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Your shower or sink drain is clogged or your toilet is backed up and you want to try to fix it yourself before spending the money to call a professional. Your first step should be to try to unclog the drain with a sink or toilet plunger, which are safer to use and more goof-proof, says Paul Abrams, spokesperson for Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Water Cleanup. If a plunger doesn’t remove the clog, then try liquid drain cleaning chemicals or a hand-crank toilet auger, he suggests. “These common tools will resolve most drain backups.” Abrams says.
Here, the best drain snakes available on the market:
The Millipede, as it’s better known by, went viral after folks started sharing photos of all the stuff they were pulling up from their drains. It lives up to the hype of being easy to use and effective. All you need to do is uncurl it, feed it down your drain, give it a good spin, then yank it back up. The 18-inch snake has 1,000 microhooks that do the hard work for you, grabbing onto stray hairs and other gunk. Be prepared with a trash bag nearby—you'll need it to contain all of the debris it will grab onto as you pull it up.
An auger is essentially a drain snake on a fishing pole with a rotating crank to give you extra power to unclog your toilet drain. This one is powered by hand, which is safer than an electric one for novices to use and has ergonomically designed handles that are easy to hold and maneuver.
The snake part is a ½-inch, compression-wrapped inner core cable that can slide through your toilet’s S-bend to remove blockages beyond what you can see. It can even work on low-flow toilets and the vinyl guard protects your porcelain toilet bowl from scratches.
If you find that your shower is turning into a bath for your feet because the water is draining so slowly, give this hair drain tool a try. At 22 inches, this flexible plastic tool can help to remove hair and other clogs from showers, tubs and sinks, too.
Just gently guide the smaller end into the drain until it can’t go any further, then carefully pull it out. It can be rinsed off and used, time and time again—though if you’re having the problem repeatedly, investing in a drain plate is a smart preventative plan.
"Long hair, don’t care" is a fine motto, save for when it comes to the health of your shower drain. Anyone with long hair or living with someone with long hair will want to pick up this 20-inch drain snake to prevent stopped up drains.
If you have a drain plate hole to catch as much hair as possible before it goes down in the first place (which you should), you’ll need to remove that before using this, otherwise the hair and crud could come right off on the other side. This pick is made of durable polymer construction that’s safe to use on tubs and sinks, too.
When you’re trying to clean out a sewer or driveway drain, you’ll want an extra long drain snake. This one measures in at 50-feet and works for 2 inch to 4 inch drain lines. The line is made of rust-resistant, high-carbon, round diameter spring steel wire, so you'll be able to keep it and use it again and again.
Just feed it down the drain until you reach a point of resistance, then gently and slowly turning it into the clog using the large galvanized steel handle. You may want to enlist help when it comes to reeling this back in again, especially if you unleashed all 50 feet of it. It can make a mess as you pull it out and it can be difficult to wind back up again, but with patience, your clog will be long gone.
“Powered drain snakes of varying sizes are used to cut through pipe clogs in almost any plumbing drainage and sewer system,” Adams explains. “These are the tools of last resort after a homeowner has tried traditional methods like plunging and anti-clog chemicals.”
If you’re still set on trying one, this one from Ryobi that comes with a 25-foot cable is an affordable option (note that the rechargeable battery is sold separately). You can use it in forward or reverse to really screw into whatever is blocking your drain, plus it has a lock-on auto feature that helps to prevent your hands and arms from getting too tired. This pick works on drains up to two-inches wide, including sinks and bathtubs.
“If the clog in the pipe doesn’t quickly budge or if you’ve fed all the cable into the pipe and still haven’t reached the clog point, it’s time to call a professional who is equipped with longer cables and professional grade equipment,” Abrams says.
This 24-inch tool looks simple, but its basic design will help you get your bathroom sink draining again in no time. At less than two-inches in diameter, it’s narrow enough to safely use on your sink drain, which Abrams notes is narrower than a standard three-inch toilet drain and four to six inch sewer drain.
Feed the flexible plastic tool down your sink drain until you make contact with the clog, give it a good spin then pull it back up to see what you’ve “caught.” Though the instructions say to throw it away after one use, you could potentially clean it and use it one or two more times on minor clogs.
Knock that clog out with a one-two punch of a snake and liquid drain cleaner. The first step is to guide the included 23-inch flexible drain snake down your sink or tub drain (it’s safe for both) to remove the big stuff, then follow with a pour of the gel to dissolve any remaining hair, soap scum, or other gross stuff. The gel even cuts through standing water to get your pipes flowing quickly again. A reviewer notes that it doesn’t take much gel, so you should have plenty left over should you need it again in a few months time.