What is a Plumbing Snake?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2019
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The plumbing snake is a flexible section of metal that is wound into a spiral format in a manner similar to a spring. The body of the snake is usually very thin, making it possible for the bendable body of the device to fit into just about any type of drainpipe. A plumbing snake is used to remove clogs from the pipes and make it possible for water to flow through the pipes freely.

Also known as a plumber's snake or toilet jack, one end of the plumbing snake is usually equipped with a handle that can also be used as a cranking device. In most cases, the entire of body the snake is made of thin but sturdy metal, although some brands do feature a handle or crank that is constructed with durable plastic. The handle makes it possible to control the progress of the snake through the clogged drain and to dislodge the clog either by pushing it through or snaring the clog and pulling it out of the pipe.


In one of the most common applications of the plumbing snake, the coiled wire of the body is able to imbed in the clog much in the way that a corkscrew is worked into the body of a cork. Once the snake has a firm grasp on the clog, the handle is used to slowly back the snake out of the pipe until the clog is extracted. Depending on the type of materials that compose the clog, it may take more than one attempt to clear the drain completely.

Another approach to using the plumbing snake is to use the body to punch holes in the clog, thus weakening the structural integrity. As the body of the clog begins to break, up, the natural flow of the water through the pipe will carry the smaller chunks of the clog through the pipes and into the sewage system or the septic tank. As the water begins to flow through the pipe once again, the plumbing snake is extracted from the drain, cleaned of any residue accumulated from the clog, and stored until the device is needed again.

A plumbing snake will often work well with stubborn clogs that resist dislodging with the use of a plunger. Because the snake does not require the use of harsh chemicals to deal with the blockage, there is no chance of damage to the pipes. The plumbing snake also helps to prevent the need for calling in a plumber to take care of a relatively routine plumbing situation.

Plumbing snakes can be purchased at most hardware stores. In addition, many home stores and discount retails stores with a plumbing and fixtures department will carry a few different brands of snakes. While it is possible to spend a significant amount of money on a plumbing snake, many brands are very budget friendly. In any event, the snake can usually pay for itself after just a couple of uses.


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