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Plumbing Snake for Clogged Drains

Yesterday I had my first encounter with using an electrical plumbing snake. These machines are also called a Drain Pipe Auger or a Power Drain Cleaner.

Here are my thoughts:

This job stinks!

What a crappy experience.

We rented the plumbing snake from the local Home Depot to clear out the clogged main drain line in the front yard of a relative’s house. The front yard was webbed with roots which had encroached into the drain line and created a blockage. This resulted in brown water backing up toward the house, and the smell was awful.

In order to grind through the roots, we chose the larger 5/8-in. auger size rather than a 1/2-in. or smaller, which would be more likely to break against the roots. The machine has a coil of steel rope with a cutter-head on the end to drill out the blockage. The basic idea is to feed the rope manually into the drain (through the clean-out plug, in our case) until it hits resistance, and then activate the machine with a foot pedal to spin the auger. We fed the auger in multiple times, ground through some blockage, then retrieved the auger to measure its length and gauge our progress. We repeated this process four of five times until finally breaking through the clog, so the standing water could drain into the sewer.

My regrets/Tips for you:

  1. Buy yourself some rubber gloves that stretch up to your elbows to keep the smelly gunk off. I got in a hurry and forgot mine, using only small work gloves that exposed my arms to the smelly foulness. Don’t make the same mistake.
  2. Wear clothes you’re willing to part with after the job. It’s tough to get the sewer smell out of fabric, and this job gets very messy.
  3. Beware of the high tension on the cable. When the tip hits resistance that prevents it from rotating, but the machine is still spinning, it can but a great amount of tension on the auger rope, causing it to pull out the machine and coil up violently. If you’re fingers are on the metal rope when it coils, it can crush them—as it did one of mine.
  4. Always wear gloves, even if they’re the small ones. Like I said, my hand got caught in a coil. It pinched the tip of my ring-finger to a bloody mess, but thankfully I was wearing gloves and I acted fast to snatch my hand away. I’ll be okay, but it was a close call. Use these machines with caution.
  5. Wash off the machines after you’ve finished the job, or else the rental outlet is likely to slap you with a “cleanup fee.” And who knows what that might cost?

That’s how I spent my Wednesday night. How about you?

Snaking a clogged drain line… It can be gross but effective.

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