How Does a Drain Snake Work?

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Drain Snake in Bathroom Drain

How Does a Drain Snake Work?

If you’ve ever faced the frustration of a blocked drain, you’re likely familiar with a variety of home plumbing tools. Among the most effective and commonly used is the drain snake, also known as a plumbing snake. This tool is essential for clearing clogs that are too stubborn for a plunger. In this blog post, we’ll explore what a drain snake is, how it works, and provide guidance on how to use a manual drain snake. Additionally, we’ll touch on the differences between an auger and a snake, helping you understand which tool is right for your plumbing issues.

What is a Drain Snake?

A drain snake, or plumbing snake, is a flexible, slender auger used to dislodge clogs in plumbing. The snake is typically made from a coiled metal wire with space between the coils at the end. The operator turns a handle to rotate the wire as it moves through the pipe, allowing the snake to either break through the clog or capture it and pull it out. This simple yet effective tool is available in various sizes for different plumbing needs.

How Does a Drain Snake Work?

Understanding how a drain snake works involves recognizing its design and function. The business end of a drain snake has a specially designed helix-shaped corkscrew or a bulbous head that is inserted into the drain. As you manually rotate the handle or operate a motor (in powered models), the snake augers into the clog, breaking it apart or hooking onto it to allow for removal. Because the metal coil is flexible, the snake can navigate through the twists and turns of complex plumbing, reaching clogs that are deep within the system.

How to Use a Manual Drain Snake

Using a manual drain snake can seem daunting, but with the right technique, it can be straightforward. Here’s how to effectively use a drain snake:

  1. Prepare the Area: Clear the area around the drain and have a bucket and some rags handy for the debris you might pull out.
  2. Insert the Snake: Feed the end of the snake into the drain, slowly pushing it until you feel resistance.
  3. Rotate the Handle: Begin turning the handle clockwise. This action moves the snake deeper into the drain and helps it latch onto the clog.
  4. Retrieve the Clog: Once you’ve hooked the clog, carefully pull the snake out. It may take several attempts to clear all the debris.
  5. Flush the Drain: After removing the material, flush the drain with hot water to clear any remaining residue.

Drain Auger vs. Snake

While discussing drain auger vs. drain snake, it’s essential to note that these terms often refer to similar types of tools, but there can be distinctions. Typically, ‘auger’ is used for tools that are more robust and used for bigger jobs or different types of clogs, such as those deeper within a sewer line. The term ‘snake’ is usually reserved for smaller, more flexible tools designed for less complex jobs. Understanding the differences can help you select the right tool for your needs, ensuring that you are not using a tool too weak for a significant blockage or too powerful for delicate pipes.

Why Choose a Professional?

While understanding how to use a manual drain snake can save you a call to a plumber, there are times when a professional is needed. Complicated clogs, recurring drainage issues, and the risk of damaging pipes with incorrect use of tools are just a few reasons to call in experts like Absolute Plumbing. Our team of skilled professionals has the expertise and equipment to handle any plumbing issue, ensuring your system operates smoothly without risking damage.


Whether you’re dealing with a simple sink blockage or a more complex drainage issue, a drain snake is an invaluable tool in your home plumbing kit. Knowing what a drain snake is and how to use a manual drain snake can empower you to tackle some of the more straightforward plumbing tasks on your own. However, when faced with more severe or persistent problems, it’s wise to call on professionals.

For all your plumbing needs, Absolute Plumbing is here to help. Our experienced team can provide guidance, perform repairs, and ensure your plumbing system is in optimal condition. Don’t hesitate to contact us for professional assistance—your home’s plumbing is too crucial to leave to chance.