You don’t have to be a licensed plumber to purchase a drain snake, and many homeowners in Nanaimo, BC keep drain augers handy. Drain snakes can clear out blockages that plungers cannot, and they’re certainly more effective than most chemical drain cleaners. However, before you pull yours out and go to work, there are several important things to know about using it safely. There are also several reasons you’re probably better off scheduling plumbing service instead.
What Plumbing Snakes Are and How to Use Them
Often referred to as toilet jacks or drain augers, plumbing snakes are thin, flexible augers that break down soft, semi-solid blockages in plumbing systems. These devices can push through large masses of toilet paper or paper towels, “flushable” wipes, and human waste. They can also penetrate stubborn build-up of grease, rendered fats, hair, and soap scum.
A drain snake has an uncoiled auger or spring on one side and an electric or manually operated handle on the other. Turning the handle releases the flexible metal coils and sends it into the plumbing system. There are both general drain augers and toilet augers. Although they look and work much the same, you should never use a drain auger to clear a clog in your toilet or vice versa.
Clearing a Blocked Drain With a Plumbing Snake
Start by removing the P-trap or simply positioning the snake’s coiled spring over the drain. You’ll find the P-trap just beneath the sink. You can use a wrench to remove this curved pipe or you can take it off by hand. There’s a good chance that you’ll find the blockage here.
Place the auger in the pipe and begin uncoiling it. Move at a slow and steady pace to avoid damaging the pipe walls. When continued movement becomes difficult, you’ve located the obstruction. Toggle the auger back and forth to loosen up trapped materials. You should continue extending and moving the snake until all resistance ceases. When you retract your drain snake, some or all of the blockage may come with it. You can use a drop cloth or old towels to avoid making a mess.
Using a Plumbing Snake to Clear Your Commode
Make sure that you’re using a toilet auger to snake your commode rather than a drain snake. Drain snakes have piercing tips that break blockages up. While they’re known for skewering and picking up soft, semi-solid waste and extracting it, they can pulverize and grind it up to move through the plumbing system. They’re multi-functional and significantly more powerful than toilet augers. Toilet augers pierce through blockages. They’re better designed for the soft, organic waste that toilets contain, and they’re less likely to chip or otherwise damage porcelain coatings.
Insert your toilet auger into the toilet until you can only see its tube and sleeve. Uncoil the auger at a slow, consistent pace until you detect mounting pressure. Continue extending the auger until you’ve penetrated the obstruction and broken through it. When you extract the auger, the toilet should drain. Once it has, flush the commode with hot water and clean the surrounding area with a sanitizing solution.
Drain Augers Can’t Pierce Through All Obstructions
Imagine what might happen if your child has dropped a hard, plastic toy down your drain and you use a plumbing snake to treat the resulting clog. Most drain augers can’t penetrate, collect, or remove obstructions like these. At best, your auger will break the item into several small-sized pieces that can safely make their way through your pipes and sewer line. At worst, you’ll force the obstruction deeper into your plumbing system or it will break free and cause problems in other areas. Not only will you still have to call a plumber in the end, but you’ll wind up paying more for the repair.
You Could Turn a Covered Repair Into an Out-of-Pocket Expense
Apart from failing to pay your premiums, the surest way to void your home insurance is by performing unauthorized repairs. This caveat is clearly stated within policy documents and failing to adhere to it could leave you paying for an otherwise covered problem out of your pocket. You’ll also find similar provisos in your home warranty agreement and the documents for all relevant manufacturer warranties. Putting a drain auger down your sink, commode, or shower drain can result in punctured pipes, pipes with cracks or abrasions in their interior coatings, and other structural damage that insurers and warranty issuers won’t pay for.
Even toilet augers can cause permanent damage to toilets when they aren’t used correctly. Small scratches in porcelain coatings can cause a fixture that was meant to last for three decades or more to fail prematurely. In sink drains, misuse and overuse of drain augers can damage the interior of older, galvanized pipes and cause accelerated rusting.
You May Have a Far Larger Problem Looming Just Ahead
Toilet augers and drain snakes are used by both homeowners and plumbers alike to resolve small, single-drain issues. However, given the high risk of causing pipe, drain, and fixture damage, these tools are rarely used for maintenance.
Before attempting any do-it-yourself drain cleaning project, it’s important to determine how many drains are affected and why. If you have two or more drains acting up at once, the problem likely lies at your outside sewer main. If your underground sewer line has been encroached upon by tree roots or weeds, your drain snake won’t solve the problem. Delaying the cleaning or repair of an obstructed sewer line will eventually send dangerous, pathogen-filled wastewater into your home.
Drain Cleaning Isn’t a Job for Snakes, Augers, or Other Mechanical Tools
There’s a difference between clearing a drain and cleaning it. Where drain snakes work, the fixtures they’ve treated can still be incredibly dirty. Drain cleaning is a comprehensive, whole-house solution that removes build-ups of soap scum, slime, sediment, grease, and more. It eliminates unpleasant odors and gets waste and wastewater moving at an acceptable pace and in the right direction. Professional drain cleaning accomplishes all this and more, without posing the risk of pipe or drain damage and without voiding any insurance policies or warranties. Techniques like hydro-jetting and hydro-steaming are both minimally invasive and highly effective.
When Do Plumbers Use Mechanical Agitation to Clean Drains?
Most plumbers perform drain cleaning with hydro-jetting or hydro-steaming. Hydro-jetting uses high-pressure water to flush drain and pipe debris out. These services widen the interior of pipes by sloughing off tough build-ups of grime so that waste has more room to move through. Hydro-steaming provides similar results, but it’s less forceful and better suited to aging pipes that have already sustained a significant amount of wear.
When outside sewer lines are filled with gnarled tree roots and fast-growing weeds or blocked by semi-solid obstructions, plumbers may use drain augers or other forms of mechanical agitation to break through them. These techniques are usually paired with hydro-jetting to ensure that all broken-down materials are completely flushed out of the plumbing system.
When to Schedule Drain Cleaning Service
Regular drain cleaning service can stave off many common plumbing problems. For the best level of protection, you should schedule drain cleaning at least once each year. This is especially important to do in large, bustling households where there are lots of people showering, using appliances and plumbing fixtures, and cooking food.
We proudly serve Nanaimo, BC, and the surrounding areas. We offer exceptional drain cleaning, drain repair, and backflow prevention services. We also provide water heaters, ductless mini-splits, and HVAC installation, maintenance, and repairs. If you need drain cleaning, contact Twin Peaks Plumbing, Heating & Gas today!