How to Unblock Your Pipes with a Plumbing Snake, Even as a Beginner

By Brian on February 6, 2024

Have you ever found yourself staring at a stubbornly clogged drain, wondering how to fix it without having to dial for professional aid? At Go Pro Plumbing, we believe in empowering our clients with knowledge and guidance to tackle basic plumbing issues, such as unclogging pipes, on their own. We’ll introduce you to one remarkable tool that can quickly become your best ally in such situations – the plumbing snake.

So, what is a plumbing snake? Also known as a plumber’s snake, this simple yet ingenious tool is a length of slender, flexible steel rod that can be threaded through a pipe until it meets an obstruction. The coiled hook at the end is designed to dislodge the problematic clog, helping restore normal drain flow.

Let’s break it down into bite-sized snippets:
What? A plumbing snake, a flexible steel rod with a coiled hook at the end.
Why? To dislodge clogs in your pipes, restoring proper drainage.
Where? Applicable for kitchen or bathroom sinks and pipes within your home.
When? When conventional methods like a plunger or liquid drain cleaner don’t work.

Plumbing Snake Components Infographic - plumbing snake infographic roadmap-5-steps

Now, using a plumbing snake may seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re a beginner. But worry not! We’re here to guide you through each step, turning you from a novice to a drain-clearing champion. Trust us, it’s easier than you think, and most importantly, you could potentially save a surprising amount of time and money. So let’s dive in!

Understanding What a Plumbing Snake Is

A plumbing snake, also known as a drain auger, is a specialized tool used to clear blockages from pipes. It’s essentially a long, slender, flexible metal rod that is fed into a pipe until it meets the obstruction causing the blockage. The coiled hook at the end of the rod is designed to either push through the clog or hook onto it so that it can be pulled out when the snake is retracted.

Plumbing snakes are the perfect tool for internal blockages, particularly in kitchen or bathroom sinks where the obstruction may not be too deep in the system. They can reach clogs beyond the trap (the curved section of the pipe under the sink), which is usually where most clogs occur.

To give you a clearer picture, imagine trying to reach something at the bottom of a long, narrow jar using a flexible wire. The wire is your plumbing snake, and the jar represents your blocked pipe.

It’s also important to note that there are different types of plumbing snakes suitable for different types of blockages. For instance, a toilet auger is specifically designed to clear blockages in toilets and urinals without damaging the porcelain or acrylic finishes. On the other hand, a drain auger, which is similar to a plumbing snake but made with a wider gauge of rod, is more suitable for larger outdoor drains and sewers.

We understand that plumbing can be confusing, especially for beginners. But remember, at Go Pro Plumbing, we’re always here to help you navigate through it all.

When to Use a Plumbing Snake

Understanding when to use a plumbing snake is crucial. It’s a practical tool for dislodging blockages in your home plumbing system, but it’s not always the right solution for every kind of clog.

Identifying the Type of Clog

Before reaching for a plumbing snake, identify the type of clog you’re dealing with. The most common blockages are caused by a buildup of debris and grease, or hair caught in the trap.

For minor blockages, a combination of a liquid drain cleaner and a plunger could be enough. But when these fail to clear the blockage, or if you’re dealing with a clog that’s deep within the system, it’s time to consider using a plumbing snake.

Understanding the Limitations of a Plumbing Snake

While a plumbing snake is a versatile tool, it has its limitations. Not every clog is snake-able. For example, flushing down items not meant to be flushed, such as tampons or wipes, can cause a severe blockage that a plumbing snake might not be able to handle. As a Reddit user explains, “Just because it gets past the toilet doesn’t mean it gets through the whole line” .

Moreover, using a snake on the mainline or kitchen line can be risky if not done correctly. The user further warns, “I highly recommend never using a snake yourself for the mainline, or even really a kitchen line…Spend the extra hundred dollars and have a professional do it.”

At Go Pro Plumbing, we always advise our clients to use a plumbing snake when the clog is not too deep and when the blockage is caused by common household debris. For more complex issues or recurring clogs, professional help may be necessary to avoid damaging your pipes or causing an ineffective clog removal.

Using a plumbing snake is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It’s a powerful tool when used correctly, but understanding its limitations is key to maintaining a healthy plumbing system.

