How to Use a Drain Plumbing Snake and Unclog Pipes Easily

By Brian on February 5, 2024

Got a clogged drain? It’s frustrating and disruptive when water won’t go down your sink or shower. You might be struggling with slow drains or a severe blockage. Luckily, there’s a simple tool at your disposal that may be the key to your drain-related woes – the drain plumbing snake.

A drain plumbing snake, also known as a “drain auger”, is a proven weapon against stubborn pipe clogs. Even though using a plumbing snake might seem simple on paper, using the tool properly does involve a few twists and turns. Here’s a quick look at what you’ll learn in this article:

  • What a drain plumbing snake is
  • When to use a drain plumbing snake
  • Basic steps on how to use a drain plumbing snake
  • Potential risks when using a drain snake

Infographic Explaining The Usage of a Drain Plumbing Snake - drain plumbing snake infographic pillar-3-steps

Your home or business’s plumbing system needs regular maintenance to run smoothly, much like a car needs routine oil changes. It’s important to be able to identify when your pipes need attention, and having a drain plumbing snake at hand can help solve minor issues before they grow into bigger ones.

Let’s dive into drain plumbing snakes and bring an end to your battle against clogs. However, we understand that some issues may require professional help and that’s where we at Go Pro Plumbing come in, providing top-notch same-day plumbing service in Northern California.

Understanding What a Drain Plumbing Snake Is

A drain plumbing snake, also known as a plumbing auger, is a handy tool that can help you combat those stubborn clogs in your household drains. It’s a long, flexible metal rod that is pushed down the drain to dislodge blockages, effectively unclogging pipes. The snake is manually turned to move in the direction of the clog, breaking it up to allow for normal drainage.

Different Types of Drain Snakes and Their Uses

There are different types of drain snakes, each designed to handle specific kinds of clogs:

  1. Handheld Drain Snakes: These are ideal for smaller clogs, such as those commonly found in bathroom sinks and showers. They are easy to use and suitable for minor blockages.

  2. Flat Tape Drain Snakes: These are flat, ribbon-like drain snakes used for clearing smaller, flexible pipes, such as those found in sinks and showers.

  3. Toilet or Closet Augers: These are specifically designed for toilet clogs. Their structure prevents the porcelain of the toilet from getting scratched.

  4. Power Drain Snakes: These are powerful, electric-powered drain snakes that are typically used to clear large or tough clogs.

Each of these drain snakes has a specific function and is used depending on the nature and location of the clog.

How Drain Snakes Work to Unclog Pipes

A drain snake works by reaching down into the pipe to physically contact and break up the clog. As you push the drain snake down the pipe, you manually turn it in the direction of the clog. The turning motion helps the head of the snake to latch onto the debris or buildup causing the clog. Once the clog is broken up, the debris can be flushed away, and water can flow freely again.

However, it’s crucial to remember that while drain snakes can be effective, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. They are most effective against clogs about the size of the auger head, and larger sewer line clogs may require professional attention. Furthermore, improper use of a drain snake can potentially damage your pipes or make the clog worse.

In such cases, it’s best to call a professional plumber like us at Go Pro Plumbing. We use advanced technologies, such as in-line camera inspections, to accurately identify clogs or damage within the pipes and determine the most effective cleaning method for your unique situation.

Stay tuned as we guide you on when and how to use a drain plumbing snake effectively and safely.

When to Use a Drain Plumbing Snake

Drain snakes, also known as plumbing augers, are incredibly helpful tools when it comes to dealing with common clogs in your home’s plumbing system. But knowing when to use them is crucial to resolving your plumbing issues efficiently.

Identifying the Signs of a Clogged Drain

Before reaching for your drain plumbing snake, recognize the signs of a clogged drain. Slow-draining water is one of the most evident indicators. If your sink, bathtub, or shower water is pooling and draining slowly, there’s a good chance a clog is forming somewhere in your pipes.

Frequent clogs are another sign. If your drains keep clogging up, it might point to a larger issue, such as a significant blockage in your main sewer line. Lastly, unpleasant odors coming from your drains can signal a severe buildup of food waste, grease, or other debris in your pipes.

Understanding When a Drain Snake is the Best Solution

A drain plumbing snake comes in handy when dealing with stubborn clogs that don’t respond to simple DIY measures, such as plunging or using a drain stick. It’s particularly effective for small to medium-sized clogs located within a few feet of the drain opening.

