Your home’s plumbing system takes a beating on a regular basis. Whether it’s too much toilet paper getting clogged in the drain or items being rinsed down the sink that shouldn’t be, clogs do occur from time to time. Knowing how to use a plumbing snake can help you to unclog your system without having to always call a professional.
What Is a Plumbing Snake?
A plumbing snake is a device that can be utilized to unclog a pipe from the inside of your home. Many people get plumbing snakes confused with drain augers. It’s important to note that drain augers are typically utilized by professionals and are meant to open clogged sewer drains from the exterior of a home.
A traditional plumbing snake will have an enclosed conical shape where a flexible metal line is spooled. At the end of the metal line will be a helix-shaped hook or similar attachment that is meant to come in direct contact with the clog inside of your pipe. As a homeowner, you’ll crank the plumbing snake to move the hook throughout the pipe until it comes into contact with the clog. The plumbing snake will then be utilized to shred the material and unclog your system.
When Should You Use a Plumbing Snake?
Before you attempt to use a plumbing snake on a specific clog, it’s important that you ensure that it is the appropriate tool to get the job done. You want to think of your plumbing snake as a tool that you can utilize after a plunger doesn’t work but before you call a professional to use a drain auger. It’s crucial to know that you need to understand how to properly use a plumbing snake, as improper use could lead to tearing up your drain pipes and creating leaks.
There are many different indicators that can alert you to a fully or partially clogged drain in your home. These include:
- Water backups into a sink, shower, or toilet
- Foul odor coming from your drains
- Bubbling or gurgling noises
- Slow draining
- Puddles of water near your sink, toilet, bathtub, shower, or laundry area
As soon as you first notice one of these indicators of a clogged drainpipe, it’s time to get your plumbing snake out. You never want to let these issues go as they can continue to back up over time and create even bigger hazards.
Start by Removing Your P-Trap
Every drain will have a P-trap beneath it. This curved piece of piping connects the sink to your larger drainpipe system. Its main job is to keep a small amount of water in the pipe to prevent sewer gases from freely leaking up into your home’s air. Most P-traps are made of PVC and have quick connections that can be unscrewed by hand or with an adjustable wrench.
It’s typically a good rule of thumb to remove this P-trap before you insert the plumbing snake to make it easier to get into your drain pipe. If you were to leave the P-trap in place, you would have to remove the inside of the drain and try to go around the P-trap curve. Therefore, it’s important to know that you should check the inside of your P-trap to see if the clog is present there first. If so, this could save you from having to snake your piping at all.
Thread the Head Into Your Piping
Go ahead and pull out a couple of inches of the snake. You’ll want to insert the head manually into your pipe. Be very careful that you don’t force the snake into the drain too hard. Once you get the head of the plumbing snake into the piping, you’ll want to start uncoiling the snake by using its handle. While it may be tempting to uncoil a lot of the metal line, you’ll want to resist doing so.
You should slowly uncoil the metal line so that the handle of the plumbing snake is as close to the entrance of the pipe as possible. You’re going to have more force to remove your clog when you have less slack within your snake. Uncoil the metal line in a relatively slow and consistent manner. As soon as you feel pressure on the cable, then you’ve encountered an obstruction.
Breaking Up the Obstruction
Once you get that pressure on your mental line, you’ll want to start moving the plumbing snakehead back and forth and up and down. The idea is to slowly break up the obstruction into smaller pieces that can move down your drain pipe. You don’t want to jam the drain snake into the walls of your piping. If you do, you’ll hear scraping noises that will alert you that you’re not on the obstruction.
It’s not uncommon for your plumbing snake to get stuck in the obstruction. If it feels like your plumbing snakehead won’t move at all, then pull it back out. Oftentimes, the obstruction will actually come out with the plumbing snake. Your goal should be to either pull the obstruction out to you or keep moving back and forth on the obstruction until you no longer feel its resistance.
Re-Assemble Your Drain
Once you clear out the obstruction from your piping, you’ll want to remove your plumbing snake. Be sure to take the time to rinse the snake off with water to remove any stuck-on debris. Go ahead and re-install your P-trap and turn your sink or other water fixture on. You want to test out the water fixture to ensure that it’s draining properly before you put your plumbing snake away. Make sure that you let the water run for at least a few minutes so that if there is still a clog present, you’ll be alerted when the water fills up the entire pipe to where your sink drain is.
Tips for Preventing Clogs
While knowing how to use a plumbing snake and having one on hand is always recommended, one of the best things that you can do for your household plumbing is to be mindful of what goes down the drain in the first place. When it comes to your kitchen sink, you should be using a sink strainer. This will help to prevent unwanted garbage and small items from entering your drain pipe.
When it comes to grease and oily waste, don’t use your sink for them. While these products may be liquid at first, they will form a gel-like substance once they cool down. This substance can get trapped inside of your piping and become the perfect adhesive for other items going down the drain, such as hair and coffee grounds. Over time, that gel-like substance can turn into a big clog and stop your entire system from draining. It’s best to pour grease and other oily waste into disposable containers or jars.
Reliable Plumbing Service
Beyer Plumbing Co. offers reliable plumbing services for the San Antonio, TX community. We can also help with all of your construction, hot water heater, water softener, water quality, leak detection, drain cleaning, and commercial services. Simply contact us today to get the help that you need.