How to Snake Your Drain


Listed below are various observations and suggestions for snaking a common plumbing drain. The purpose of a snake is to dislodge any obstruction that could be causing the water, or other fluids to totally back up, or drain very slowly. A snake is any type of flexible apparatus that is used to insert down into the drain itself, and dislodge or remove an obstruction. There are various types of snakes that can be either rented or purchased from your local builder’s supply store.

1.) The most common snake is a length of flexible metal strapping that is pushed down into the drain that is to be snaked. This metal strapping is commonly about 3/8’s of an inch in width and very thin. The metal is created in a fashion that allows it to easily flex, without snapping or breaking. A tip of specially designed metal is attached to the end of the snake that is inserted into the drain. This tip is designed to eliminate snagging or catching within the piping of the drain. In many instances, this tip is a coil of metal that looks like a bulbous spring. This will allow the snake to be inserted, without becoming stuck in the piping.

2.) Another common snake is a coil of round tubing or metal, which appears to be a large diameter wire in appearance. This wire is designed to flex when inserted into the drain, and will be capable of maneuvering around piping elbows and changes in direction. There will be a special tip applied to the end of this snake to prevent snagging or jamming within the piping of the system.

3.) Many snakes have a mechanism that will allow the operator of the snake to rotate the wire, or the band of metal to cause the tip of the snake to rotate. This rotation allows the snake to more easily follow the twists and turns of the piping. Without the ability to rotate the snake, the operator of the snake would need to force the snake through the piping system. With rotation, the head of the snake will more easily maneuver around the bends and turns within the piping system.

4.) Snakes can be purchased in various lengths and will be more expensive, the longer and more sophisticated the snake.

5.) Commercial companies specialize in snaking of piping systems, if the homeowner is unable to remove the clogging or the obstruction within the piping system themselves. In most cases, the commercial snaking of a drain or another type of pipe will include the use of a motorized snake that rotates very quickly. This rotation, as well as the mechanical force pushing the snake through the piping system, will remove and unclog very stubborn drains.

6.) In some instances, if the piping runs through the yard, out into the street, the piping could be clogged by the growth of roots from trees and bushes. If this is the cause of the obstruction, this will mean that the piping has been broken, allowing the roots to penetrate into the piping system. Periodic snaking of the piping will be necessary due to the continuing growth of the roots within the pipe. The only real permanent solution to this clogging issue is the replacement of the broken piping to prevent further root growth.

7.) Whenever using a snake, it is important to remove the drain cover completely prior to attempting any snaking of the piping below the drain. In some cases, the drain cover is simply pushed down into the top of the drain and must be pried out of the top of the drain. In other instances, there are screws that are accessible from the top of the drain that will loosen the drain cover from the drain body. In all cases, this drain cover must be removed to successfully snake the drain.

8.) Commercial companies are capable of both snaking and videoing the interior of the pipe to ensure that all obstructions have been removed. This snaking and videoing is the only real method of ensuring that the line is clean and unobstructed. It is highly recommended that if there is a major clog in the piping, and snaking is required by a commercial company, the plumbing line should also be videoed, to ensure that the entire line is perfectly clear and functional.

9.) In some instances, the snaking of a drain or a piping system is done through what is referred to as a clean out. A clean out is a special access point into a plumbing system to allow the plumbing to be inspected, cleaned and snaked if required. Cleanouts are normally covered with a solid cap and are identified within the floor. If the cleanout is on the exterior, then they are normally clearly marked, and are capped with a cover that is obvious to anyone looking for the cleanout.

10.) Some smaller residential clogs are simply an accumulation of hair, skin, and the resultant material from soap, detergent, conditioner or whatever product is being flushed down the drain. If this is the case, the simple removal of the drain cover will, in many instances, allow an individual to reach down and pull the accumulation of hair and other material out of the piping system. The use of long needle nose pliers to extend the reach is also recommended. If the drain has started to clog up, at the drain cover, then the hair will continue to catch all of the material sticking to the hair and eventually causing the clog. If this is the case, and it is very common, the removal of this batch of hair or a hair plug will eliminate the clogging of the drain.

11.) Another trick to unclogging simple sink drains, is to take apart the trap assembly normally found within the kitchen and bathroom cabinets under the sink. The disassembly of this trap assembly will in many instances result in dislodging the clog that is causing the problem. It is very rare that a sink clog is beyond the trap that is located immediately under the sink drain. Remove this, and access to the clog is very likely.

It is recommended that all homeowners attempt to unclog a clogged drain themselves. In many instances the procedure is simple common sense, and the need to hire a professional is a waste of money. Try to unclog the drain yourself; also do not allow the drain to become totally clogged by periodically cleaning the drains. Procrastination in cleaning the drain or removing the hair plug will either result in flooding of the sink, shower, bathtub or whatever fixture the drain is servicing, or mounting aggravation, as the rate of water draining becomes, slower and slower.
All homeowners are capable of unclogging most drainage issues within the home. However if this becomes too great a challenge, there are many different professional services that can be contacted, that will resolve the issue of a clogged drain.