Types of Plumbing Snakes That You Should Know


Plumber’s snakes, also known as drain snakes, are indispensable tools in the arsenal of professional plumbers. However, even DIY enthusiasts can benefit from familiarizing themselves with these tools, mainly if they reside in urban areas where the cost to unclog bathtub drain can be expensive. 

Clogged drains can cause various issues, such as leaks, water stains, warping,  flooding, and even pipe damage. Therefore, it’s critical to address clogged drains promptly. In this context, understanding plumber’s snakes and their applications is essential. Without taking any longer, let’s get into it.

What are Plumbing Snakes?

Plumber’s snake, a drain snake, or a plumbing auger is a highly flexible tool that dislodges stubborn clogs in plumbing systems. When a plunger proves insufficient, a plumber’s snake is typically employed to resolve the issue. 

Generally, the plumber’s snake tool consists of a coiled metal wire or drill bit with gaps between the coils. It’s connected to a lengthy and exceedingly flexible metal cable that is, in turn, linked to a crank. To operate the plumbing auger, professional plumbers in Ottawa or DIY enthusiasts use the crank to rotate the snake.

How Plumber’s Snake Work

A plumber’s snake rotates the auger with a corkscrew-like coil that can dislodge obstructions in pipes or drains. The operator feeds the snake by hand into the clogged plumbing system by unwinding it from a reel or uncoiling it from its position. 

While turning the plumbing auger with the crank, the operator can move the drill inside the pipe in a circular or side-to-side motion to facilitate dislodging of the blockage. As the obstruction starts to give way, the cable can move further into the pipe, necessitating the feeding of more cable into space. 

Once the clog is cleared, it can be drawn up with the auger or pushed down the drain in either direction. After this, the pipes must be flushed out with fresh water. Once the process is complete, the clogged drain is solved.

Types of Plumbing Snakes

Numerous types of plumbing snakes are suited for various applications, from eliminating sink clogs to clearing tree roots. You can even source them from cheap plumbers. While plumbing snakes’ underlying principles and mechanics are straightforward, their variations are numerous. The following are the most common types of plumbing snakes:

  1. Toilet Auger

A toilet auger plumbing snake is also known as a closet auger. It’s a manually operated device specially designed to unclog toilets where a plunger is insufficient or if a small object, such as a toy or makeup item, is lodged inside. 

The bend in the toilet auger’s drill bit is intended to fit the bottom of the toilet bowl to access the obstruction. Since toilet blockages are usually located at the P-trap, and the auger is designed to handle pipe bends. Therefore, toilet augers are superior to standard snakes for dealing with these obstructions.

  1. Drain Snake

The smallest snake drain snakes can be manual or electric and are used to unclog showers, bathroom basics, washing machines, bathtubs, and, in rare cases, kitchen sinks. The cable is coiled into a hollow or bell-shaped drum in manual models. 

An electric snake operates like a sewing machine, remaining plugged in and active but requiring a pedal to be pushed to engage the cable. The operator guides a small cable section into the pipe, secures it with a clamp, and pushes the pedal to rotate the reel and advance the drill. They will need to unclamp the cable, feed in another length, reclamp it, and repeat the process as the cable progresses.

  1. Sewer Auger 

Using a sewer auger is common in the plumbing industry, especially for clearing out drains with diameters of three or four inches and sewer lines. Sewer Augers are professional-grade drain machines capable of clearing out tree roots that may obstruct the system. 

These machines come with cables at least 100 feet long and five-eighths or three-quarters of an inch in diameter enclosed within a large cage. Heavy-duty electric motors power the cables.

  1. Medium Drain Machine

Medium Drain Machines, or Mini-Rooters, are a lighter version of the Sewer Auger and are ideal for long washing machines, kitchen drains, or lines. They come with cables between 50 and 75 feet long, with diameters around three-eighths of an inch. 

The Medium Drain machines can maintain their shape over the open area between the two pipe sections, making them suitable for snaking a drain after removing the P-trap. However, they should not be used to unclog bathtubs or showers, as they can damage the trap underneath.


Plumbing snakes are an essential tool for anyone dealing with plumbing system clogs. Knowing the different types of plumbing snakes available and their specific uses will help you choose the right tool for the job. Each type of plumbing snake has strengths and limitations, from the basic toilet auger to the heavy-duty sewer auger.

Ultimately, always seek the help of professional plumbing services when dealing with plumbing issues, especially when all of your attempts to unclog a drain by yourself, even with good tools, have ended unsuccessfully.