If you have ever experienced a blocked drain or sewer line, you know that it can be a real pain. Liquid drain cleaners may sometimes work, but when a clog is severe, you will need to invest in more powerful tools.
When plungers just won’t cut it, a drain snake or a motorized auger are often your best bets to get the job done.
Auger or Snake Cleaners
When neither cleaning the trap nor plunging clears a drain clog, it’s time to pull out the big gun: a drain snake (a drill). A plumber’s snake is a long, thin, and flexible length of metal wire with a handle and crank. At the end of the cable is a drill, a corkscrew-like device that fits into the drain pipe to break up and mash up the blockage.
There are several kinds of drain snakes, ranging from handheld models to professional-grade machines drain cleaning plumbers use for the most challenging sewer line clogs. A standard household drain snake has a 25- or 50-foot cable with a corkscrew tip that can be used to snag and break up hair, soap scum, grease, and other debris. This kind of drain snake can be purchased for under $25 and is an excellent tool to have on hand for clearing minor clogs in bathrooms and kitchens.
First, use a household drain snake to remove the metal grate that covers a shower or sink drain opening. Clean off any hair or soap scum attached to the grate, and then insert the drain snake cable in the opening. If you’re snagged on something solid, like a toy or sponge, try rotating the crank handle of the drain snake to help maneuver it further into the pipe.
Video Pipe Inspection Cameras
The best way to take the guesswork out of drain line inspection is with a camera. These powerful tools can detect problems that a plumber might otherwise be unable to see by simply sticking their snake or auger down the drain. They can also locate the source of a clog or broken pipe so that the plumber can fix it.
There are several different types of video inspection cameras available on the market. Some are rigid and stay in place, while others can bend and maneuver like a sewage snake. Some even have LED lights illuminating a dark pipe for easier inspection and diagnosis. All of these cameras send back a live video signal that can be seen on a screen in the service truck.
Most often, plumbers use video pipe inspection to pinpoint problems that are located underground and can’t be reached by traditional digging methods. This is especially helpful when there’s a concern about tree roots invading a sewer line.
It’s also a great tool to use before buying a home, as it can help homeowners catch any potential issues before they sign on the dotted line. This can save them thousands of dollars in plumbing repairs down the road. So, before you buy that old home with the beautiful oak tree in the front yard, consider getting a video inspection to look at its plumbing system.
Electric Drain Cleaning Machines
Despite being told to do so, small trinkets like jewelry or toys often find their way into toilets, sinks, and drains, where they get caught and clog everything up. Fortunately, there are many options for taking care of this kind of clog with the help of a hand cable drain cleaner or a more giant, electrically powered drum machine that uses a powerful electric motor to spin a steel cable capped with a blade or other attachments.
These drain-cleaning machines are typically more effective at removing more giant blocks and can reach a greater distance down pipes than handheld cable tools. They can cut through the toughest clogs caused by roots and other intrusive debris. They come in various sizes and styles, from simple, handheld cable models to powerful, professional-grade models that can bust through the toughest blockages in sewer lines.
When using any drain cleaning machine, it’s crucial always to follow strict safety precautions. With an electric motor, a spinning, razor-sharp cable, and water all at the same time, plenty of things can go wrong. Always use caution and ensure the operator is in direct control of the cable’s power. Also, wearing sturdy work boots, gloves, and a face mask is best when working with these machines.
When chemical drain cleaners or a plumbing snake can’t get through a challenging, thick clog, there is another tool that can blast away even the most stubborn blockage – a high-powered water jetter—also known as hydro jetting; this tool blasts highly pressurized water through a pipe system, clearing the obstruction and removing all residue for an immaculate, free-flowing system. It is excellent for degreasing restaurant lines, cleaning residential sewers, removing industrial drain line buildup, and locating damaged pipe sections.
There are many different types of water jet nozzles designed for specific purposes. For example, a plumber might use one with more forward force to break up sludge and clogs and then switch to a nozzle with a broader back spray for scraping away tree roots and other debris. In addition, the hose itself can be designed to vibrate on and off at high speeds for maximum effectiveness.
If you plan to use a water jetter, you must carefully plan your access route to reach the problem area. This typically means starting from a main drain cleanout in front of the home or basement and working uphill to get the clog. It is not recommended that you try to use a water jetter on lateral drain lines, which are smaller and more likely to have tight elbows that block the nozzle.