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The best case scenario? For an easy clog, your plumber may get the job done in mere minutes. For a more stubborn or deep-seated clog, the process may take multiple hours.

If you’re dealing with a stubborn household clog, it may be time for you to enlist a professional plumbing company to come help. There are a number of methods that plumbers might use to alleviate a clogged drain or pipe, but the most common method is to use drain snakes.

But exactly what is a drain snake? And as a homeowner, what should your expectations be in terms of timeline and cost?

Here are a few guidelines about drain snakes from the Carter team.

Hydro Jetting Worker
Plumber working on cleaning a drain

What are Drain Snakes?

A drain snake is a long, flexible cable, usually made from some kind of metal, with an auger/spring at one end and a handle at the other end. Also known as a plumber’s snake, this tool can be used to plumb your drain pipe or household plumbing system, breaking up and dislodging any clogs without the need for abrasive chemical drain cleaners.

Plumbing snakes are generally considered the first recourse for clogged drains, though hydro jetting may be necessary for more severe and comprehensive issues.

How Long Does it Take to Snake a Drain?

Homeowners will naturally wonder how long it will take to get their drain unclogged, especially if their plumber is charging an hourly rate.

“It will depend on the clog or blockage,” comments Lisa Carter of Carter’s My Plumber. “Soft clogs like toilet paper or food generally go pretty quick but roots or grease can take much more effort.”

The best case scenario? For an easy clog, your plumber may get the job done in mere minutes. For a more stubborn or deep-seated clog, the process may take multiple hours.

Can I Use a Plumbing Snake Myself?

You can always buy small plumbing snakes at the hardware store, and try to eliminate the problem yourself. If the clog is close to the drain, and if it isn’t too severe, you’ll probably be able to dislodge it without the need to call a professional plumber.

For deeper and more stubborn clogs, however, these store-bought plumbing snakes may not reach long enough, and they certainly won’t offer the same power as a mechanical snake, which is what a professional plumber will use. For these instances, you’ll likely want to call in the pros.

Additional Questions About Using a Drain Auger

This is dependent on the access to the drain. Clean outs are always the best option whether inside or outside.

The drain cleaning cost is variable, depending on the location of the clog, ease of access, and severity, among other factors. According to Carter, the average cost for drain snaking is around $350.

There are a number of methods that professional plumbers might use, but the most common tools include a drain snake, hydro jetter, or sometimes just a good old-fashioned plunger.

In rare cases yes, but very rare.

No, but it won’t always get the clog cleared. Sometimes you need the professionals!

We would suggest a jet. High pressure water jetting will often remove debris from the line a cable just can’t.

Never use Drano! It is an acid based chemical that is very harmful to plumbing fixtures. Always cable, plunge, or jet!

Depends on the blockage. Sometimes once will do, sometimes it takes multiple passes.

Our first suggestion is always the jet. It’s more expensive but more effective on removing blockages, and not leaving anything in the line.

You will have backups in toilets, showers, bathtubs, sinks, or floor drains. So it’s important to avoid any bad kitchen sink smell. Sometimes the sewage will come out of the outside clean out if there is one.

It’s a charge of $300 to go through a kitchen sink drain. That includes taking apart and reinstalling pipes.

This is an area where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Be careful about overloading garbage disposals, brushing food particles into the trash whenever possible. Clean out your drains regularly. And, consider placing protective screens over your drains to prevent too much hair buildup.

Kelson Carter

Article reviewed by:

Kelson Carter, aka, The Prince of Plumbing

Kelson is a 3rd generation Plumbing Contractor. His family business is located in Greenwood, Indiana, and provides Residential Plumbing Service to the Indianapolis Metro market.

Kelson grew up watching his grandfather and father do plumbing. After graduating high school, Kelson went to Trade School and became a Licensed Master Plumber and Licensed Plumbing Contractor. He is also Certified in Backflow Prevention. He currently owns and operates Carter's My Plumber with his parents.


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