How to Choose the Right Plumbing Snake for the Job

Grainger Editorial Staff

Learning how to use a plumbing snake may help facility and property managers clear clogged drains and stopped up toilets without calling a plumber. But selecting the right plumbing snake for the job requires an understanding of the different types and their applications.

Plumbing snakes come in numerous designs and configurations, from handheld and manually powered to heavy-duty and motorized. The most commonly utilized include toilet snakes, drain guns, drain cleaning machines and water jetters.  

Toilet Snakes

Toilet snakes, also known as closet snakes, closet augers or toilet augers, are some of the most basic hand snake plumbing tools available. These smaller plumbing snakes are typically between three and six feet long, manually powered and are the most affordable on the market. Some are designed with a vinyl guard to protect the toilet from damage during clog removal.

These plumbing snakes are perfect for clearing simple clogs within toilets. While they can be very effective at clog removal, it is important to make sure the auger suits the diameter of the pipes. Toilet snakes come in various diameters, with quarter-inch and half-inch the most common sizes.

Drain Guns

Drain guns are utilized for removing clogs deeper in the pipes of sinks, showers, tubs, and appliances. They can be hand-operated like a toilet snake, powered by a built-in battery or combined with a drill. They can be plug-in or cordless. Some models use cables up to 75 feet, while others use high-pressure bursts of air or compressed carbon dioxide canisters to blast through clogs.

Drain Cleaning Machines

Drain cleaning machines are also referred to as drain augers, sewer snakes and cable machines. They are driven by motors and built with long, flexible cables, which enable them to clear and unclog drain pipes and sewer lines. If you’ve ever called a plumber to unclog the pipe connecting your house to the sewer main, they likely used one of these devices since they are highly effective at breaking up solid wastes or blockages like tree roots.

These machines can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand and offer some of the longest and most flexible cable lengths. 

Water Jetters

Water jetters or sewer jetters are high-powered drain cleaning machines generally reserved for municipal water systems or industrial or commercial applications. By using electric- or gas-powered motors to shoot high-pressure water, they easily cut through blockages like grease, sludge and soap in drain and sewer lines. Property managers and maintenance workers servicing high-clog facilities, such as restaurants, may want to invest in one of these machines to help ensure continuous operation or avoid recurring professional plumbing repair costs.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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