By Michelle Ullman and Timothy Dale | Updated May 13, 2022 12:11 PM
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Potato peels down the kitchen sink. Loose hair swirling through the tub drain. The little plastic soldier your toddler dropped in the toilet. Clogs happen. When water isn’t draining as quickly as it should—or, worse, isn’t draining at all—repair-savvy folks reach for a drain snake. A plumbing snake or drain auger is simply a long, thick, flexible wire that “snakes” into drains and pipes to chew through clogs quickly and efficiently. But these blockage busters come in different types and sizes, depending on the recommended use.
To help you choose and use the right drain snake, whether for a stopped-up toilet or a slow-moving sink, this guide shares tips on what to look for and rounds up the best drain snake options for effectiveness and ease of use.
If you’d rather not call a plumber for a costly visit, it’s important to have the right tool if faced with a clogged drain. So take the time to properly consider the best drain snake for your home. Think about whether a manual or electric model would be best, and consider the type of drain snake head that would be most effective. Keep in mind these factors and the additional product features detailed below when shopping.
Most drain snakes have a small crank that’s turned by hand to advance and retract the cable. These manual drain snakes are good for occasional use around the house to unclog simple blockages in the kitchen or bathroom sink, tub, or toilet.
If you expect to use a drain snake on a regular basis or plan on tackling major clogs in gutters or washing machines, the extra muscle and reduced hand strain of an electric drain snake might make it the better choice. These tools advance and retract the cable at the push of a button and power through stubborn clogs more easily. This extra oomph comes at a premium; electric plumbing snakes tend to cost more than their manual counterparts.
Drain snakes are made to be water-resistant, but they must also be able to resist the corroding effects of waste and chemical drain cleaners. With this in mind, drain snake manufacturers use high-quality ABS plastic and flexible high-carbon steel.
A snake made solely of ABS plastic will likely be less expensive than a metal model and also somewhat shorter than a standard drain snake. Due to their short reach and great flexibility, ABS plastic snakes are typically only used for removing clogs that are not very deep or difficult to power through; for example, they should be fine for banishing clumps of hair from a shower drain.
Standard and heavy-duty drain snakes may use ABS plastic in the handle or drum, but the actual snake is made from flexible high-carbon steel. The heavier and more rigid metal material makes it easier to push through tough clogs and to navigate through into the drainage system. These snakes tend to be between 10 and 25 feet long, and some are more than 50 feet.
Drain snakes come in a few standard lengths and thicknesses. To tackle common household issues, such as unclogging a sink, tub, or shower, a 25-foot cable between 1/4 and 5/16 of an inch thick should be sufficient. Those living in a multistory home with bathrooms upstairs may be better off with a snake that has a 50-foot cable, which is capable of reaching clogs in longer pipes.
For a more serious clog in the home’s main water pipes, blockages farther down the kitchen sink drain than a typical food clog, or problems with washing machine drainage, a tougher drain snake may be called for. Sometimes called medium drain machines, these powerful tools typically have a thicker cable—often 1/2 inch in diameter—and extend up to 75 feet to reach down deep into plumbing lines.
There are two different types of heads at the tip of a drain snake’s cable: cutting heads and coil or toothed heads. Some drain snakes allow for switching out the heads, but most have one fixed head.
Emerging technology has come to the basic drain snake to enhance ease of use and performance. These features include:
Collected here are top drain augers that meet the criteria described above and also take overall value and quality into account. Consider these products to find the best drain snake for regular maintenance in your home.
The Ridgid Power Spin is a solid option for clearing common clogs throughout the house. Its manual crank sends the 25-foot, 1/4-inch cable twisting and turning into pipes, while the screw-shaped head chews through semi-solid obstructions yet can also catch and retrieve hair, paper, and other fibrous gunk.
It can be used with a power drill (not included) for serious blockages or manually, with an easy-to-use pull trigger and turn handle. Autofeed technology that allows the cable to self-feed down the drain makes for a hands-free, no-mess job.
Get the Ridgid drain cleaner at Amazon, The Home Depot, and Grainger.
Different drain problems require specialized snakes, and this kit comes with six separate tools to address a variety of issues. It’s a great value since it can tackle all kinds of common problems, from clearing pesky clogs to retrieving small items such as jewelry accidentally dropped down the drain.
The kit includes three 20-inch, ABS plastic sink snakes with toothed heads for removing hair clogs from the sink and shower. Two 24-inch retrieval tools have a four-claw head with a plunger mechanism that opens and closes the claw to grab such items as earrings and rings. And for tougher, deeper obstacles, there’s a 39-inch steel drain snake that can handle clogs within about 3 feet of a drain.
Get the Liboyixi drain snakes on Amazon.
This 6-foot auger is specially designed for use in toilets. It features a vinyl protective sheath over its metal cable to prevent damage to the toilet bowl. Simply position the 72-inch tube inside the toilet so that the rubber foot rests right at the bowl’s outlet and then crank the 3-foot cable down.
The kink-resistant, super-flexible cable reaches blockages, and the bulbous, coiled head easily breaks through soft clogs while catching and retrieving solids like wadded-up toilet paper, flushed toys, and dropped jewelry.
