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How to Snake a Drain

How to Snake a Drain

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snake a drain - how to unclog drain - water flowing down silver drain

Most of us do not think twice about the state of our drains. We flush and move on. But if you throw waste in your sink, toilet, or bathtub, you are causing a clogged pipe, and knowledge of how to snake a drain could be useful.

The most common reason for drain clogs is hair and soap scum buildup. When we flush items that shouldn’t be flushed down our toilet, they can build up over time and cause clogs or even a sewage backup.

A clogged drain is a nightmare and can cause a lot of problems such as:

  • Flooding
  • Structural damage
  • Smell of sewage

Below, we’ll look at how you can snake a drain.

How to Unclog Drains?

Knowing how to unclog drains is an important skill that every homeowner should know. You might be able to save yourself some money rather than going out to get help from a professional plumber.

Cleaning your drains is necessary to maintain your plumbing system’s health. It seems to be a difficult task, but some tools can make the process convenient for you. There are a few ways to unclog your drains: an auger, a plunger, or a snake.

What Is a Drain Snake?

snake a drain - what is a drain snake - person inserting drain snake into drain

A drain snake is a tool that has been used for many years to unclog drains. This tool is perfect for clogged drains when the plunger doesn’t work or doesn’t fit. It is a relatively inexpensive tool found at most hardware stores.

A drain snake consists of a long, thin, flexible wire with its head on one end and the other end curved into a loop. The curved end is inserted into the drain opening to remove debris from the pipe. It is then pushed back into place and twisted around the pipe to prevent it from falling down the drain.

A common mistake people make when using a drain snake is that they only use one end of the snake and try to force it down into the pipe. It can damage your pipes and cause more problems down the line. Thus, knowing the correct way to use a drain snake is important.

How to Snake a Drain?

snake a drain - access drain - person working on drain with small pipe snake

Most people would prefer to hire a professional when it comes to plumbing. However, you can do it yourself if you decide to snake a drain. This step-to-step guide will help you learn how you can snake a drain from start to finish. It will also save you the time and money you would spend hiring an expert.

Items You May Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • Drain auger
  • Plumbing auger
  • Drain cleaning chemicals
  • Plumbing snake
  • Closet auger
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Auger cable
  • Access Drain
  • First, you have to remove the P-trap that holds the standing water. It is a curved P-shaped pipe that is easily removed with hands. Don’t forget to place an empty bowl and an old towel under the P-trap to prevent the mess.
  • Next, unscrew the plastic nuts and release the P-trap to collect the standing water in the bowl. While accessing a tub drain, use an electric snake instead of a manual one. The manual snake is difficult to use in the tub drain and can’t get around down the pipes.


Insert the Drain Snake

  • To insert the snake inside the pipe, you must loosen the thumbscrew and extend the cable to push it into the drain. You have to keep extending the cable until it reaches an obstruction.
  • Now, you must tighten the thumbscrew on the drum and slowly rotate the drain snake handle twice or thrice.
snake a drain - retract cable drain - view under sink with metal pipes

Retract Cable

  • The snake must be retracted from the pipe and cleaned. Use a cloth or paper towel to remove the debris from the end of the drain snake. Don’t forget to twist the debris counterclockwise. 
  • Moreover, if you don’t pull it straight, all the debris will re-deposit into the drain. If the cable gets stuck, you have to lock the thumbscrew and rotate the drum and cable in a reverse direction.


Repeat the Process

  • You have to repeat the process to ensure no other clogs are left behind. Also, you can’t test the drain flow without reassembling the pipe. Hence, it is better to snake the drain at least 3-5 times.
snake a drain - check the drain - plumber with large drain snake in bathtub

Check the Drain Flow

  • The final step is to reassemble the pipe and run water through it to check the drain flow. Then, clean the drain snake properly to ensure it’s dry before placing it back to prevent rusting.


Drain cleaning should be done at least once a week. Snaking a drain pipe is a very effective, easy, and cost-effective method. Just follow the step-to-step guide to achieve the results and avoid pouring caustic chemicals to clean the drain.

Check out our list of home repairs related articles below for more information on how to keep your home in top condition!

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