using a snake on fragile or corroded pipes to avoid causing damage.
Are there any risks involved in using a plumbing snake?
While plumbing snakes are generally safe to use, there is a risk of injury if not handled properly. It's important to wear protective gear, follow instructions, and avoid excessive force that could damage pipes or cause the cable to snap.
Can a plumbing snake damage my plumbing system?
When used correctly, plumbing snakes rarely cause damage to the plumbing system. However, if used improperly or with excessive force, they can potentially cause pipe damage. If you're unsure, it's best to consult a professional plumber.
When should I call a professional plumber instead of using a plumbing snake?
If you're unable to clear a clog using a plumbing snake or if the clog persists, it's recommended to call a professional plumber. They have the expertise and specialized equipment to handle more complex plumbing issues.
Can I rent a plumbing snake instead of buying one?
Yes, many hardware stores and home improvement centers offer plumbing snake rentals. Renting a snake can be a cost-effective option if you only require it for occasional use.