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man using a drain snake

Eventually, you may have an inevitable clog in your kitchen sink or shower drain. Getting the plumbing back in order can be frustrating and inconvenient. However, fixing these clogs doesn’t need the help of a specialist - you too can become an expert with the proper tools and right methods.

A drain snake is one of the most important tools you’ll need for do-it-yourself plumbing. By learning how to use a drain snake, you can effectively clear debris out of your shower and sink drains by yourself

But, how do you use a drain snake? Follow this step-by-step guide on how to snake a drain to become an expert.

What is a Drain Snake?

One of the most essential tools for plumbing drains is the drain snake. Also named the plumber’s snake, a manual drain snake is a flexible, 25-foot long steel cable that is usually reserved for unclogging drains that cannot be dislodged with a plunger. 

There are several varieties of drain snakes on the market, each suited for different clogs and plumbing jobs. For bathtub and sink drains, a hand auger is the best type of snake drain. Though hand augers are not suitable for clearing out toilet clogs, they are most useful for unclogging debris from sinks and bathtubs.     

How Does a Drain Snake Work?

If you cannot unclog the drain with a plunger, your next step is to use a hand auger. A hand auger consists of a drum and strong cable with a corkscrew end that fits through a drain to break apart the clog. 

As the drain auger is hand-cranked down the drain, the snake’s corkscrew end dislodges any hair or debris it encounters. The coil catches the debris so that it doesn’t move further down the drain and cause a more difficult clog. 

How to Use a Drain Snake - Step by Step

Learn how to use your manual drain snake by following this guide:

1.  Prepare Yourself

Unclogging your drains can be messy! Make sure you’re wearing proper clothing and rubber gloves. Also, be prepared to have a trash bag or can to dispose of the debris the drain auger pulls up.

2. Remove Sink Stopper or Shower Grate

If you need to know how to use a drain snake for the kitchen sink, you first should remove the sink stopper if you have one.  Once this is removed, insert the auger’s metal cable into the sink’s drain. 

If you’re here to learn how to use a drain snake for a shower drain clog, first remove the metal or plastic grate that usually covers a shower drain opening. These grates are generally secured with simple screws and can be removed with a screwdriver. Clean off any hair or soap scum that may be attached to the grate and insert the drain snake cable in. 

3. Crank the Handle of the Drain Snake

Slowly begin to crank the handle of the drain snake once the cable is in the drain. This propels the cable forward and twists the corkscrew end to break up any clogs. 

When pushing the cable through the P-trap, the U-shaped pipe section under the sink, you may encounter some friction and resistance. If this happens, push on the cable while cranking the drain snake slowly. A couple of turns will help the cable maneuver through the bends in the pipe.

4. Remove Cable 

Once you have snaked your way through the pipes, pull the cable back out of the drain. As you feed it into the drum, wipe off the cable to keep it clean. When the corkscrew end emerges, clean off any debris and throw it in the trash (do not flush it back down the drain!). 

You can do a check of your drains by running hot water from the faucet and seeing how well the drain is flushing. If it drains slowly, you may need to snake the drain again.

The same goes for shower drains; run the shower to see how well the shower drain empties the water. 

5. How to Snake a Drain With a Stubborn Clog

If your sink clog is not responding to the auger, then you may need to remove the P-trap. To do so, place a bucket under the P-trap to prevent any water from spilling from the trap onto the floor. Use a pipe wrench or pliers to loosen and remove the slip bus at the end of the P-trap. 

Once these are removed, insert the drain snake into the pipe leading into the wall and auger. Afterward, assemble the P-trap and run hot water from the faucet to flush the drain.   

6. Clean the Drain Snake

To take good care of your drain snake, it’s crucial to clean it after use. Wipe off the cable when feeding it back into the drum and clean off the corkscrew end. You also can rinse the used cable as it emerges from the drain and then let it air dry before pushing it back into the drum.

When to Call a Professional?

If a snake won't go down the bathtub drain or if a P-trap is seriously clogged, don’t fret; some clogs are too difficult to tackle with just a drain snake. If the job is beyond your knowledge or DIY skills, there's nothing wrong with that. That’s why there are plumbers in the first place. If plunging and snaking don't seem to yield any positive results for you, it may be time to call a professional plumber. 

For fast, reliable, and professional drain unclogging service, call Express Sewer & Drain right away.

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Topics: DIY, Drain Cleaning and Repair