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How Plumbing Snakes Work?


How does a plumbing snake work?

There are many names for drain cleaning equipment; one of them is a plumbing snake. How does it work?
Simply speaking a plumbing snake is a drain cleaning cable with a cutting head at the end and the electric motor that turns it around. As it turns it feeds into the drain pipe, reaches the offending material and cuts it away clearing the blockage. There are many manufacturers that produce such drain cleaning equipment, but in our opinion the best are RIDGID and GENERAL PIPE CLEANERS.

Drain machines are divided into two types: drum machines and sectional machines.

Drum or Continuous Cable Machines

These machines are the simplest to operate of the two: they are self-contained and faster. Since they are self-contained are more easily transported to the job site. Variable speed automatic feeds makes it easier to get the cable to the clog quickly. Disadvantages of the drum machine is that the cable may twist or kink inside of the drum, and the plumber cannot continue effectively. The size of the pipe determines the size of the cable needed to be effective. For example, a small drain machine with 3/8 cable can be good for 1 ½” kitchen drain but useless for main sanitary drains which is normally 4” in diameter. At the end of the drain cleaning cable there is a cutting head attached. Special heads can be used for root or grease scrubbing removal.

drum drain cleaning

Sectional Cable Machines

Sectional type machines have the advantage of being lighter, as the cable is transported separately. So if you have a job that requires only 25 feet, no need to lug around a 100 foot cable which can weight 100 lbs. In sectional machines you connect the next piece of the cable when previous goes into drain to extend the reach. Disadvantage of the sectional machine is that the plumber must take precautions to protect the homeowner property, and make sure the sections are connected properly and not lost inside the drain pipe. These machines are much faster to use and never splatter as long as the drum is full enclosed.

sectional drain cleaning








Normally snaking drains is a temporary solution, as roots will grow back into the pipes. You’ve basically bought yourself 6 to 12 month of usage. The reason you have roots in your pipe in the first place is due to a crack, shift or other problems and only replacing to plastic PVC pipe with a warranty can you ensure the issue does not return. An improperly sloped pipe can give sewage the chance to stay or run slowly, cool down with grease settling on the walls of the drain pipe. We always recommend a camera inspection of the main sanitary or storm drain after using a drain snake. At some places there are can be difficulties running a drain machine. The plumber has to cut the walls to get to drain stack cleaned out or take the toilet off.

As you can see it always better to have a professional do this work.

Steps for do-it-yourself How Plumbing Snake Works:

  1. First push the end of the snake into the drain opening while turning the drum handle that contains the coiled-up snake.The auger begins its journey down the drain.
  2. Continue pushing the snake into the drain until you feel resistance. Keep applying pressure when cranking the handle to get it to bend around the tight curve in the trap under the sink. This is the difficult part…after turning the curve, the snake usually slides through easily until you hit the clog.
  3. Rotate the snake against the blockage until you feel it feed freely into the pipe. The rotating action enables the tip of the snake to attach to the clog and spin it away or chop it up. If the clog is a solid object, the auger head entangles the object. If you don’t feel the auger breaking through and twisting getting easier, pull the auger out of the drain — you’ll likely pull the clog out with it.
  4. Final step is to run the water at full force for a few minutes to be sure that the drain is unclogged. Sometimes the clog will disappear down the drain, other times the clog will come out attached to the snake.

Steps for avoiding clogs in the first place:

  • Here’s a simple one use your sink strainer: Almost always a clogged kitchen sink is the result of garbage or foreign objects entering the drain. Sink strainers prevent large food items and garbage from entering your pipes.
  • Maintenance of the garbage disposal: When using your garbage disposer, it is very helpful to run cold water at full volume while the machine is chopping up the garbage; keep have the water running for another 60 seconds after shutting off the disposer. It is important that all machine disposal effluent go from the small-diameter sink drainpipe and into the larger main drainpipe, where it’s less likely to cause a clog.
  • Never dump materials down your drain: Inexperienced DIYers often flush building materials down the drain. Plaster and wallboard compound are some of the worst offenders as these softer materials will eventually expand and harden in the drainpipes and clog them. To prevent these clogs, never dispose of leftover building materials in sink drains.

Snaking a Toilet:

Any toilet snake, even an inexpensive one will clear a toilet, however the closet auger is designed to get around the first bend, keep debris at arm’s length, and yet still spin the coil to hook foreign objects. The enamel bowl is protected from scrape marks by a rubber sleeve. These are not typically long because most toilet obstructions are caught in the first S-bend or at the floor flange. The most often found foreign objects reported by plumbers are toys

Call for your Plumbing Problem Experts! DrainCom: 416-989-5757

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