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Snaking a Drain: A Step-By-Step Guide

Jun 15 2023
A person using a drain snake to unclog a sink drain

Some things are simply inevitable: sunrise, sunset, moonrise, failure, success…and drain clogs.

Yup, you are destined to be inconvenienced by a clogged kitchen or shower drain at least once in your life. Whether you accept that prophecy or not, it’s always a good idea to brush up on your drain snaking know-how. Knowledge is power, after all, and when the day comes that a drain in your house clogs, you’ll be ready to tackle it head-on!

Not every drain clog requires the expertise of a professional plumber. Some of them can easily be solved by just you, a drain snake, and this ultimate guide to snaking a drain!

Let’s clear those clogs, one step at a time.

What Is a Drain Snake?

The most fundamental tool you will be using for clearing a drain is a drain snake.
A drain snake is a long, flexible steel cable that is specially designed to dislodge clogs.

While there are various types of drain snakes, the most common one is called a hand auger. It consists of a drum and a sturdy cable with a corkscrew tip. When the device is hand-cranked into the drain, it prompts the corkscrew end to remove any debris that it encounters.

Debris retrieved from a clogged drain

How to Use a Drain Snake

STEP 1: The first step in the drain unclogging process is preparation! Unclogging a drain is an extremely messy job, so it’s important that you gear up in proper clothing and rubber gloves. On top of that, have a trash bag at the ready to dispose of the debris that the drain auger brings back.

STEP 2: Depending on whether you’re setting out to unclog a kitchen sink or shower drain, proceed to remove the sink stopper or shower grate. Once you’ve set that aside, insert the auger’s metal cable into the drain. Make sure you clean off any soap scum or hair that may be blocking the entrance of the drain.

STEP 3: Once the cable is inserted down the drain, slowly crank the handle of the drain snake. This movement propels the cable in a forward motion and twists the corkscrew end in order to break up clogs.

In the event that it’s a sink you’re unclogging, you might come across some resistance once the cable hits the P-trap. No need to be alarmed, because it’s all owed to the U-shaped structure of this particular pipe. All you have to do is push the cable forward while cranking it. This should help the cable maneuver its way through the bend in the P-trap.

STEP 4: When you’ve successfully snaked the cable through the pipes, you can retract the cable out of the drain. As the cable gets wound back into the drum, wipe it off to keep it clean. Once the corkscrew end emerges, remove the debris it caught and dispose of it in a trash bag. Don’t forget to clean the corkscrew tip too!

STEP 5: Now it’s time to run a test! Do this by running hot water from the faucet. If the water empties into the drain at a slow pace, you may need to go for a second round of drain snaking. If the water drains smoothly, you’re good to go!

How to Snake a Drain With a Stubborn Blockage

Snaking a drain isn’t always as easy as 1, 2, 3. So, if you are faced with a headstrong clog, you may need to remove the P-trap (for sinks). Use a bucket to catch any water that may drip. Next, use pliers to unfasten and remove the slip bus at the end of the P-trap. Finally, insert the drain snake into the pipe leading into the wall.

When you have successfully removed the debris, reattach the P-Trap and run hot water from the tap to flush the pipes.

 An expert snaking a drain

Don’t Let a Clog Cloud Your Day

No matter how good of a DIY-er you are, there are some clogs that are way too stubborn to handle through drain snaking alone.

If this is the case, the team at 1st Rooter is here to save the day. With over 25 years of experience in serving the Hamilton, Burlington, and Oakville areas, a highly-qualified team of plumbers, and state-of-the-art equipment, no clog is too big for us to tackle.

Give us a call today to send your plumbing worries away!

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