How to Unclog a Sink Drain with a Plumber’s Snake

“Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” In the plumbing industry, we have a different version of this common saying: “Teach a homeowner how to snake, and you’ll unclog their drains for a lifetime.” Ok, so that doesn’t roll off the tongue as well, but we stand by the idea.

How to Unclog a Sink Drain with a Plumber’s Snake

As much as we’d like to be of assistance for all your plumbing needs, we also understand that many of our clients prefer to handle simple drain clogs on their own. For that, we recommend knowing how to use a plumber’s snake properly.

What is a plumber’s snake?

A plumber’s snake is a plumbing tool that’s also referred to as an auger. It’s a thin, flexible metal cable that is inserted down a drain to reach and break up a pipe blockage. But if you look carefully, you’ll notice other important features. The first is a handle that can be cranked to spin the cable clockwise or counterclockwise. The second is a spring or corkscrew-like piece on the end that helps the snake push through debris as the tool is inserted and rotated in the drain.

As professional plumbers, we often use a machine-powered auger or rooter that works in a similar fashion as a hand-cranked snake, but is more powerful and can reach deeper into the plumbing system.

Steps to unclog a sink drain with a plumber’s snake

Once you buy a plumber’s snake from your home improvement store, here’s how you use it to unclog a sink drain.

  1. Prepare the area. We recommend placing some towels around the area and having a bucket handy. Unclogging a drain can get a little messy.
  2. Remove the trap. The P-trap is the curved section of the drainpipe that’s typically underneath the sink. The trap holds a small amount of water to prevent sewer gases from coming up through the drain. Unfortunately, it’s also where most sink clogs occur. If you can untighten the slip-nut, you can remove the trap and remove any debris collected at the bottom. This will make the drain easy to snake and potentially can solve your clogging problem. However, if the pipes are glued or won’t seem to loosen, don’t force it and move on to the next step.
  3. Insert the snake into the drain. Push the end of the plumber’s snake into the sink drain (or directly into the pipe if you removed the trap). If you’re going in through the sink drain, you may need to remove the stopper, hair trap, or any other pieces in the way. Don’t push the snake in too hard or you could damage the pipe or snake.
  4. Extend the snake in the drain. Slowly turn the handle to rotate and push the snake through the drain. Be patient and pay attention to any resistance you may feel. When the snake can no longer extend, it’s a sign that it reached the clog.
  5. Break up the clog. Gently move the snake handle in different directions to hopefully break up the blockage in the drain. This is where the corkscrew end comes in handy. If you hear any scraping sounds, you’re hitting the pipe walls instead of the clog. 
  6. Retrieve the snake. Turn the handle in the opposite direction to pull the snake back out. Be ready for gunk or hair to be stuck to the end. Clean off the snake with a towel.
  7. Reattach and test the drain. If you remove the trap or any other pipes, put everything back together, then flush the drain with hot water. Hopefully, the blockage will pass through and the drain will flow like normal.

Have a plumber unclog your sink drain

A plumber’s snake is a great DIY tool, but it’s best used for simple clogs due to soap, dirt, or hair. For more severe or stubborn blockages, you’re better off bringing in a licensed plumber. At Reichelt Plumbing, we have the experience and equipment to fix all types of clogs and protect your plumbing system. For a drain cleaning appointment in the Schererville area, call us today at (219) 322-4906.


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