How to Use a Drain Snake Safely and Effectively

Plumber repairing sink with a plumber's snake.

Having a blockage in your drainage system, whether it’s in the toilet, shower or sink is a huge pain. Not dealing with this could lead to serious problems, including burst pipes and damage to your home. Using a drain snake on a blockage is an effective way of treating it.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to remove a blockage by snaking a drain. We will take you through how to snake a shower drain, how to snake a bathroom drain, and if you can use a drain snake on a toilet. We’ll also answer frequently asked questions regarding drain snakes in the UK and solve common problems.

What is a Drain Snake?

If you’re searching for how to unblock a drain, whether that’s a kitchen sink drain or bathroom drain, it’s likely that you’ve come across the suggestion of using a drain snake. But what is a drain snake?

Also referred to as a snake drain unblocker, a snake drain tool, or a plumber’s snake, a drain snake is a clog remover of considerable use. The snake is a long, flexible drain auger which is pushed into a clogged drain to unlodge whatever is blocking the pipes. 

The metal cable consists of coils of wire with space in between which are attached to a crank. The user turns the handle of the drain snake in order to use it, unravelling the snake from its coiled position and enabling it to manoeuvre further down the pipe as it dislodges the clog.

Why is a Drain Snake Used?

If you have a significant blockage in your drains that a plunger or other home methods can’t get rid of, a drain snake is usually the next step. It’s used to tackle stubborn clogs that other tools can’t really handle as it can go deep into a piping system.

How to Snake a Drain: A Guide to Different Drain Snaking

Man using a mini plumbers snake to unclog a bathtub drain

So how do you use a drain snake? It depends on the drain you’re using it on and the actual snake you have. Here are step-by-step guides to using a drain snake for different blockages. 

How to Unclog a Shower Drain With a Snake

  1. Remove the Shower Grate

Your shower drain will usually have a grate covering, secured with simple screws that you can use a screwdriver to remove. If there are no screws, you can usually remove it with careful prying. When removing the grate, make sure to also remove and hair and debris that’s attached to it. 

  1. Put the Snake Into the Drain

Insert the head of the snake’s metal cable into your shower drain until you encounter a bit of resistance. When this happens, tighten the clamp and slowly turn the handle clockwise. Don’t use it too forcefully as this can cause the cable to double back.

  1. Keep Going

Keep extending the cable into the drain and employ an augering motion – if you encounter the clog, rotate the metal cable to force it into the clog and break it up.

  1. Run Water

If it feels like you’ve unlodged the blockage, try flowing a little water for a minute to see if it runs past the cable of the snake. If you find that the water is backing up instead of running, repeat the above steps.

  1. Remove the Drain Snake

If you complete the above steps successfully, reverse the handle rotation slowly to extract the drain snake. You should see hair and other debris entangled in the auger head. Clean this off and make sure to dry the snake to prevent any rusting.

  1. Flush Your Drain

Finally, flush the shower drain with running water for a couple of minutes to get rid of any remaining debris. Put the shower grate back on.

How to Unblock a Kitchen Sink with a Drain Snake

Sink drains are different because they can’t be snaked from above as their openings are specially designed to stop objects from getting into the pipes. 

You’ll need the following equipment:

  • The drain snake
  • A small bucket
  • A pipe wrench
  • Torch
  • A towel or rags

Once you’re set up, follow this step-by-step guide to snaking a sink drain:

  1. Disconnect the P-Trap

This will be located under the sink held together by a series of slip nuts. Place your bucket under the trap then loosen the nuts – a pipe wrench will be needed for metal ones but plastic ones can be loosened by hand.

  1. Clear Any Visible Obstructions

Look in the pipe that you’ve just disconnected and remove any obstructions you can see. If you can’t see anything, it means the clog is further down the line.

  1. Insert the Drain Snake

Push the cable into the T-fitting and keep feeding in the cable until you feel resistance. When you feel you’ve hit the blockage, start cranking the handle.

  1. Beak the Blockage

Keep maneuvring the cable until you feel the clog break.

  1. Remove the Cable and Flush the Drain

Wrap the snake up (after cleaning it) and replace the P-trap. Turn your hot tap on and let it run for a couple of minutes to flush out any remaining debris.

How to Use a Drain Snake on a Toilet

A frequently asked question is can you use a drain snake on a toilet? The answer is no. For toilet blockages, you will need a specific type of drain snake made for these purposes. A regular drain snake will scratch the porcelain and cause your toilet’s performance to degrade overall.

Once you have a toilet snake, follow these simple steps:

  1. Insert the toilet snake into the bowl slowly and carefully.
  2. Crank the handle carefully to allow the cable to move through the bend. If you encounter any difficulty, simply release the crank and wait for it to reset before trying again.
  3. Retract the cable of the toilet snake by turning it the other way to dislodge the clog.
  4. Remove the snake carefully and flush the toilet to check the drainage is back to normal.
  5. Clean your snake thoroughly after use.

Don’t Damage Your Pipes: Get a Professional Drain Unblocking Service

Blockbusters van

With any of these methods, you run the risk of causing damage to your sink and drains if you perform the task incorrectly. When you have a stubborn blockage that usual home methods can’t relieve, it’s time to call in the professionals. 

At BlockBusters, we offer efficient, reliable drain unblocking services at exceptionally competitive rates. Our drainage engineers are available 24/7, 365 days a year. And we don’t charge for call-outs. Contact our team to find out how we can help solve your drainage woes today.

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