Clogged drains are a common problem in households that can be caused by various factors such as hair, soap scum, food particles, and grease buildup. These blockages can disrupt your daily routine, cause frustration, and lead to more severe plumbing issues if left untreated. Fortunately, there are several DIY methods to clear clogs, and using a drain snake is one of the most effective and efficient ways to do it. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of using a drain snake, how to use it effectively, safety precautions, and alternative methods.

Types of Drain Snakes

There are two main types of drain snakes: manual and electric. Manual drain snakes are also known as hand-cranked or hand augers. They are simple devices consisting of a flexible cable with a handle on one end and a hook or auger on the other. To use a manual drain snake, you insert the cable into the drain until you reach the blockage, then rotate the handle to dislodge and remove it.

Electric drain snakes, on the other hand, are powered by an electric motor and are more powerful than manual drain snakes. They are designed for larger and more stubborn clogs that cannot be cleared with a manual drain snake. Electric drain snakes come in various sizes and shapes, from handheld to larger models that are mounted on a truck or van.

When to Use a Drain Snake

Before using a drain snake, it’s essential to determine whether it’s the best method to clear the clog. In most cases, a drain snake is an effective solution for minor to moderate blockages in sinks, showers, and bathtubs. However, it may not be suitable for severe clogs that require more aggressive measures, such as hydro jetting or professional plumbing services.

One way to determine whether a drain snake is appropriate is to identify the location of the blockage. If it’s near the surface, such as in the drain trap or P-trap, a drain snake can easily reach and clear it. However, if the clog is deeper in the pipes, it may require a more powerful tool or professional assistance.

Safety Precautions When Using a Drain Snake

Using a drain snake can be hazardous if proper safety precautions are not taken. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Wear protective gloves and eyewear to prevent injury or exposure to harmful chemicals.
  • Never use a drain snake if you have poured drain cleaners or other chemicals into the drain, as they can react with the snake and cause injury or damage.
  • Keep your hands and fingers away from the cable and rotating mechanism to avoid getting entangled or injured.
  • Turn off the power supply to the area or appliance before inserting the drain snake into the drain to avoid electrical shock.
  • Use the drain snake only as instructed and avoid excessive force, as it can damage the pipes and cause leaks.

Steps to Using a Drain Snake to Clear a Clog

Now that you understand the basics of using a drain snake let’s look at the steps to follow:

  1. Insert the cable into the drain: Start by inserting the cable into the drain until you reach the blockage. Depending on the type of drain snake, you may need to loosen a screw or knob to release the cable.
  2. Rotate the handle or switch on the motor: Once the cable is inserted, you can begin rotating the handle or switch on the motor to dislodge and remove the blockage. Slowly rotate the cable clockwise and counterclockwise while applying downward pressure to break up the clog.
  3. Remove the cable: Once the blockage is cleared, slowly pull the cable out of the drain while continuing to rotate it. Avoid pulling it out too quickly, as it can cause the debris to splatter.
  4. Flush the drain: Finally, flush the drain with hot water to ensure that all debris is removed and the drain is flowing freely.

Tips for Effectively Using a Drain Snake

To get the best results when using a drain snake, follow these helpful tips:

  • Use a drain snake with a long enough cable to reach the blockage.
  • Apply enough pressure to the cable to break up the clog, but avoid using excessive force that can damage the pipes.
  • Rotate the cable in both directions to dislodge the clog.
  • Use a drain snake with a bulb or blade attachment to break up more substantial clogs.
  • Keep the cable and mechanism lubricated to prevent rust and corrosion.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using a Drain Snake

While using a drain snake is a simple process, there are some common mistakes to avoid:

  • Using a drain snake on a toilet, as it can damage the porcelain and cause leaks.
  • Using a drain snake on a garbage disposal, as it can damage the blades and cause leaks.
  • Using a drain snake with excessive force, as it can damage the pipes and cause leaks.
  • Not wearing protective gear, which can lead to injury or exposure to harmful chemicals.
  • Using a drain snake as a first resort, as it may not be the best method for severe clogs.

Maintaining and Storing Your Drain Snake

To ensure that your drain snake stays in good condition and lasts longer, follow these maintenance and storage tips:

  • Clean the cable and mechanism after each use with a cloth or brush.
  • Lubricate the cable and mechanism with oil or grease to prevent rust and corrosion.
  • Store the drain snake in a dry and secure place away from children and pets.
  • Inspect the cable and mechanism regularly for signs of damage or wear and tear.
  • Replace the cable or mechanism if it’s damaged or worn out.

Alternatives to Using a Drain Snake

If using a drain snake is not suitable or effective for your clog, there are alternative methods you can try, such as:

  • Plunging: A plunger can create suction and pressure to dislodge and remove blockages in toilets, sinks, and showers.
  • Baking Soda and Vinegar: A mixture of baking soda and vinegar can create a chemical reaction that dissolves and clears clogs.
  • Hot Water: Pouring hot water down the drain can help break up and remove grease buildup and minor clogs.
  • Enzyme Cleaners: Enzyme cleaners are natural and safe alternatives to chemical drain cleaners that can break down organic matter and clear clogs.


Using a drain snake is an effective and efficient way to clear clogs in sinks, showers, and bathtubs. By following the steps and safety precautions outlined in this article, you can safely and successfully use a drain snake to restore your plumbing system to its optimal performance. Remember to maintain and store your drain snake correctly to ensure that it lasts longer and is always ready when you need it. If using a drain snake is not suitable for your clog, try alternative methods such as plunging, baking soda, and vinegar, hot water, or enzyme cleaners.

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