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How to Use a Sewer Snake

Jul 17, 2008
Most people have known the frustration of trying to clear tough clogs from drains. With some particularly-difficult clogs, pouring hot water down the drain doesn't work. Sending down strong drain-cleaning chemicals to clear the muck away doesn't work. When your drain is clogged and the material that's causing the problem is stubbornly sticking in place, it may be time for you to use a sewer snake. In this article, we'll describe what a sewer snake is, when you should use one and how to use it safely.

What Is A Sewer Snake?

A sewer snake is a long hose that you can send down a drain to clear away clogs. They have an auger at one end and typically use a hand crank at the other end (for home use) to power the auger. The auger on the end of the snake drills through the clog, breaking it apart and helping to remove it from the drain.

They can also be called plumbing snakes or augers. You can buy a hand-powered sewer snake or a motorized version. If you intend to buy a motorized snake, you'll have a choice between a hand held model or a "drum auger." The drum auger is actually meant to be used by professional plumbers. It's a heavy-duty piece of equipment and is generally more than what is needed by most homeowners. For home use, you can also buy a "toilet auger" which are specifically-designed to clear clogs and obstructions from your toilet's plumbing.

When Should You Use A Sewer Snake?

Most clogs that you'll find throughout the plumbing in your home won't require the use of a sewer snake. Easy clogs can often be cleared away with hot water or a drain-cleaning chemical that you can buy at your local store. However, when there's a clog that stubbornly refuses to break loose, a handheld sewer snake is likely your best weapon.

How To Use A Sewer Snake

First, you should wear gloves while working with a sewer snake. Make sure you use gloves that won't slip easily. Have a bucket and some towels handy before you begin. It's likely that the floor near where you're working will become wet as you're trying to unclog the drain. The towels also provide a surface on which to place the debris that your sewer snake removes.

Push the snake into the drain while cranking the handle clockwise. You'll be able to tell when the auger contacts the material causing the clog. When this happens, pull back a bit while continuing to work the auger into the material. Doing this helps it dig into whatever is causing the clog and break it loose. Once the blockage is cleared, try to pull the debris back up the drain with the auger end. That way, you can ensure the debris won't cause a clog further down the drain.

Using a sewer snake isn't hard. But, it can be messy. So, be sure to have plenty of towels nearby as you're working on the clog. In the end, your sewer snake should be able to clear just about any type of debris that might be causing a problem. Ideally, you'll be able to remove the material by pulling it out of the drain. If you're unable to break through the debris, consider calling a professional plumber. Chances are, you're going to need his tools.
About the Author
John Molar knows a thing or two about pipes. After clogging his own several times, he decided it was cheaper to buy a Sewer Snake and fix the problem himself. When he's not unclogging a pipe, he spends time working on his website about the Ridgid Pipe Threader and Ridgid Seesnake.
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