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Mastering the Plumber’s Snake

Clearing your Drain

When the water stops flowing, you may be wondering what your next step should be. Call a plumber? Get some chemical drain cleaner and ruin your pipes? While you should have the plumber’s number handy, there is something you can try first.

What is a Snake?

Lucky for you, this snake doesn’t slither. A plumbing snake is a tool to dislodge clogs in your drain and looks like a long, metal pipe cleaner. At the end of the snake is a coil, which can hook onto and break up tough clogs. And the part you’ll use is a crank, which you’ll turn to lower and raise the snake within the pipe.

A snake is a relatively easy way to clear a clog on your own. It’s better than chemical drain cleaners like Drano. These cleaners contain harmful chemicals that will corrode your pipes over time. This can also be effective when drains aren’t completely clogged, but a blockage is causing water to drain slowly.

How to Snake a Drain

When snaking a drain, it’s essential to be safe. Grab some goggles if you have them, and put on some rubber gloves. Also, have someplace to put the gunk you’re about to pull from the pipe, like a garbage can or bucket.

Grab the end of the line and start putting it down the drain. Once it is submerged, try cranking the handle. It should cause the line to continue down the drain. If you hit a light dead end, there is likely a bend in the pipe. Keep cranking and try twisting the wire a bit to get it to turn.

When you reach the clog, the metal, coiled, end will enter and grab whatever it can, breaking up the blockage. When you cannot move the coil any further down the pipe, start cranking in the other direction and remove the wire from the pipe. Hopefully, the clog attached to the coil and is now visible to you.

Throw out what you bring back up and see if water flows better now. If not, you may need to repeat the process. It could take a few tries to get a hold of whatever is clogging the pipe or remove enough of it for a clear voyage.

Keep testing the drain to see if water continues to flow. Whether it be a sink, shower or toilet, shifting the clog around may give the illusion that the problem is fixed when it isn’t.

How to Prevent Clogs in the First Place

While a drain snake is a powerful DIY tool, an even more powerful one is prevention. If you can keep certain items out of your drains, you’ll save yourself a lot of time, headache, and money.

In the bathroom, try installing drain protectors that can catch hair and other things from falling down the drain. This simple tool will be a lifesaver down the line!

Here’s a shortlist of popular items that should be kept out of drains:

  • Coffee grinds

  • Paper products

  • Rice

  • Pasta

  • Stringy vegetables

  • Grease & oil

  • Hair

  • “Flushable” wipes

  • Paint

  • Chemicals

  • Toys (yes, it happens)

When the Snake Won’t Do the Job

If you can’t get the clog out with a snake, there is likely a network of buildup that needs to be professionally cleaned. As we stated earlier, chemical drain cleaners often don’t work, and even if they do, they will corrode your pipes, possibly leading to a leak in the future.

Helping You Maintain a Healthy Drain

Since 1992, Bob Larson Plumbing LLC has been Tacoma’s top plumbing team, serving each customer with honor and professionalism. Call us today at (253) 780-0844 to get your drain cleaned swiftly.

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