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What is, How to Use, and Where to Find

If you own a home, then you will likely, one day, need to clear a drain. Sure, you could hire a plumber to come over and pay more than you need to. Or you could take care of it for yourself, save money, and learn a valuable skill. You can do this with a device known as a drain auger, sometimes called a plumbing snake, drain snake, or a roto rooter. Here’s everything you need to know.

Why You Might Need a Rooter

Generally speaking, there are three reasons you need to clear a drain. 

  1. Fat/Oil/Mineral buildup has clogged a pipe
  2. A large object has been lodged in the pipe
  3. Tree roots have grown into the pipe

The first issue is the most common. Drains build up materials as they drain away sewage. Some materials stick to the walls of the pipe and build up until it clogs. This is exactly why you aren’t supposed to pour oils and fats down the drain. This can sometimes be solved by using a liquid drain cleaner. It can almost always be solved using a drain auger.

The second issue is a more complicated one, which can often be solved by clearing the drain trap (or U bend) located under each sink. Otherwise, the answer strongly depends on the object in question.

Tree roots are only an issue for the main sewer line, since it extends outside. It also is only a problem for places with trees. A standard drain Auger won’t be able to handle this problem, but special augers with razer ends and powerful motors CAN. If you believe this is the issue, be sure to get the right auger.

What a Drain Auger Does.

A drain auger is a device with a long, bendable steel rod/spring. At the very end of the rod is a clearing head, sometimes looking kind of like a blender blade. This rod is extended down into a drain, rotating as it goes. The springlike shape of the rod allows it to bend and twist down any angle the pipes might have. Since it spins, it also grinds and scratches away at any material buildup along the way. As mentioned before, some augers also have razors to help deal with tree roots. Some augers are hand-powered, while others are electrical. They come in a variety of sizes and lengths, so make sure they are suited for the job you need done.

You Can Rent a Drain Auger

You don’t need an auger very often, so you shouldn’t need to buy one. That’s why many local hardware stores will offer a rental program. You can go to places like Home Depot and rent an auger. 4-hour rentals can cost from $25 to $90 dollars, with the price going up the longer you hold onto the device.

How to Use a Drain Auger/Plumbing Snake/Rooter

  1. Remove U Bend (Optional): If you’re working on a sink, it will have a removable U bend or P trap. Removing that can make things easier on the rooter.
  2. Manually thread the auger down into the pipe, head first.
  3. Don’t force it too hard. This can damage the pipe.
  4. Uncoil the snake using the handle. Keep the handle as close to the pipe entrance.
  5. Rotate the handle at a consistent pace. If you’re using an electrical auger, it will do this for you when you turn it on. If you feel resistance, you might have hit the clog. Proceed with turning the auger.
  6. If it gets stuck, do not force it, but pull it back out.
  7. Proceed until you reach the end of the pipe or auger length. Or until you are confident the pipe is cleared.

What if it Doesn’t Work?

If you still can’t get the clog fixed, call a plumber. I know I said in the beginning that you can avoid it. But there’s equal importance in recognizing when to admit defeat and have a professional do the job. There are plenty of drain clearing companies like Eco Plumber and Roto Rooter that will come in and clear any drain you might have. Some will have free consultations too. If you don’t want to risk messing something up or its just too difficult, don’t be afraid to call them.

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