“Plumbing Herpetology” – The Study of the Plumbing Snake

Alright so we might have made up the term “plumbing herpetology” but it was too good to pass up. The plumbing snake is one of our key tools here at Economy Plumbing Services and it’s often the first thing people go to when they’re having clogged line troubles. “Can you snake it?” Might just be one of your most common questions. This time on the blog we want to tell you all about the plumbing snake, when we use it and when we’re best off going with something else. Knowing is, after all, half the battle!

The Plumber’s Snake, or Plumbing Snake

It has a few names, the plumber’s snake, plumbing snake, or drain snake, but they all refer to the same thing: a long, flexible drill-like device called an auger. The long and short of it is this, the snake is inserted into a drain line to handle serious clogs that just won’t budge with a plunger.

There are a few different varieties of snakes including hand augers, closet augers, or the suped-up drum auger. 

Hand auger

The hand auger style of plumbing snake is mostly useful when it comes to clearing sink and bathtub drains. It isn’t suitable for toilets because of it’s narrow size and the potential for damaging the porcelain. For those, you’d want a toilet auger.

hand auger or plumbing snakeToilet auger

The toilet auger (also known as a closet auger ((as in water closet))) feeds a relatively shorter auger through a hook-shaped length of metal tubing. It has a hook shape that makes it easier to maneuver into a toilet and has a plastic boot to it that will protect the porcelain. Since most toilet clogs occur in the trap built into the toilet itself, the short cable is usually enough to break up and remove the clog.

Drum augers

This heavy duty option is motorized and outfitted with blades, designed for all sorts of pipes. These are powerful enough to clear through tree roots that may have grown into the line and blocked off the flow. They can also just as easily damage or destroy plastic pipework like nobodies business, they are best left to professionals.

plumber using a drum augerAll of these work on the same principle so let’s get to that.

How the Snake Works

Every snake is made up of a length of wire that has a helix shaped component at the end. This helix has varying space in the coil, so that it can grab ahold and firmly lodge itself into whatever obstruction it finds. Essentially, a plumber will insert the snake (or auger) into the pipe or drain pushing it until the end of the snake comes into contact with the blockage. The snake is then manipulated and pressure applied to either break or clear the obstruction. Here’s the process step by step.

  1. Push the end of the snake into the drain opening and turn the handle on the drum that contains the coiled-up snake, pushing until you feel resistance.
  2. You may have to apply pressure, when cranking the handle to get it to bend around the tight curve in the trap under the sink for instance. After turning the curve, the snake usually slides through easily until you hit the clog.
  3. Rotate the snake against the blockage until you feel it feed freely into the pipe.
  4. The rotating action enables the tip of the snake to attach to the clog and spin it away or chop it up. If the clog is a solid object, the auger head entangles the object. If you don’t feel the auger breaking through and twisting getting easier, pull the auger out of the drain — you’ll likely pull the clog out with it.
  5. Run water full force for a few minutes to be sure that the drain is unclogged and clear of obstructions.

Sometimes, the clog flushes right down the drain no fuss at all. Others we’ll bring the snake out and with it the prize.

There you have it! Everything you need to know about a plumbing snake and when we use it. Want to know how you can clear a clog without having to call in an expert and their snake? We got you covered with this blog on just that. If you’re having any sort of plumbing problem, any at all, don’t hesitate to reach out! After all…

If water goes through it or to it, we do it!

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