Ah, the joys of homeownership – the freedom to make your space truly yours, but also the responsibility of tackling household issues. One common challenge that many homeowners face is a clogged drain. It’s the kind of problem that can’t be ignored for long, but before you reach for the phone to call a plumber, you might be wondering, “Can I snake my own drain?” Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we’ll explore the tools you’ll need to snake your own drain, how to actually clear the clog, and discuss when it might be a better idea to call in a professional plumber.
Before you dive headfirst into snaking your own drain, it’s essential to gather the necessary tools and materials. Here’s a rundown of what you’ll need:
- A Drain Snake: Also known as a drain auger, this is the star of the show. It’s a flexible cable with a coiled metal wire at the end that can navigate through pipes to break up clogs.
- Protective Gear: Don’t forget your safety gear. Rubber gloves (we recommend the sewer-specific type) and safety goggles are must-haves to protect your hands and eyes from potential splashes and debris. Here are the gloves from Amazon that our plumbers like to use.
- Bucket and Towels: Keep a bucket and some old towels nearby to catch any water that might come out during the snaking process.
- Flashlight: A good flashlight will help you see what you’re doing in those dark and cramped spaces under the sink or in the drain.
- Wrench and Screwdriver: These tools might come in handy if you need to remove any fixtures to access the drain.
- Plunger: Sometimes, a good plunge can dislodge minor clogs without the need for snaking.
We should also go over what type of drain snake you may need for your clog. There are various different types.
Types of Drain Snakes
- Handheld Drum Auger:
- When to Use: Handheld drum augers are versatile and suitable for most household drains, such as sinks, bathtubs, and showers. They can handle moderate clogs caused by hair, soap scum, or debris.
- How it Works: A drum auger consists of a coiled wire within a drum-shaped container. You manually crank the drum to feed the cable into the drain. The cable’s tip can break up and retrieve clogs as you turn the handle.
- Toilet Auger:
- When to Use: Toilet augers are specially designed for unclogging toilets. They can clear blockages caused by toilet paper, hygiene products, or foreign objects.
- How it Works: A toilet auger features a long, flexible cable with a J-shaped or bulbous end to navigate through the toilet’s curves. The cable is manually rotated using a crank to dislodge and remove clogs.
- Drum Auger with Power Feed:
- When to Use: Drum augers with power feed are best for larger drains, such as main sewer lines or deep clogs. They can handle tougher obstructions like tree roots.
- How it Works: These augers have a motorized feed mechanism that makes it easier to extend the cable into the drain. They are typically more powerful and suitable for heavy-duty applications.
- Flat Tape Auger:
- When to Use: Flat tape augers are designed for small, tight drains like kitchen sinks and bathroom sinks with narrow traps.
- How it Works: Instead of a coiled cable, these augers use a flat tape that can navigate through narrow pipes and bends. They are effective at clearing blockages caused by grease, food particles, or soap buildup.
- Sectional Drain Auger:
- When to Use: Sectional drain augers are ideal for long, straight pipes like main sewer lines. They are often used by professional plumbers.
- How it Works: Sectional augers consist of multiple interchangeable sections of cable that can be connected to reach deep into the sewer line. This type of auger can handle tough clogs and extensive pipe cleaning.
- Mini Drain Auger:
- When to Use: Mini drain augers, also known as handheld or snake-style augers, are used for small drains like bathroom sinks, shower drains, and bathtub drains.
- How it Works: These compact augers feature a flexible cable and a handheld crank. They are suitable for minor clogs in residential drains.
Remember, using the right type of drain snake for the job is crucial to avoid damage to your plumbing and ensure effective clog removal. If you’re unsure about which type of drain snake to use or if the clog is particularly stubborn or complex, it’s a good idea to consult a professional plumber.
Can I Snake My Own Drain?
Now that you’ve got your toolkit ready and know which type of auger you need, let’s discuss when it’s appropriate to take on the challenge yourself:
- Minor Clogs: If you’re dealing with a minor clog in a sink or shower drain, snaking it yourself is a reasonable option. These clogs are often caused by hair, soap scum, or small debris and can usually be cleared with a bit of effort.
- Frequent Clogs: If you’ve experienced multiple drain clogs in the same location and you suspect a recurring issue, you may want to learn how to snake your drain. It could save you money in the long run.
- Confidence and Patience: DIY drain snaking requires some patience and a bit of skill. If you’re confident in your abilities and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, it’s worth a shot.
How to Snake Your Drain Yourself
Grab your toolkit and let’s get started!
Step 1: Preparation
- Safety First: Put on sewer gloves and safety goggles to protect your hands and eyes from any splashes or debris that might come out of the drain. Sewer gloves are a specific type of rubber glove that is sturdier. Standard rubber gloves can easily snag on coil type drain augers.
- Clear the Area: Remove any items or obstacles around the area where you’ll be working. This will give you better access to the drain.
Step 2: Remove Drain Cover or Stopper
If your drain has a removable cover or stopper, you’ll need to take it off to access the drain. The method for removing it can vary depending on the type of drain you’re working on:
- Sink or Bathtub Drain: Use a wrench or screwdriver to remove the screws holding the cover in place. Lift it off once the screws are removed.
- Toilet Drain: Ensure the toilet bowl is empty, and then gently insert the snake through the toilet trap without removing any parts.
Step 3: Insert the Drain Snake
- Extend the Cable: Uncoil the cable on your drain snake and feed it into the drain slowly. If you’re using a hand-cranked snake, turn the handle clockwise as you push the cable into the drain.
- Feed the Cable: As you insert the cable, apply steady and gentle pressure. Avoid forcing it, as this can damage the pipes.
Step 4: Locate and Break the Clog
- Feel for Resistance: You’ll likely encounter resistance when you reach the clog. Keep a firm grip on the snake, but be cautious not to push too hard to prevent damage.
- Rotate and Push: Turn the snake’s handle clockwise to rotate the cable. This action helps to break up the clog. Continue pushing the snake further into the drain while rotating it.
- Retract and Repeat: If you feel the clog breaking up or the snake moving freely, pull it back slowly while continuing to rotate it. Repeat the process until the drain is clear.
Step 5: Remove the Snake
Once you’ve cleared the clog, retract the snake entirely from the drain.
Step 6: Clean Up
- Inspect and Test: Visually inspect the drain to ensure it’s clear of any debris. Turn on the water to test the flow and ensure the clog is completely gone.
- Replace the Drain Cover or Stopper: Reattach the drain cover or stopper you removed earlier.
- Clean the Snake: Rinse and clean the drain snake thoroughly before storing it to remove any residue.
- Dispose of Debris: Dispose of any debris you removed from the drain properly.
When to Call a Professional Plumber
While DIY drain snaking is a viable option for many homeowners, there are situations where it’s best to call in a professional plumber:
- Severe Blockages: If the clog is deep within the plumbing system or exceptionally stubborn, it’s better to leave it to the experts. Professional plumbers have the experience and equipment to handle tough clogs.
- Complex Plumbing Systems: If you’re not familiar with your home’s plumbing layout or have a complex system, attempting DIY snaking can lead to unintended consequences, such as damaging pipes.
- Safety Concerns: Some drain clogs can be caused by more significant issues, like a tree root intrusion or a collapsed pipe. These situations require professional assessment to ensure safety and proper repair.
- Repeated Clogs: If you find yourself dealing with repeated clogs despite your best DIY efforts, it might be a sign of an underlying problem that needs professional attention.