fixing a sink hole

6 Ways to Unclog a Drain if a Snake Doesn’t Work

Clogged drains are one of the most common household plumbing problems. They can be caused by everything from hair to food waste, and if left untreated, they can lead to serious issues like water damage and mold growth.

So, what do you do when your plumbing systems get clogged and your drain snake doesn’t work? Here are ideas so that you can go back to drain cleaning and get your pipes running smoothly.

Drain Snakes

A drain snake is a long, flexible coil that you insert into your clogged drain to clear blockages. They come in various sizes and styles, and you can usually find them at your local hardware store at a low price.

This simple hand-operated tool is good for clearing hair clogs that are easily snagged by the corkscrew end.

Drain snakes are also known as drum augers, toilet jacks, or plumbing snakes, and they have a metal corkscrew designed to grab clogs and break up the blockage. 

There are 4 main types of drain snakes:

  1. Drum Style AugerThis is the most common type of drain snake. The cable inside is a long, flexible coil located in a rotating canister in the drum portion of the device. The cable extends from the drum and you insert it into the drain and spin it around to break up stubborn clogs. They come in a variety of lengths from a small drum auger with short cable up to an extra-long drain auger. 
  2. Toilet Auger – This special auger is a shorter, more compact version of the drain snake made explicitly for toilets. The auger cable is in a long rod designed to not scratch delicate porcelain surfaces like a toilet bowl and is also helpful for clearing blockages in tight spaces. 
  3. Flat Tape Auger – Designed for use in small pipes, this type of auger is a long, flat coil of tape that you insert into the drain opening. It’s less common than the other two types but can help clear blockages in hard-to-reach places.
  4. Power Auger – This is a more powerful version of the drain snake that is electric-powered and has a rotating head. Professional plumbers usually use it, but some versions attach to a drill you can use at home. It can be the perfect tool to take out an old clog. If you’re unsure how to use one, it’s best to leave this type of auger to the professionals.

Snake Problems

Sometimes, even the best drain augers won’t work to clear out your clog. When that is the case, there are several things you should do before you call a plumber.

1. Clean the Snake

dirty-drain-snakeOne of the most common reasons a drain snake doesn’t work is that it’s dirty. If you are using a new drain snake, this won’t be a problem.

Otherwise, there’s a good chance that the metal corkscrew end of the drain snake cable is covered in hair and other debris. This can prevent the auger from getting a good grip on the blockage.

Rinse the snake off with hot water and use your fingers to remove any debris from the corkscrew. For more stubborn debris, try using a wire brush to remove it.

2. Tighten the Thumbscrew

Another reason your drain snake might not be working is that the thumbscrew that holds the coil in place is loose. This will prevent the snake cable from rotating when you turn the handle and keep you from clearing the clog.

Once the thumbscrew is securely tightened, the cable will extend more than just a few inches and grab hair embedded in the pipe.

3. Use the Right Snake

cleaning a sink with drain snakeAs mentioned above, there are a number of snakes on the market. If you pick the wrong one, it might not be able to clear your clog.

For example, an ordinary hand drain snake may not be able to go around the bends to clear a deep blockage, and a flat tape auger won’t be effective on the toilet or sewer pipes.

It’s essential to pick the right snake for your particular clog, be it the tub drain or kitchen sink.

4. Be Patient

You may have a severe clog that will take a few minutes (or more) to clear. Be patient and work the snake around the clogged drain until you feel it start to give. It can be tempting to force the issue, but you may find the cable bends completely around and is pointed at you.

Instead of forcing the snake in, try using a back-and-forth motion to work it through the clog. Turn the handle a bit when you feel resistance, then back it up and turn it the other way. This will help to loosen the blockage so you can clear it more easily.

5. Remove the P-Trap

removing P-trapSometimes, the clog is located in the P-trap, which is the U-shaped pipe under a bathroom sink. If this is the case, you can remove the drain trap and clear it out with a snake or by hand. Just be sure to put the sink drain back together correctly before you turn the water back on.

Alternatively, the clog may be in the pipes beyond the sharp bends of the P-trap. In this case, removing that section of piping will provide improved access and may make it easier to clear the clog in the horizontal branch drain. Forcing the cable straight into the trap will not be effective. 

Related post: 7 Common Signs That You Have a Collapsed Drain

6. Analyze the Clog

Every blockage is different, meaning there isn’t always a single solution. If your drain snake isn’t working, it may be that it isn’t the right tool for the job. A drain snake is usually a good choice when a clog is mostly hair or other snaggable material.

However, if the clog is made of grease or other slippery material, it can be tricky (or even impossible) to get a good grip on it with a drain snake. In this case, you may need to use a plunger or a chemical drain cleaner to break up the blockage. Vinegar and baking soda, boiling water, and bleach all may all be effective against clogs deeply embedded in the drain pipe.

If you are looking for services when your plumbing systems get clogged and your drain snake doesn’t work. Check these two links below:

The Next Steps

Sometimes, a drain snake just won’t do the trick. If you’ve been working at it for a while and you’re not making any progress, it’s time to call in reinforcements.

A professional plumber, like those at Damien McEvoy Plumbing, will have the experience and the equipment to clear even the toughest drain clogs. We can also inspect your pipes to look for any damage that may have occurred during your attempts to clear the blockage.

So, call us at (02) 8599 4593 and let us get your drains flowing again.

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