In the next section, we’ll guide you on how to use a plumbing snake effectively. But remember, if you’re unsure or uncomfortable doing it yourself, our team at Go Pro Plumbing is always ready to assist.

How to Use a Plumbing Snake

Before we delve into the steps, it’s important to note that safety should always be a priority. Make sure you’re wearing protective gloves and goggles to protect yourself from potential splashes or debris.

Preparing Your Work Area

The first step in using a plumbing snake is to prepare your work area. This means clearing the area around the drain to ensure you have enough space to work. Remove any items that might be in your way and clean the area around the drain. It’s also important to have a bucket and some rags nearby to deal with any water or debris that may come out of the drain.

Inserting the Plumbing Snake into the Drain

Once your work area is prepared, it’s time to insert the plumbing snake into the drain. Begin by placing the coiled end of the snake into the drain. You’ll then need to turn the handle of the snake, which will push the coil further into the pipe. Continue turning the handle until you feel resistance, which indicates that you’ve reached the clog.

Maneuvering the Plumbing Snake to Dislodge the Clog

When you’ve located the clog, it’s time to dislodge it. Rotate the snake in the pipe so it attaches to the clog. Then, crank the handle to reel the snake back up, which should bring the clog with it. This process may need to be repeated a few times to ensure the clog is completely dislodged.

Removing the Plumbing Snake and Cleaning Up

After you’ve successfully dislodged the clog, it’s time to remove the plumbing snake from the drain. Turn the handle in the opposite direction to retract the snake, making sure to be careful as it may be dirty or wet. Once it’s fully retracted, clean the snake thoroughly before storing it away.

Finally, flush hot water down the drain to wash away any remaining debris from the clog and clean the area around the drain.

While a plumbing snake can dislodge the immediate blockage, it doesn’t clean the drain completely. Accumulated sludge on the wall of the pipe means clogging may recur. In such cases, consider our professional drain cleaning services at Go Pro Plumbing, which not only remove the current blockage but also prevent potential future issues.

Potential Risks and How to Avoid Them

Using a plumbing snake can seem like an easy solution to a stubborn clog, but it’s not without its risks. Two main concerns are damaging your pipes and ineffective clog removal. Let’s explore these risks and learn how to avoid them.

Damaging Your Pipes

One of the risks of using a plumbing snake, especially if you’re a beginner, is damaging your pipes. This is particularly true 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, these scratches can rust, weaken the pipe structure, and eventually lead to a burst pipe due to pressure.

To avoid this, handle the plumbing snake with care. Do not force the snake down the drain. If you encounter resistance, gently rotate the handle until you feel it catch onto the clog. Always remember that if you’re uncomfortable or unsure, it’s best to leave it to professionals like us at Go Pro Plumbing to handle the task.

Ineffective Clog Removal

Another risk is that the plumbing snake may not effectively remove the clog. This is especially true if the clog is solid or if it’s located deeper within the pipe system. As mentioned earlier, a plumbing snake can dislodge the clog, but it doesn’t clean the drain completely. The residual sludge on the pipe walls can lead to recurrent clogs.

To address this, after using the snake, flush hot water down the drain to wash away any remaining clog material. If the clog persists, it’s time to call in professional help. At Go Pro Plumbing, we offer hydro-jetting services that can effectively clean your pipes and remove stubborn clogs.

In conclusion, while a plumbing snake can be a quick fix for minor clogs, it’s important to be aware of its limitations and potential risks. And remember, when in doubt, calling a professional is always a good idea.

Alternatives to a Plumbing Snake

While a plumbing snake can be a highly effective tool for dealing with small clogs, there are other methods for addressing more stubborn blockages or for maintaining the overall health of your pipes.

Hydro-Jetting Services

An option that is often more effective than a plumbing snake is hydro-jetting. This process involves using high-pressure water to clear out your drains and pipes. The pressure is strong enough to dislodge even the most stubborn clogs and can also clean out the sludge that accumulates on the walls of your pipes over time.

Here at Go Pro Plumbing, we offer professional hydro-jetting services that can handle anything from a minor clog in your kitchen sink to a major blockage in your main sewer line. This method not only clears the immediate clog but also cleans your pipes to prevent future blockages.

