All About Sewer Snakes

Dec 22, 2023 | Do It Yourself, Plumbing

A sewer snake, also known as a drain snake or plumbing snake, is a flexible auger used to dislodge drain clogs in plumbing systems. It consists of a coiled spiral snake, which is flexible and can be pushed down the pipe to break up or retrieve the blockage. The snake’s design allows it to navigate through the twists and turns of the pipe, reaching deeper than a typical plunger can.

Despite its apparent simplicity, using a sewer snake requires some skill and caution. Improper use can damage your pipes or even cause personal injury. It is hence advisable to hire a professional plumber if you are not familiar with using the tool or if the clog is severe. In this blog post, we will delve further into the types of sewer snakes, their specific uses, and tips for safe and efficient operation.

question mark, mirror

What’s a Sewer Snake?

A sewer snake, also known as a drain auger, is a specialized plumbing tool designed to clear blockages from drain lines and pipes. This tool is characterized by its long, flexible cable, which has a coiled spring at one end and a crimper on the other. The spring rotates as the cable descends into the pipe, effectively dislodging any obstacles causing the blockage.

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clogged pipe

What Causes a Clogged Pipe?

A clogged pipe in a home shower drain, toilet or sink can be a frustrating and inconvenient problem for homeowners. The causes of clogged pipes can vary, with some being more frequent than others. One of the most common causes of clogged pipes is the accumulation of clogged material. Most sewer pipe clogs are caused by hair, dirt, food scraps, and grease. Over time, these materials can build up within the pipes, restricting the flow of water and causing blockages. Other causes of clogged pipes can include mineral buildup, tree roots, and foreign objects that have been flushed down the drain. It is important to address clogged pipes as soon as possible to avoid further damage to your plumbing system. Regular maintenance and cleaning of your pipes can help prevent clogged pipes and keep water flowing smoothly throughout your home.

measuring tape

What Size Sewer Snake Should I Get?

The size and length of the sewer snake you’ll need depend largely on the dimensions of your drain and the depth of your pipe system. These tools can range anywhere from 15 to 100 feet in length, and come in various widths to match the pipe’s diameter. Before purchasing, make sure to measure your pipes to ensure you choose a sewer snake that suits your specific needs.

Home Depot, sewer snake

Automatic vs. Manual Drain Auger

There are two primary types of sewer snakes or drain augers — manual and automatic (or electric). Each has its distinct features and applications, making them better suited for certain types of sewer line clogs.

Manual drain augers are simple, hand-operated devices designed for smaller, less severe clogs typically found in residential settings. They are operated by manually turning a crank to extend the coil, break up the blockage, or pull it out. Manual augers are often sufficient for clogs in toilets, bathtubs, and small diameter pipes. However, they may not have the power to address larger, more stubborn blockages.

Automatic or electric drain augers, on the other hand, are motorized devices capable of handling more substantial clogs and larger pipes, often found in commercial settings. They are equipped with a powerful motor that rotates the coil, providing more force to break through stubborn clogs. Electric augers can go deeper into the plumbing system compared to their manual counterparts, making them the tool of choice for serious, hard-to-reach blockages.

Ultimately, the choice between a manual and automatic sewer snake depends on the nature and severity of the clog, as well as the size and length of the pipe. Consultation with a professional plumber can help determine the most effective approach to maintain the health of your plumbing system.

cleaners, drain cleaner

Can I Use Drain Openers Instead of a Sewer Snake?

When faced with a clogged drain, homeowners often find themselves debating the best approach to take. Two popular options for drain cleaning include using a drain cleaner or employing a sewer snake to clear the blockage. While both methods can be effective, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each. Drain openers typically work by dissolving the obstruction, but this can be harmful to pipes and your overall plumbing system. On the other hand, sewer snakes physically break up the clog, which can be a more thorough and permanent solution. However, using a snake requires some skill and patience, and homeowners should be careful not to puncture any pipes or cause further damage. Ultimately, the decision to use a drain opener or sewer snake will depend on the severity of the clog and the condition of your plumbing system. Consulting with a professional plumber can provide you with the best and safest solution.

exterior, drain pipe

How to Ensure the Safety of Your Drain Pipes

When faced with clogged pipes in your house, using a sewer snake can be an effective method for fixing the issue. However, it’s important to ensure the safety of your drain pipes while using the tool. To start, carefully insert the snake into the drain to prevent damaging the pipes. Once inside, avoid forcing the snake too aggressively, which can also cause harm to your drains and pipes. Regular maintenance and inspection of your drain pipes can also help prevent clogs and ensure their longevity. By following these safety guidelines, you can effectively use a sewer snake to fix clogs without risking damage to your drain pipes.

man, safety glasses

Sewer Snake Safety Measures

When operating a sewer snake, safety precautions are necessary. Always wear protective goggles to shield your eyes from any dislodged debris. Additionally, glove-wearing is recommended to prevent direct contact with harmful germs or bacteria that may be present on the cable. Like any tool, a sewer snake requires regular maintenance to ensure its longevity and effectiveness. Always clean the cable thoroughly after use and apply lubrication to the moving parts. Furthermore, store your drain auger in a cool, dry place, away from exposure to elements that could cause rust and other damage.

professional plumber

When in Doubt, Call a Professional Plumber

When it comes to maintaining your home’s plumbing, it’s important to exercise caution and avoid taking matters into your own hands. Using a sewer snake to clear any blockages in your plumbing system may seem like a practical solution, but it can also be quite dangerous if done incorrectly. A professional plumber has the necessary training and expertise to navigate through the intricate system of pipes without causing any damage or compromising the integrity of the plumbing. They are equipped with advanced equipment and techniques that ensure the job is done properly and with minimal disruption. Attempting to use a sewer snake without the proper training and experience can lead to costly repairs, improper cleaning, and potential safety hazards. Let the professionals handle your plumbing needs and rest easy knowing they will get the job done right.

bathroom, sink, toilet, tub


Hiring a professional plumber for the usage of a sewer snake cannot be overstated. A plumber’s expertise ensures efficient and effective use of this tool, minimizing potential damage to the plumbing system. While a sewer snake is a powerful device for clearing clogs, incorrect usage can lead to pipe damage or even personal injury.

Professional plumbers are equipped with the necessary knowledge and experience to handle complex plumbing issues. They can skillfully navigate the plumbing system, effectively mitigate clogs, and carefully operate the sewer snake and other sewer machines to avoid causing further blockages or damages. This expertise can save homeowners the cost and trouble of potential mishaps that could arise from DIY attempts.

Furthermore, professional plumbers can provide crucial insights into the overall health of your plumbing system. When they come to address clogs, they can also detect early signs of other potential issues, such as leaks or pipe corrosion. Early detection and timely repair of these issues can prevent costly repairs in the future.

In conclusion, while a sewer snake is a valuable tool in maintaining your plumbing system, it’s a wise decision to hire a professional plumber for its operation. Their expertise ensures the tool is used correctly and safely, your plumbing system remains intact, and you’re spared the risk and worry of dealing with tricky plumbing issues.

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About Maryland Sewer & Plumbing Service

No matter the complexity of your plumbing needs, our team of certified professionals stands ready to deliver unparalleled service, any time of day or night. We understand that plumbing issues don’t adhere to a 9-to-5 schedule, which is why we’re available 24/7, ready to address any problems that arise. From clearing sewer blockages and repairing leaks to installing new fixtures, we provide comprehensive solutions for all your plumbing needs. Our commitment to prompt service, transparent pricing, and unparalleled customer satisfaction sets us apart in the industry! To experience the difference of Maryland Sewer & Plumbing Service, schedule your desired plumbing service on our website today.


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