However, using a drain snake might not be the best solution for larger clogs or those located deep within your sewer line. In such cases, the snake might not reach far enough to dislodge the blockage, or it could even risk causing damage to your pipes.

When to Call a Professional Plumber like Go Pro Plumbing

When dealing with persistent clogs or those beyond the reach of a basic drain snake, it’s time to call in the professionals. At Go Pro Plumbing, we specialize in identifying and resolving all types of drain and sewer issues. Our team of experienced plumbers can accurately diagnose the problem and provide the most effective solution, whether it’s a simple drain cleaning or a more complex sewer repair.

Moreover, if your home’s drainage system is older and made of galvanized materials, there’s a risk that the steel head of the plumbing snake can scratch the inside of the pipe. Over time, this can lead to rust and weakening of the pipe structure, potentially causing it to burst. In such situations, professional intervention is crucial to prevent costly damage.

Recognizing the signs of a clogged drain early on and knowing when to use a drain plumbing snake or call a professional can save you time, stress, and potential damage to your plumbing system. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Go Pro Plumbing for assistance.

How to Use a Drain Plumbing Snake

Using a drain plumbing snake can be a straightforward task if you follow the right steps. However, also consider safety precautions and understand potential risks to avoid damaging your pipes.

Step-by-step guide on how to use a drain plumbing snake

  1. Prepare the area: Start by putting on a pair of gloves to protect your hands. Lay down some old towels or a bucket under the drain to catch any water or debris that may come out when you unclog the drain.

  2. Insert the drain snake: Push the end of the snake into the drain opening and turn the handle clockwise to move it further into the pipe.

  3. Feel for the clog: As you feed the snake into the drain, you’ll eventually feel resistance. This is likely the clog.

  4. Break up the clog: Continue turning the handle clockwise. This action can help break up the clog or hook onto it so you can pull it out.

  5. Remove the clog: Once you’ve broken up the clog or hooked onto it, slowly pull the snake out of the drain. The clog should come out with it.

  6. Check the drain: After removing the snake, run water down the drain to check if it’s clear. If the water is still not draining correctly, you may need to repeat the process.

Using a drain plumbing snake is only useful for busting up clogs about the size of the auger head. For larger sewer line clogs, it’s best to leave it to professionals like us at Go Pro Plumbing.

Safety precautions to take when using a drain snake

Safety is paramount when using a drain plumbing snake. Always wear gloves to protect your hands and safety glasses to prevent any debris from getting into your eyes. And remember, when using a power drain snake, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid injury.

Potential risks and how to avoid them

While drain snakes can be effective, they can also damage pipes if not used properly. Especially if your home’s drainage system is older and made of galvanized materials, the steelhead of the plumbing snake can scratch the inside of the pipe. Over time, that scratch will rust and weaken the structure of the pipe, leading to leaks or bursts. To avoid this, it’s important to use the correct size and type of snake for your drain and to be gentle when using the tool.

That while a drain snake can help with minor clogs, it doesn’t clean the drain. Over time, residue can build up along the pipe walls and create a new clog. For a thorough cleaning and maintenance, consider hiring professional plumbers like us at Go Pro Plumbing.

When it comes to dealing with stubborn clogs, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. We at Go Pro Plumbing are always ready to assist you with your plumbing needs.

Choosing the Right Drain Plumbing Snake

Choosing the right drain plumbing snake is crucial to effectively tackle your drain clog. There are several factors to consider and options available in the market. Understanding your specific needs will guide you in making the best choice.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Drain Snake

  1. Pipe Size: The size of your drain pipe will dictate the size of the drain snake you need. A snake that is too large can damage your pipes, while one that is too small might not be effective in removing the clog.

  2. Clog Severity: Consider the severity of your clog. If it’s a minor blockage, a simple handheld snake might suffice. But for more severe clogs, you might need a more powerful, motorized snake.

  3. Usage Frequency: If you frequently encounter clogs, investing in a high-quality, durable snake might be worthwhile. But for occasional use, a basic model should be enough.

  4. Safety Features: Look for a snake with safety features such as a grip handle and a rotating drum to prevent the cable from twisting and kinking.