Get the RIDGID toilet auger at The Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and the Plumbing Tool Store.
While hair is among the most common causes of slow-draining bathroom sinks and shower or tub drains, the FlexiSnake Drain Weasel Sink Snake is designed to tackle this problem. Crank the handle to send the 18-inch flexible snake down the drain and let its bristly tip grab onto clumps of hair. It connects quickly and remains in place as you work, and the molded plastic handle makes for easy use.
The FlexiSnake comes with five replacement heads. Once a clog is banished, users can toss away the snake head—no need to store a dirty, gunky tool.
Get the FlexiSnake drain snake at Amazon, Ace Hardware, and Lowe’s.
This 50-foot electric drain auger can reach deep into a drain system to clear the majority of clogs, eliminating the need for the user to call a professional plumber. The auger sits in a heavy steel frame and is activated with a simple foot pump, which lets users concentrate on locating the clog while feeding the snake with their foot.
There are four cutting heads included: a C-cutter, a boring bulb cutter, a spade cutter, and an arrow cutter. These specialized heads come in handy for breaking up a variety of clogs.
Get the VEVOR drain cleaner machine at Walmart and Vevor.
Power through recurring and difficult clogs with the POPULO electric drain auger. This battery-powered drain snake uses a 25-foot reinforced flexible steel cable to clear clogs with ease. The cable can move through drains ranging from just ¾ inch to 2 inches in diameter, including sinks, toilets, and shower drains.
A variable speed trigger controls how quickly the snake feeds into the drain, and it can reverse the direction when the clog is broken up or ensnared by the boring bulb cutter head. This tool also features a built-in LED light to increase visibility and precision while working.
Get the POPULO drain auger at Amazon, Walmart, and Sears.
The ample length and rugged makeup of this quality auger is a solid choice for plumbers, building superintendents, and other pros. The 50-foot pipe auger from Cobra Products has a 50-foot flexible cable that is 1/2-inch thick and a corkscrew head that plows through most common obstructions.
The augur boasts spring steel wire for maximum flexibility into the tightest bends and a galvanized steel crank handle. It’s a manual model, however, so cranking takes quite a bit of muscle and perseverance.
Get the Cobra Products pipe auger at Amazon, Ace Hardware, Lowe’s, and Max Warehouse.
Clearing clogs can be messy work, so this Drainx kit includes a pair of black plumber’s work gloves to protect the hands and a drawstring carrying pouch to store the tool neatly.
As for the job itself, there’s a heavy-duty steel drain auger with a 25-foot snake for use in drains that range from 1¼ inch to 3 inches in diameter. There’s a rigid handle and a turning knob on the back of the snake drum for ease of use. A manual lock can be tightened to hold the snake in place to avoid backsliding through the pipes.
Get the DrainX drain snake on Amazon and at Sears.
If clogged drains are a regular occurrence in your home, consider investing in the Ridgid manual drain snake, a hand-cranked model that provides a no-mess and hard-hitting solution to slow draining pipes. For shoppers who want a machine that requires less physical effort, the VEVOR electric drain snake has an extra long 50-foot steel cable to tackle even the most stubborn clogs.
Hiring a professional plumber to deal with a mild blockage or clog can be costly, so a small investment in a drain snake can save you money. We have gathered our top picks in this list to provide shoppers with a range of options depending on their situation.
In our research, we considered the typical debris that blocks drains and looked at multiple types of drain snakes to help unclog a home drainage system. We offer a selection of both powered and manual drain snakes, with different head designs for a variety of clog-clearing options. Some of our recommendations also feature multiple head types to suit the task at hand.
Drain snakes are simple tools, but they must be used properly so that clearing a drain is an easy task. Keep reading for information about how a drain snake works, what type of snakes are used by professionals, and gain answers to other common questions about these plumbing tools,
Instead of using a plunger to force water and air through the pipes, a drain snake is a physical tool that is fed into the drain. When the snake encounters a clog, it is rotated against the obstruction to break it up or grab the mass and pull it out.
Typically, professional plumbers will have more than one snake. These include short, toothed drain snakes for removing hair clogs, standard metal drain snakes that can take care of most nearby clogs, and powerful electric drain snakes that can reach 50 feet in length to banish clogs buried in the middle of the drain system.
Snaking a drain is a relatively simple process. Insert the snake into the drain, slowly feeding it further into the system until the snake encounters resistance. At this point, rotate the snake against the blockage until the flexible cable can be fed freely through the pipes.
If the blockage doesn’t break up, try to pull the snake out slowly. It’s likely that solid blockages can be entangled with the snake, allowing the debris to be pulled out of the drain instead of forced down. After removing the snake, run the water full force for a few minutes to confirm that the blockage has been removed or broken up.
There are a few ways to get past the P trap in the drainage system. A thin, flexible snake won’t have much difficulty maneuvering around tight corners. If such a snake isn’t firm enough to break up heavy clogs, try a thick snake with a hand crank or mechanical crank function that physically twists the snake so that it can be directed down the correct path.
If these options fail, consider removing the P trap to insert the snake beyond this problem spot. Then replace the P trap once the pipes have been snaked.
It’s advised to snake the drain at least once a year to help reduce the potential for clogs.
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