How to Snake a Drain (All Clogged Drains)

How to snake a drain? Sometimes you just need a quick fix to your slow-moving drain. Or maybe pouring boiling water down the drain doesn’t work anymore? How to Snake a Drain 

Well, snaking your drain would be an excellent option for this! But, while at it, other options include using a plunger, or drain cleaners

In the snaking process, you’d use the drain snake (also known as a drain auger, electric eel or a toilet jack) to destroy clogs sitting down the drain. I’ll teach you how to snake a drain – the right way! 

1. How to Snake a Sink Drain

A drain snake consists of a long coiled wire with a spiral spring at one end which is usually an inch thick with a handle on the other end. This tool`s working mechanism is the opposite of how a plunger operates.

Tools required: Hand gloves, Drain Auger, Pipe wrench or pliers or a screwdriver, and Towels or rags. The following are steps to be followed when snaking a sink drain.

1. First, you have to select a small drain snake that is handheld. This small drain snake has a round casing that houses the wire that is 25-50 feet long.

2. Assemble the materials and tools required for the task– You’ll require a bucket, a snake, towels/rags, a pipe wrench, and gloves.

3. Remove the P-trap (this is the curved pipe that is under the drain of your sink). Remove it using a pipe wrench. Some P-traps are usually simply installed and may require hands to remove them. Place a bucket to collect water and other materials that may be trapped.

4. Place the drain snake cable into the pipe coming out of the wall – Drive it in until some resistance is felt. In case of a clog the resistance will be squishy but if the resistance is hard that might be a turn, pull the wire and push it again.

5. Move the handle in a clockwise manner-Once the resistance experienced is squishy, turn the handle of the snake so you can break the clog. Turning it in a clockwise direction leads to some clogs getting dismantled while others are caught at the edge of the snake.

6. Retrieve the drain snake from the drain gently. This is done to prevent the clog from slipping back into the drain and place them into the bucket. Return the P-trap into its position and tighten the fasteners.

7. Run water down the sink to check whether the clogs have cleared from the drain. When the operation is successful, the dislodged clog takes a few seconds to clear after which water flows easily. If not successful you can repeat the snaking operation or call a plumber for further assistance.

2. How to Snake a Shower Drain

Have you ever found yourself in the bathroom standing in a pool of water trying to push the water using your legs? Embarrassing right?

Soap residues materials like hair in the bathtub may be the root cause of that blockage and before you call a plumber here are some few tips on how to do the unblocking yourself using a snake.

  • Assemble all the required tools for the unblocking. You’ll need a snake drain, a screwdriver, hand gloves, and towels/rags.
  • Using a screwdriver remove the cover of the shower drain to access the drain. After accessing the drain, place the end of the snake into the drain and drop it until you feel some resistance.

Once some resistance of the clog is felt gently and slowly move the handle of the snake clockwise. The clockwise movement helps in moving the clog further in the shower drain pipe while some materials get hooked on the snake.

In case of any increased resistance, that means you might have hit a bend in the pipe, that could also mean that the snake has caught more clogs, pull it back for a few centimeters then return it back as you turn it into the clockwise direction.

  • Remove the drain snake-Once you feel that the clog has been successfully hooked at the end retrieve the snake gently and slowly. This is done to ensure that the clog does not fall back into the pipe. Turn the snake anticlockwise and ensure the pipe does not get damaged and no clogged materials are left behind.

Once the snake is fully retrieved you can use your hands to remove the materials from the drain hooked on the snake, better still you can use a towel/rag so as to avoid any harm on the hands and dispose of the unclogged materials in the bucket.

  • Ascertain that drain is unblocked by pouring water down it– The water will take a few seconds to drain and afterward the water will run quickly. If the water does not drain quickly then the drain pipe is still blocked. Repeat the snaking process again until the clog clears. If the water still doesn’t run you may consider calling a plumber for further assistance.

Related: How the drain cleaners work.

How does a drain snake work?

Whereas a plunger creates a vacuum to attract the material with the intention of loosening or breaking up a blockage, a drain snake is pushed down the drain to the point of blockage.

There it breaks up the material causing blockage which is hence flushed out. The snake also assists in acquiring access to the clog thereby pulling it out. Snakes may be manually or electronically operated.

Snaking involves selecting the right type of auger for the drain in question and by use of small skills and efforts your drain becomes clear.

How to Prevent Drain Clogs

Here are some few tips to observe that will save you the agony of clogged drains:

  • In the bathroom, you can use a screen tub can go a long way in preventing infiltration of unwanted materials into the drain pipe. The screen tub collects the materials the cause clogging and hence you should be cleaning of the screen tub occasionally.
  • Also in line with the prevention, you can ‘catch’ unwanted materials in the bathroom which include hairs and soap residues by use of hands before they go down the drain can be done.
  • In the kitchen, you can run hot water in the sink after use to keep oils off the drain which cause clogging. Also, the disposal of wastes in a trash bin instead of the sink helps keep wastes that cause blockages away from the drains.


  1. Plumber’s snake – Wikipedia
  2. NMSU: Selection and Use of Home Cleaning Products

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