Whether you have a clogged drain in your home and you need a plumber’s help to clear it, or you’re just looking to learn a little bit more about the basics of plumbing and drain clearing, you might be wondering how plumbers unclog drains.
What tools are required, and what are the steps that plumbers take to clean out your drain? In this article, we’ll take a look at a few common tools and how they’re used to remove clogs and ensure that your plumbing can drain properly once again. Let’s begin.
Plumbing Snakes Are The Most Commonly-Used Tool To Remove Clogs
The first step most plumbers will take is to use a plumbing snake to try to break up the clog and remove it. A snake is a thin, flexible piece of metal cable that has a sharp, corkscrew-like tip. Your plumber will feed the snake directly into the drain that’s clogged, and unspool it until it reaches the clog.
Usually, professional plumbing snakes are at least 50-100 feet in length, and can be attached directly to a power drill so that they can be unspooled quickly and spin rapidly against clogs, breaking up the debris (such as hair, food debris, grease, etc.) and removing the clog.
While it’s possible to purchase a plumbing snake and use it on your own, most consumer-grade snakes are not very long, which can make it hard to reach clogs that are located deep within your plumbing.
In addition, it can be hard to maneuver the snake through your pipes if there are a lot of twists and turns in your piping. You may think you’ve reached the clog, but the snake tip may just be stuck in a “U” bend in the plumbing system.
For these reasons, it’s usually a good idea to turn to a professional if you need your drain to be unclogged.
Chemical Cleaners Can Help With Stubborn Clogs
If you have a clog that won’t break up, even with a snake, it’s possible that your plumber may choose to use a professional-grade chemical cleaner to help break up the clog. This is particularly common in clogs that may be caused by grease in kitchen sinks.
Chemical drain cleaners like Drano use a variety of highly-caustic ingredients lye, caustic potash, and other such “base” ingredients. When they come into contact with a clog, a chemical reaction occurs that breaks down the clogging substance.
This is not usually enough to remove a serious clog on its own – as you may know if you’ve tried to clear a blockage with commercially-available chemical cleaners, had no luck, and been forced to call a plumber.
However, in combination with a drain snake, chemical cleaners can be highly effective at loosening clogs and allowing them to be broken apart with a snake, making this the most common next step if cleaning a drain with a snake alone is not effective.
Drain Augers Are Used For Serious Blockages
If your blockage can’t be resolved with a plumbing snake and chemical cleaners, the next step is usually to use a drain auger to clean out the blockage. Drain augers are basically larger and more effective drain snakes, which usually have an electric motor to provide a lot of torque and power for removing clogs.
They can be used inside your home to clean larger diameter pipes, such as those found in toilets or bathtubs, so this may be suggested if the toilet or bathtub is the source of your clog.
However, if a drain snake and chemical cleaner are not effective, your plumber may choose to attach the drain auger to your sewer line cleanout, and feed it back into your home from the outside. This is usually the best option if your plumber suspects that the clog is located near the sewer outflow, rather than near the affected plumbing fixture.
The auger will be fed into the sewer line cleanout, then it will spin rapidly once it reaches the clog, breaking it apart and allowing the smaller chunks that caused the blockage to drain away. Due to the size and power of a drain auger, this step will be enough to clean the vast majority of drains.
Borescope Cameras Are Ideal For Examining Pipes & Blockages
If a drain auger is not enough to clean out a tough clog, the next step your plumber will take is typically to use a borescope camera to look at the clog and get a better idea of what is actually causing the issue.
While most clogs are caused by things like hair, food debris, grease, and things like “flushable” wet wipes (which should not be flushed because they don’t break down properly), some clogs can be caused by things like tree roots that grow through your sewer pipes.
If your clog is serious enough that it can’t be eliminated with the use of chemical cleaners and a drain auger, your plumber will perform an inspection of your pipes, feeding a flexible, thin camera with an LED light through your pipes until it encounters the blockage.
Once your plumber can visually inspect the blockage, they can develop a better understanding of what they need to do to clear it. They may choose to try the drain auger and chemical cleaners again to break it up. Or, for the toughest clogs, hydro-jetting will be used.
Hydro-Jetting Is Used For The Toughest Drain Blockages
Since hydro-jetting is a more expensive method for clearing blockages and it’s not usually necessary for cleaning the vast majority of drain clogs, it’s usually a “last resort” option when other methods of drain cleaning fail.
A hydro-jet machine is, essentially, a very powerful pump that connects to a water source. A flexible pipe is fed through your plumbing. Then, when the blockage is encountered, your plumber will turn on the machine – and deliver a blast of water at pressures of up to 4,000 PSI to completely destroy the clog without damaging your pipes.
Hydro-jet machines can destroy even the toughest clogs, and are particularly useful for eliminating “soft” clogs made up mostly of grease and fat. These clogs are tough to remove with a snake or auger, since the tip of the tool can’t “grab on” to the clog and break it apart.
Make Sure Your Plumber Has The Right Tools For Your Drain Unclogging Job!
As you can see, professional plumbers have a lot of tools available to ensure that they can deal with drain clogs of any type and severity. We hope this guide has been informative – and if you need a plumber to help unclog your drain, make sure you choose a pro with all of the right tools for the job – like Anytime Plumbing.