Some of the most common plumbing issues for residents who call an Arlington plumber in the DFW metroplex are a clogged drain line, sewer line, or stubborn clog in their sink or toilet. This is why entire franchises are built around drain cleaning.
To be sure, some homes do have a blocked drain that requires a professional drain cleaner. However, many stubborn clogs can be removed with a plumber’s snake or drain auger. (If you know how to use it!)
What is a Plumbing Snake?
A plumber’s snake is a cable-based auger that is either manually turned or electricity powered to dislodge a stubborn clog within the sewer pipe. It is used when an obstruction is too big for a plunger to handle, but also not so big that you need professional drain cleaning in Arlington who uses pressurized water jets to clear the pipes.
Typically, a plumber’s snake that is designed for household use is approximately 25 to 50 feet long. A snake cable can be purchased from a big box retailer, as well as plumbing supply stores near you. So how do you actually go about “drain snaking?”
Let’s cover the basics of setting up and using a drain snake to clear a clogged toilet or blocked drain.
How to Snake A Drain: 7 Steps
This can be a messy job, so be sure to wear clothes you don’t care about ruining and place towels under the pipes you are working on. The following steps are the basic way on how to snake a drain.
(Optional) Remove the p trap. This is the curved pipe directly under the sink that connects to the larger sewer pipe system in a house. (This is much easier than trying to remove the drain stopper and maneuver your way down.)
(Optional) Remove the trap arm. This is the part of the pipe between the p trap and the pipe that enters the wall. This pipe is usually connected with a metal or PVC nut although sometimes it is glued in place. If it is glued, do not try to remove it.
Put the head of the drain auger into the clogged pipe. If you removed the p trap, then insert the snake into the clogged drain line. If you haven’t removed the p trap, you may want to run a small stream of cold water while you snake the drain line to help flush out whatever is causing the blocked drain.
Use the handle to uncoil the snake cable down the pipe toward the main drain. You want to keep the handle as close to the entrance to the pipe as possible. This is because the more slack in the cable there is, the less effective it will be. It can also cause the head of the auger to bend back on itself when it reaches the blockage. *We are discussing the manual method, but you can also use a power electric drain snake as well.
When you reach the obstructed drain blockage, rotate the cable in a circular motion, and then up and down. Try to break up the clog as much as possible by hand. If you hear any scraping noises, slowly remove the snake and re-adjust. You don’t want to cause any damage inside the sewer line. If the auger head is stuck in the obstruction, try pulling it out slowly. Sometimes the clog will come out with the plumber’s snake. If there is no resistance, uncoil the entire length of the sewer snake into the pipe, and into the main drain.
Coil the drain snake back up and remove it from the pipe. Remove any bits of the obstruction attached to the auger head and rinse it off. If you removed the p-trap and trap arm, you should reconnect them.
Once removed, and all pipes are re-connected: Run water in the sink to check if the pipe or tub drain is clear. Turn on the faucet that runs into the clogged drain pipe that was cleared to make sure that it is draining properly. If it isn’t, you may want to try snaking it again.
How To Use A Drain Snake On A Toilet
The first and easiest way to break up a clog is by using a plunger or a chemical drain cleaner. (There are also ways to naturally unclog a drain.) But most people reading this will have already tried a plunger or over-the-counter product that hasn’t fully resolved the issue. This is where a plumber’s snake designed for a toilet will come in handy.
You will snake a clogged toilet in the same way that you would any other plumbing pipe. The primary difference is that you will want to use a toilet auger instead of a regular drain auger to do the job.
These are different in that they won’t leave scrape marks in the bowl of the toilet. A porcelain toilet bowl can be scratched, so you want to be careful not to cause any unnecessary and lasting damage in the process of trying to clear out the toilet drain.
How To Snake A Drain in the Shower
Most clogged shower and tub drains are the result of soap scum and long hair mixing together. The good news is that some of these clogs are located very near the shower drain opening itself, and are fairly easy to remove. It might help you to envision the setup and configuration. Pro tip: If you’re confident the clog is further down, gain easier access by removing the overflow plate if your shower is located in a bathtub.
Most shower drains have a 2 inch drain that goes straight down to a trap under the base of the shower. You will want to use a snake with 1/4 or 5/16 inch thick cable, which should fit into configurations. Then you will use the snake in the same way you would on a clogged sink trap.
How to Use a Drain Snake on Other Clogs
It’s common for people to ask about how to use a drain snake specific to the location of their problem, such as the bathroom sink, kitchen drain, utility sink, floor drain, or another clogged sink drain not mentioned here.
However, the principle is the same regardless of where you need to use the drain auger. The bottom line is this. You need to get past any drain stopper and carefully make your way toward the main drain. Along the way your goal is to encounter the clog and dislodge it. This is often achieved and exactly how many professional plumbers will also attempt to clear your blockage.
When to Call for Help
Using a snake to clear obstructions from pipes is a job people often can do on their own. However, there are situations you may encounter that require outside help. Sometimes the clog is simply beyond the reach of many drain auger cables sold to homeowners. A professional’s tool will often have the additional reach, and the ability to access the main drain.
Also, if the clog is more serious such as tree roots in sewer line pipes, you cannot expect a DIY approach to easily resolve it. This is where you need to tread carefully, and often employ a sewer camera to inspect the exact nature of the problem before trying to remedy a solution. This article discusses how to clear a main sewer line clog.
If you have water backup that is staying put or rising, this can not only pose health risks, but also increase property damage concerns. A successful solution by a professional is worth paying for to avoid additional costs by ignoring the problem or postponing a complete fix.
If you’re having trouble snaking your drain and need a professional plumber to properly evaluate it, give us a call at (817) 200-4703. The team at All Masters Plumbing is here for all your stubborn clog needs.