Using a Plumber Snake: Basic Steps Explained Using a Plumber Snake: Basic Steps Explained

Almost without exception, anyone who has used indoor plumbing has had occasion to use a plumber snake. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to use this tool. The good news is, it takes only minutes to learn how to use it. Just follow the 7 steps below.

What you'll need:

  • Plumber snake
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles, or other eye protectors
  • Container for water to drain into

Step 1 – Locate the Plumber Snake Access Port

You'll need a port, or entrance, into the plumbing pipe near your clog. Typically, it is a 2-inch vinyl cap with shoulders onto which a wrench will fit.

Step 2 – Remove the Access Port Cap

Adjust the wrench jaws to fit the cap, and placed them on port cap. Since the cap will be about 2 inches in diameter, you'll need a wrench large enough that its jaws will fit around the cap. If you're using a pipe wrench, you'll need to place the jaws of the wrench onto the cap with the jaw opening facing to your right. Turn the wrench counter-clockwise to loosen and remove the cap. Be prepared for water to run out of the cap opening, if it is above the level of the clog. 

Step 3 – Insert the Snake End

The snake will be wound up on a reel drum with a wing nut that keeps the snake in place on the drum. Loosen this nut, pull some of the snake off the drum, and push the end of the snake through the port opening. Be sure that, as you push the snake into the pipe, it is going in the direction of the clog.

Step 4 – Turn the Snake Handle

When you have pushed the snake as far as it will go into the pipe, turn the handle on the drum. This will rotate the snake knives and begin to cut through the clog. Continue to turn the handle until you feel it become free of the clog. Continue advancing the snake and turning the handle. If there are more clogs, this will find them and cut through them. Continue forcing the snake through the pipe until the entire length of the snake has been pushed into the pipe and turns freely when the handle is operated.

Step 5 – Remove the Snake

To back the snake out of the pipe, pull it out of the pipe while turning the drum to wind the snake onto it as it was before you pushed it into the pipe. When all the snake has been wound onto the drum, tighten the wing nut that keeps it in place.

Step 6 - Finish

If you see debris in the pipe opening as you withdraw the snake, remove the debris to prevent it from clogging the pipe again. Replace the drain cap and tighten it enough to keep water from leaking from it.

Step 7 – Test Your Drain Pipe

If you have used rubber gloves, remove them before touching other surfaces. If you did not wear gloves, be sure to wash your hands with a anti-bacteria hand cleaner, then turn on the water so that it drains through the pipe. Check be sure there is no leakage at the port joint.

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