Overview of Popular Drain Snake Options Available in the Market

Different types of drain snakes are suited for different types of clogs. Here are some options:

  1. Flat Tape Drain Snakes: These are flat, ribbon-like snakes used for clearing smaller, flexible pipes, such as those found in sinks and showers.

  2. Power Drain Snakes: These are powerful, electric-powered drain snakes typically used to clear large or tough clogs.

  3. Plastic Drain Sticks: These are simple, inexpensive tools for tackling hair clogs. They are ideal for use in bathroom sinks and showers.

How to Choose the Right Drain Snake for Your Specific Needs

Once you’ve considered the factors and reviewed the options, the next step is to match them with your specific needs. If you frequently face minor clogs in your bathroom sink due to hair, a plastic drain stick might be the best choice. But if you’re dealing with stubborn clogs in larger pipes, you might need a power drain snake.

While drain snakes can be helpful tools, they don’t replace professional plumbing services. At Go Pro Plumbing, we have the experience, knowledge, and powerful professional-grade tools to effectively and safely handle all your plumbing needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you’re facing a stubborn clog that a drain snake can’t handle.

Maintaining Your Drain Plumbing Snake

Just like any other tool, your drain snake requires regular maintenance to ensure it remains effective and lasts as long as possible. Proper care of your drain snake not only elongates its lifespan but also ensures it works efficiently each time you use it. Here are some tips to help you maintain your drain snake.

Cleaning Your Drain Snake

After each use of your drain snake, it’s important to clean it thoroughly. This involves removing any debris that the snake has collected from the drain. Use a rag or a piece of cloth to wipe the cable as you retract it back into the drum or housing. The stuff you pull out of your drain can be quite nasty, so always wear gloves to protect your hands.

Once the snake is clean, disinfect it by spraying it with a bleach-based solution or any other household disinfectant. This will kill any germs or bacteria that may have been present in the clog.

Storing Your Drain Snake

After cleaning and disinfecting your drain snake, allow it to dry completely before storing it. This will prevent rust from forming on the metal parts. Store your drain snake in a cool, dry place to further protect it from rust and other damage.

Inspecting Your Drain Snake

It’s also essential to regularly inspect your drain snake for any wear and tear. Check the cable for any kinks or breaks, and ensure the handle and other moving parts are working smoothly. If you spot any damage, it’s best to replace the affected parts or the entire tool if necessary to prevent any potential issues while using it.

Importance of Regular Maintenance

Just like your home’s plumbing system, your drain snake is a crucial tool that needs regular maintenance. Proper care helps prevent costly issues down the line, such as a broken or inefficient tool when you need it the most. So, don’t wait until a problem arises—take a proactive approach to your drain snake maintenance.

At Go Pro Plumbing, we understand the importance of maintaining your plumbing tools and are always ready to offer professional advice and assistance. While a drain snake can be a handy tool for minor clogs, some blockages require professional attention. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for any of your plumbing needs.


In this guide, we’ve explored the importance of maintaining your drains and pipes and how a drain plumbing snake can help in this task. This simple yet powerful tool can often be the difference between a smooth-running drain and a frustrating blockage. However, as we’ve emphasized, it’s not about using the tool blindly, but rather understanding when and how to use it effectively.

A drain snake is excellent for dealing with minor drain clogs. However, when it comes to stubborn clogs or issues that involve larger sewer lines, a professional touch might be necessary. Misusing a drain snake can result in pipe damage, worsening the problem and leading to more expensive repairs in the future.

At Go Pro Plumbing, we are always ready to assist with any plumbing issue, big or small. Our team of experienced professionals are equipped to handle everything from routine drain cleaning to emergency repairs, providing you with a long-term solution for clear and functional drains.

In conclusion, while a drain plumbing snake is a handy tool for every homeowner to have, it’s equally important to know when to call in the professionals. After all, maintaining a healthy plumbing system is critical to the smooth running of your home or business. So before you find yourself knee-deep in a plumbing disaster, consider scheduling a professional drain cleaning service. Prevention is always better – and often cheaper – than a cure.

Plumbing Tools - drain plumbing snake

Regularly checking your drains or scheduling regular plumbing inspections can prevent many issues. If you notice signs of a clog such as slow draining or leaks, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for a free estimate on our services. We are here to help you, and we pride ourselves on providing best-in-class plumbing solutions. Don’t delay, contact us today!

Category: Home Maintenance