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Drain Snake or Plumbing Snake: What’s the Difference?

Plumbing is important to every homeowner, and a drain snake (or plumber snake) can help keep it running. As any homeowner knows, plumbing systems require a good deal of repair and maintenance. Occasionally, you find a slow draining sink, if not completely clogged. 

It’s easy for hair to clog bathroom drains or for food waste to slide into the kitchen sink. Over time, some materials start to build up in the pipes, leading to clogs. When things go down the drain, they obstruct the pipes. 

With a plumbing snake, you might be able to DIY your clog fix. 

What Is a Drain Snake?

A drain snake is a tool that removes clogs blocking drains and pipes. It looks a lot like a hose, but the purpose is quite different. A plumbing snake has a long, flexible cable with a small spring, or auger, at one end. At the other end, it has a handle. 

When you use a plumber’s snake, it winds down the drain and reaches the obstruction. The coil at the end attaches to the object, and you can retract the cable to remove it. 

Typically, we use drain snakes when the clog is too big a problem for a plunger. Moreover, they are far more powerful. However, they can be tricky to use. 

If you choose to DIY your clogs with a drain auger, you can use in for drains in tubs, showers, and sinks. Unfortunately, a toilet requires a different tool, a toilet auger, so it’s best to call in a professional. 

What’s the Difference Between Different Types of Plumbing Snakes?

In your local plumber’s arsenal of tools, a hand auger is the first tool to try. Essentially, this is a long coil stored inside a canister. As it moves through the pipes, the spring rotates to break up clogs. 

This allows you to flush problems away. Generally, these are fairly useful for shower, tub, and sink drains. 

Next, the motor-driven auger is a drain snake, you guessed it, powered by a motor. The purpose of this tool is to unclog sewer drain lines underneath the home. When a plumber uses this, they might access the cleanout ports outside of the home. 

Motorized snakes clear out grease and dirt, which make up about 90% of drain clogs. However, they are unable to clear objects that penetrate the pipes, such as roots. 

That’s when a plumber brings out the big guns. A heavy-duty drain-cleaning machine can clear drain and sewer lines. These powerful augers allow plumbers to remove almost any blockage. 

How to Use a Plumbing Snake

Often, homeowners attempt to fix clogs without a professional plumber. While this is generally safe, it’s best to work with a professional who has the experience and the tools to tackle any plumbing issue. 

Additionally, it is crucial to understand how to use a drain snake because it is possible to damage pipes and cause leaks. If you choose to DIY the problem, follow the instructions below. 

1. Prepare the Pipes & Insert the Snake

Either remove the p-trap, curbed piping under the sink, or send the spring into the drain. If you remove the p-trap, you may be able to snake the pipes more easily. Additionally, it’s possible the clog is in this section of pipe. 

If you choose to remove the p-trap, insert the snake directly into the pipe. 

2. Start Uncoiling the Drain Snake

Start to uncoil the plumbing snake into the drain. Generally, an at-home snake has a hand crank that rotates. Keep a consistent, steady pace. 

Do not push too hard as you send the coil through the pipe. This could damage the drain entrance or the pipe itself. As you rotate the handle, the coil moves down the piping. When you feel pressure, it is likely that you are at the blockage. 

3. Break Up the Obstruction

Once you reach the clog, gently move the head of the snake around to break it up. If the auger’s coil gets stuck in the blockage, try to remove the snake. This may bring the blockage out of the pipe. 

Continue to use the snake until you no longer feel pressure. 

4. Remove the Drain Snake & Test the Pipe

Once you no longer feel resistance, remove the snake and reassemble the p-trap. Check the drain to ensure there is no clog. If the sink still drains slowly, try again. 

If the problem persists, it is best to seek professional help from a local plumber. The clog may require a stronger tool, as mentioned above. 

DIY or Professional?

While it’s possible to rent some of the more powerful plumbing snakes, it’s not always a job for a home improvement, DIY master. When drain cleaners or a closet auger don’t get the job done, it’s best to leave the work to a licensed plumber. Clogged drains are one thing, but damaged pipes are another. 

Renting an expensive piece of equipment can leave you paying much more than a short appointment with a plumber, too. This is especially true if that expensive rental breaks…

With stubborn clogs, DIY methods can also result in a homeowner damaging the pipes. Even if you successfully remove the clog, you face a much steeper bill when pipe damage leads to water leaks. 

Final Thoughts

Using a drain snake can get pretty messy. Be sure to wear clothes you use for chores. Additionally, it’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves. 

Before you start, lay down some old towels in case there’s water. If you hear scraping noises, stop immediately and adjust the snake

Even the handiest homeowner can run into problems with drains. If you have an issues while using a plumbing snake, call a professional. At MET Plumbing LLC, we have a team of licensed, insured plumbers ready to serve the Greater Houston Area. 

Call us today to see how we can help!

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