Snaking a drain to clear blockages
Once you have tried home remedies on a clogged drain, you may discover that the obstruction remains in place. Particularly if the clog has formed some way down the drain, it may be impossible to loosen it with hot water or mild chemical solutions such as vinegar or baking soda. Either the clog contains some large object that cannot be broken down by the means you've tried, or the walls of the pipe itself have gotten covered with material that's hardened on, forming a near concrete that makes it impossible to clean the drain properly.
When drains in the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room become clogged, it's often with a combination of soap, hair, lint and grease. In the kitchen, food particles may combine with hardened grease to form a nearly impenetrable barrier. Kitchen stop ups are often among the worst to solve because grease from meats cools before it gets all the way into the sewer line, trapping little bits of food, coffee grounds and eggshells along with it. The deposits can over time form a sort of concrete that can't be removed with hot water.
When you've tried every possible home maneuver such as running hot water in the drain, removing the trap and cleaning it, plunging, pouring in vinegar and baking soda, using a store-bought chemical drain cleaner (not recommended), it's time to pull out the big guns of plumbing know how. Take a break from your exertions, secure in the knowledge that you've done all you can do. Then, call the drain cleaning specialists and have them snake the line.
How to snake the line: DIY
A plumbing snake or auger is a long, flexible metal tube that's pushed through the drain until it reaches the clog, and then pushes through whatever is jamming the pipe. You can buy or rent plumbing augurs for do-it-yourself unclogging when the pipe close to the fixture is plugged. Some snakes can be attached to electric drills to give them more power; others are manual, with the snake on one end and a handle and crank on the other. The snake is pushed into the drain from the sink, tub, toilet or other fixture, until it reaches the clog. At that point, you can use the crank to dislodge whatever is jammed into the pipe. The end of the augur will either push through the obstruction, tear it up with its twisting action, or become attached to it, so it can be pulled up through the drain.
If the snake gets stuck in a sink drain before reaching the blockage, you may need to remove the trap under the sink. When you remove the trap, put a bucket of water underneath to catch the liquid in the sink and the length of pipe that makes up the trap. If you've been using any sort of chemical drain opener, you shouldn't use a snake, and you shouldn't remove the trap either, because the acids in the drain openers can give you serious burns or blind you if they splash onto you. If you have resorted to the usual course of pouring a drain cleaner into the sink, tub or toilet, call a professional and let that person know what you've used to try to clear the clog, so they can wear protective apparel.
Once you have removed the trap, you may discover that the clog is in the bend of that pipe, in which case you can easily remove it with the snake. If the trap is clear, you are that much closer to the clog—just insert the augur into the pipe that runs after the trap and try again. In bathtubs, you may find that the augur doesn't want to go through the drain: in that case, you can remove the overflow cover (be careful not to drop the screws down the drain!) and push the snake in there instead.
Large plumbing snakes aren't usually part of the homeowner's tool kit, since they are expensive and specialized pieces of equipment. Snakes can be used inside the house for more localized blocks, or they can be used outside the home when sewer or drain pipes are choked with debris. Snakes are often the only way to clear a drain when the clog has passed far enough down the line that nothing else can reach it, and they can even clear serious clogs that occur when your two-year-old decides to flush a teddy bear, mom's pantyhose and a pair of fuzzy slippers down the toilet.
Hiring a drain specialist
You don't want to hire just anyone who claims to be a drain specialist: you do need someone who understands plumbing, drains and pipes. Plumbing can be tricky, and old pipes can be punched through with a toothpick; you need someone who understands what can go wrong with them. Also, running a snake requires a certain amount of finesse, as drains invariably contain turns and angles, weak spots, rises and falls that determine which way the pipe goes as it makes its way from your home to the sewer or septic tank.
When you call 1-877-DRPIPES (1-877-377-4737) with your drain problem, you'll get connected to a company that's licensed and has bonded employees. Our plumbers are well-known in the community and customers' satisfaction is our top priority. Give us a call today and let's get your plumbing problems solved.