How to Use a Plumber's Snake (aka a Drain Auger)

In this post, we'll explain how to use a plumber's snake, also called a drain auger, to unclog a drain or sink. There is a simple step by step process that should be repeatable by the average person.
Sometimes, though, it's best to call in a professional to ensure the job is done safely and efficiently. Call us anytime day or night at (800) 863-1979 and we will have your drain fixed in no time.

Pipe problems happen often enough that plumbing bills can begin to add up. Obviously preventative measures are ideal, but mistakes still happen, and unforeseen clogs occur. Times like these sometimes call for a DIY plumbing task. Enter the Drain Auger.

The Drain Auger, often called the Plumber's Snake, is a sort of middle ground between the household plunger used by all, and the heavy equipment only professional plumbers know how to use. When a plumber doesn't cut it, the drain auger is the next thing to try.

The auger extends deep into pipes where you can't reach to unclog blockages. Augers are much more effective than plungers, but they are also more risky as they can damage pipes if used incorrectly or without proper caution.

What is a Drain Auger?

How do you know if the tool you have is a drain auger? Well, it looks like a long cable (often 50 foot long) with a coilable spring on one end and a twistable handle on the other. Below is a picture.

Plumber's Snake with Orange Handle and Coiled Tube

How to Use the Drain Snake Step by Step

  1. Make sure you're wearing clothes that can get dirty -- this may get messy. Lay some towels down for good measure.
  2. Optionally, remove and clean the P-Trap. This is the curved pipe below the sink that connects your sink to the rest of your house's system. Clear this out completely before putting it back and this may resolve your issue.
  3. If that didn't do it, clear out the trap arm as well (as long as it isn't glued on). This is the part that is connecting the P-Trap to the wall, where it connects to the main drain. Clean this thoroughly.
  4. Next, push the auger through to find your obstruction. Run cold water through if you chose to keep the P-Trap on, and be sure not to force the auger in as you can damage the pipe.
  5. Use the handle to uncoil the snake. Rotate the handle slowly and consistently, allowing the auger to do its thing without forcing it.
  6. When you find the blockage, move the snake up and down and around to clear it. Re-adjust the snake if you hear scraping. Try to only break up the blockage, not the edge of your pipes. If you need to, pull it out and redo it to get it in the right spot to clear the block.
  7. Continue until the resistance stops and the blockage is cleared.
  8. Carefully pull out the snake, put your sink back together, and try the sink to ensure it works.