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A drain snake has several names including a drain auger and a plumber’s snake. It is a commonly used tool for removing clogs and blockages in pipes, toilets and drains. When a plunger fails to work, the plumber’s snake might help. While snakes might seem like a simple thing they are a little riskier to use. If not used carefully and correctly people can do damage to their pipes. It is important then to learn how to use them, and if you are ever unsure, call in an expert local plumber to help.

How do they work?

It is named after a snake because that is what it is similar to. It is a long metal cable that is flexible with a spring uncoiled or a small auger at the tip and a handle at the other end. The spring or auger looks like a corkscrew or drill bit. They are on average about 15 meters long and when not in use it coils up making it easy enough to store. Most examples have a crank or handle that rotates and is operated by hand. You put the auger end into the drain and rotate the handle to uncoil it and that pushes the auger through and hopefully pushes through the blockage and removes it.

This wonderful plumbing tool has been of great help in fixing those pesky blocked drains at home but we have to be extra careful using it. Now we know how they work, how do we use a drain snake?

How to use a drain snake?

Step One: Make sure you are not in your best clothes and prepare the room by laying down some old towelling or papers underneath the pipe you are going to be clearing. Using a drain snake can get messy so be prepared, particularly if the job ends up needing you to remove the p-trap!

Step Two: Decide whether you need to remove the p-trap also known as the p-bend, the curving piece of pipe that is under the sink and connects the sink to the pipe draining system in the rest of the home. These pipes are curved for a reason. It helps to stop sewer gases from coming up into your home through the sink causing smelly drains. Often they are made from PVC piping but they can be metal. To remove the p-trap you can use your hands or you might need an adjustable wrench. When you have it removed you can inspect it properly and give it a clean. If that is where the obstruction was you will likely not end up needing to use the drain snake at all!

Step Three: Another optional step is to remove the trap arm which is the pipe that connects the p-trap to the wall pipe. It may also curve and it holds in place the p-trap pipe. There should be metal or plastic nut that connects it to the wall. Loosen it and then take off the trap arm. If there is no nut, this might mean the arm is glued so do not try to remove it. If you can, clean it out as you did with the p-trap. From there you can get into the drain pipe. You might be able to remove them with your hands.

Step Four: If you followed steps two and three you can insert the head of the plumber’s snake into the drainpipe in the wall. If you did not you can insert it into the drain. Some people have success by also running the cold water at the same time. Do not use a lot of brutal force. Be patient otherwise, you could cause damage.

Step Five: Uncoil the snake while keeping the handle end as close to the entrance of the pipe or drain as possible. Use a steady pace as you rotate the handle, avoid speeding up or going too slow. When you feel some pressure you have possibly reached the block.

Step Six: When new to how to use a drain snake it is important to listen carefully as you use it. Move the head up and down, and back and forth but avoid scraping. When you no longer feel any resistance you have cleared the blockage. Pull it out, put the sink back together and clean up!


Check the sink and if it all went well hopefully everything is working fine now. If there is still a block you have a couple of choices. Repeat the steps with your plumber’s snake or call in the professionals! Sometimes these things need an expert’s touch.

And here at Gold Coast Plumbing Experts, we can help you sort out your blocked drain issues if it gets out of hand. We have the experts in clearing blocked drains so call us today!