Non-Corrosive Drain Cleaners

Another alternative to a plumbing snake is the use of non-corrosive drain cleaners. Unlike chemical drain cleaners, which can harm your pipes over time, non-corrosive cleaners are a safer option. They work by using enzymes or bacteria to break down the clog, making them an eco-friendly solution. However, they are generally slower acting compared to other methods and may not be effective for larger, more stubborn clogs.

In conclusion, while a plumbing snake is a handy tool to have in your home maintenance kit, it’s not always the best solution for every clog. Don’t hesitate to contact us at Go Pro Plumbing when you encounter a stubborn clog or for regular drain cleaning services to maintain the optimal functioning of your drains.


Unblocking your pipes with a plumbing snake, even as a beginner, is doable with the right knowledge and a steady hand. However, it’s crucial to remember that while a plumbing snake can be an effective tool for dealing with minor blockages, not all clogs are created equal. Some may require the expertise and specialized equipment of a professional plumber.

As we’ve noted, there are potential risks involved with using a plumbing snake, such as damaging your pipes or not effectively removing the clog. It’s also important to remember that certain types of blockages, such as those caused by flushing inappropriate items down the toilet, can’t be resolved with a plumbing snake alone. As one Reddit user warns, “Just because it gets past the toilet doesn’t mean it gets through the whole line” (source: Reddit).

At Go Pro Plumbing, we understand that dealing with clogged drains and pipes can be a frustrating experience. That’s why we’re committed to providing our clients with top-notch plumbing services. We use state-of-the-art technologies, such as in-line camera inspections, and a variety of cleaning techniques to ensure that your drains are not only cleared but also optimized for long-term performance.

So, while it’s great to have the skills to unblock your pipes with a plumbing snake, we’re here to help when you need professional assistance. Whether it’s a stubborn clog that won’t budge, or you’re interested in regular drain cleaning services, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re here to ensure your plumbing system is functioning at its best, providing you with the peace of mind you deserve.

As a homeowner or business owner, have a reliable and efficient plumbing system. And at Go Pro Plumbing, we’re dedicated to helping you achieve just that.

Prevention is better than cure. Regular maintenance can help prevent clogs from happening in the first place, saving you time, effort, and potential damage to your pipes. So, let’s work together to keep your drains flowing smoothly and your plumbing system in top shape.

About Go Pro Plumbing

When it comes to plumbing services, we at Go Pro Plumbing are your reliable partner. Leveraging our industry expertise and commitment to customer satisfaction, we tackle a wide range of plumbing issues, from leaky faucets to complex pipe replacements.

Offering both residential and commercial plumbing services, we understand the unique needs of homeowners and business owners alike. Whether it’s a stubborn clog that’s been causing slow drains or a burst pipe that’s led to water damage, our team can handle it all.

We also recognize that plumbing emergencies can strike at any time, often without warning. That’s why we offer emergency plumbing services, ensuring that your plumbing crises are addressed promptly and effectively. Our same-day service guarantee means your plumbing problems get resolved as soon as possible, minimizing the potential damage and disruption to your routine.

We also offer specialized services like hydro-jetting that can be particularly effective for stubborn clogs, especially those beyond the reach of a typical plumbing snake. By combining high-pressure water jets with our plumbing expertise, we can clear your pipes thoroughly and safely, helping prevent future clogs.

At the end of the day, our goal is to provide you with peace of mind. We want to assure you that when you choose Go Pro Plumbing, you’re not just choosing a plumbing service – you’re choosing reliability, quality, and a team dedicated to your satisfaction.

So, if you’re dealing with a blocked drain, a plumbing snake can be an effective tool. But when the clog proves too stubborn, or if you’d rather leave it to the professionals, we’re here to help.

To learn more about the services we offer and how we can help maintain your plumbing system in top condition, check out our residential and commercial plumbing services.

Go Pro Plumbing - plumbing snake

Whether you’re a beginner trying to fix a blockage with a plumbing snake, or a business owner in need of extensive plumbing services, Go Pro Plumbing has got you covered. Our commitment to outstanding customer service, coupled with our same-day service guarantee, makes us a trusted choice for all your plumbing needs.

Category: Home Maintenance