How to Use a Manual Plumbing Snake

Written by amelia jenkins
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How to Use a Manual Plumbing Snake
(Jupiterimages/ Images)

Using a plumbing snake to clear a clogged drain yourself is a cheap alternative to hiring a professional plumber. A plumbing snake is a common tool made of a long, flexible metal hose with a corkscrew hook, known as an auger, on one end and a cranking device on the other end. Most people, even with little plumbing knowledge, can use a plumbing snake to unclog a drain.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Bucket
  • 2 to 6 towels
  • Wrench

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  1. 1

    Protect the area around the clogged drain from water and waste. Place a layer of towels securely on the surfaces around the drain. If the clogged drain is raised, such as a kitchen sink pipe, place a bucket under the pipe to collect water and waste from the clog.

  2. 2

    Insert the auger end of the plumbing snake in to the drain. Place your hand on the cranking handle end of the plumbing snake and rotate the tool clockwise while gently pushing the tool further in to the drain until you feel the auger hit the clogged area.

  3. 3

    Pull up slightly on the cranking end of the plumbing snake while gently turning the tool to break up the blockage inside the drain. Press down gently on the plumbing snake while rotating the tool clockwise until you feel the clog begin to break apart.

  4. 4

    Drive the auger end of the plumbing snake through the blockage by pressing down firmly but gently until you feel the tool push through the blockage.

  5. 5

    Attempt to pull the clog out of the drain by slowly removing the plumbing snake. Wrap a towel around the plumbing snake as it is coming through the drain to catch any waste from the clog.

  1. 1

    Locate the branch cleanout if the clog remains. The branch cleanout is a T-fitting the main soil stack, typically in a crawl space or in the basement.

  2. 2

    Remove the plug for the branch cleanout. Place a bucket under the T-fitting and remove the plug from the pipe, using a wrench.

  3. 3

    Place the plumbing snake inside the drain, using the auger end. Use the cranking device to turn the snake clockwise until you feel the tool hit the clog. Work the snake through the clog by pressing firmly but gently and turning the tool clockwise until you feel the plumbing snake push through the blockage.

  4. 4

    Remove the blockage by pulling the plumbing snake back through the branch cleanout.

Tips and warnings

  • Use gentle motions when operating the plumbing snake to avoid damaging the interior of the pipe.

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