Using a Drain Snake: Four Easy Steps


All the signs of a clogged drain are there.  Sinks back up.  Toilets overflow…or just gurgle plaintively while you’re trying to take a shower.

If this is the case, then you, have a restriction (clog) in your main drain.

When this happens, you don’t necessarily need to call a plumber.  This kind of problem is usually something that you can fix yourself.  Chemical drain cleaners are often good enough.  However, if they don’t get the job done, you will need to use a snake.  As a side note, if you have used a chemical drain cleaner, be sure to let it sit and neutralize for several hours before using a snake, in order to avoid a chemical burn.

If you own a home with a septic system, you need to own either a heavy-duty drain snake or a jetting machine. Either of these tools can be purchased at a wholesale plumbing supply store. We recommend opting for a jetting machine (better known to laymen as “that super un-plugger thing”).

An old-fashioned drain snake may be less expensive, but they are heavy and require a fair amount of upper body strength to use.  Also, they have been known to break the user’s fingers while coiling or uncoiling the snake.

A better option is a device called a jetting machine.  A jetting machine propels the snake through the drain, and through the restriction.

To use a jetting machine, follow these easy steps.

First: Find and open the clean-out.  If the cover does not come off easily, it is likely that someone has erroneously placed either plumber’s putty or pipe dope on the threads.  In this case, you may need to use channel-lock pliers or a large Combination wrench to remove the cover.

Second: Secure the jetting machine hose by pushing it as far into the drain as you can.

Third: Initiate the machine and ensure that it is moving properly through the drain.

Fourth: Continue feeding the hose through the drain until you have fed a sufficient length to reach the septic tank.

You can use the same basic steps with a traditional snake.

When you remove the snake or hose, clean off any effluent (sewage) with a disposable rag that has been treated with rubbing alcohol or bleach water.

Try running water through your drain, and if it is still clogged, repeat the process.