When your slow drain is no longer eased by cleaning out the trap or making use of a plunger, your next step to clearing a clog is to use a cable auger, familiarly referred to as a plumbing snake. People frequently resort to chemical products to clear drain clogs before bringing out the snake. Unfortunately, this is not always useful, but it always delivers strong chemicals into the water systems. Further, where there are septic tank systems in lieu of municipal sewer systems, these caustic chemicals may cause damage to the pipes and introduce the wrong chemicals into the system.

Oh, That’s What a Snake Looks Like

Even if you have never used a plumbing snake, most likely, you have seen one before. A snake is a long, flexible cable made of steel. It has a crank at your end and either a grab handle or a spiral-shaped cone or wire at the business end. Plumbing snakes come in a variety of housings depending on their purpose and length of cable. Some snakes are manually operated while others use a power source. It is recommended that you have dedicated snakes for the kitchen versus the bathroom, just as the drainage systems are separately routed.

How to Use a Snake

Simply enough, the business end of the snake is pushed into the drain or the toilet. If a garbage disposal is involved, you will alternatively use the cleanout access located on the exterior of the property to insert the snake. Continue following these basic steps:

  1. Be prepared to get dirty. Wear gloves, a face guard and your grubbiest clothes.
  2. Insert the cable into the drain or toilet using the handle or the power unit to rotate it as you go. If access is through an exterior cleanout port, remove the cap with a wrench and push the snake through the pipe as far as it will go.
  3. Continue to carefully push, pull and rotate the snake. This could take some time.
  4. If you encounter resistance, proceed with caution. You could be at a bend in the pipe. This is a process of working blind and relying on what you feel.
  5. You can run water down the sink or insert a hose into the cleanout port for a jet snake effect. Between flushing and the movement, the clog should clear the line.
  6. If the water does not flow through the drain after this, you could have a more serious clog.
  7. Wrap a rag around the cable as it is extracted to avoid storing a dirty tool.

Proceed with Caution

You want to be mindful of the condition of your pipes. Old or rusty pipes may be vulnerable. Plastic pipes can be cracked. While you want to push and pull in the process, you do not want to damage the pipes. Take care to avoid violent motions. If you’re not sure what condition your pipes are in or aren’t confident doing this yourself, you might consider simply calling a plumber from a company like Rakeman Plumbing.
Most common clogs can be avoided by simply paying attention to what goes down the drain. Common grease and oil-based clogs are subject to accumulation and changes in temperature. What might have gone down as a liquid could end up becoming a solid blockage. Similarly, rinsing plaster, paint or compounds down the drain may make them magically disappear, but that does not always make them go away. What is worse, these materials can solidify deep inside the pipes. Following some basic rules, you almost ensure you may not even need to bring out the snake again for a slow drain.

Author's Bio: 

Dixie Somers is a freelance writer and blogger for business, home, and family niches. Dixie lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is the proud mother of three beautiful girls and wife to a wonderful husband.