If your shower or sink drain is clogged and you want to try to fix it yourself before calling in a professional, reach for a drain snake. We spent hours researching the top models on the market, evaluating ease of use, design, effectiveness, and power source.
Here are the best drain snakes.
FlexiSnake Drain Millipede Hair Clog Tool
The Millipede, as it's better known after going viral when folks started sharing photos of all the stuff they were pulling up from their drains, 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.
Price at time of publish: $7
Best for Toilet
Ridgid 59787 K-3 Toilet Auger
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 1/2-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 those that have been converted into a low-flow toilet, and the vinyl guard protects your porcelain toilet bowl from scratches.
Price at time of publish: $50
Green Gobbler Hair Grabber Drain Tool
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.
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, invest in a drain plate as a smart preventative plan.
Price at time of publish: $10
Best for Hair
BrassCraft 20 in. Plastic Hair Snake
"Long hair, don't care" is a fine motto, except when it comes to 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 is also safe to use on tubs and sinks.
Price at time of publish: $3
Best Extra Long
Husky 1/2 in. x 50 ft. Drain Auger
When you're trying to clean out a sewer or yard drain, you'll want an extra long drain snake. This one measures 50-feet long and works for 2-inch to 4-inch drain lines. The line is 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 turn 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 challenging to rewind, but with patience, your clog will be long gone.
Price at time of publish: $40
Ryobi 18-Volt ONE+ Drain Auger
“Powered drain snakes of varying sizes are used to cut through pipe clogs in almost any plumbing drainage and sewer system,” says Paul Abrams, spokesperson for Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Water Cleanup. “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 2-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.
Price at time of publish: $79
Best for Sinks
Cobra 00112BL Drain Cleaning Tool
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 2 inches in diameter, it’s narrow enough to use safely on your sink drain, which Abrams notes is narrower than a standard 3-inch toilet drain and 4- to 6-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.
Price at time of publish: $3
Drano Snake Plus Tool + Gel System
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.
Price at time of publish: $8
What to Look for in a Drain Snake
Depending on the type of clog, you may be grabbing the wrong drain snake to get the job done. Take some time to learn about various drain snake features and product factors in order to make an informed decision about the best drain snake to fix your plumbing.
Powered vs. Manual
Drain snakes can be broadly split into two categories: Powered drain snakes and manual drain snakes.
- Powered drain snakes provide extra muscle to break through tough clogs, but they also reduce user fatigue because the electric motor is doing all the work. Some models even have a cable that automatically retracts by pushing a button, making recovery and clean up easier. Just keep in mind that powered drain snakes typically cost more than manual drain snakes.
- Manual drain snakes are very easy to find in most home improvement stores. They usually have a small hand crank to advance or retract the cable and can be one of the most effective methods for clearing small clogs in the toilet, tub, kitchen sink, or bathroom sink. The drawback to these tools is that the user needs to manually turn the hand crank and rotate the drain snake, which can take a toll if you are working for a long period.
Light-duty drain snakes are great for quickly clearing hair clogs in the shower or grabbing items that were dropped down the drain. These drain snakes are often made of high-quality ABS plastic that is both flexible and durable. There are also heavy-duty drain snakes that are made with high-carbon steel. This type of drain snake will often have an ABS plastic handle, but the actual cable will be made of metal.
ABS drain snakes are generally shorter than high-carbon steel snakes, which is why they are best for removing clogs that aren't very deep in the drain. High-carbon steel snakes are designed to travel through the drainage pipes of the home and can exceed 75 feet in length.
When you are looking for a drain snake to deal with plumbing issues around the home, it's important to consider the dimensions of the drain snake cable, including length and diameter. Common problems with hair clogs or unclogging the kitchen sink after accidentally pouring fat down the drain can be solved with a 25-foot cable, but if you live in a multistory home, it may be better to invest in a 50-foot or 75-foot cable to ensure that the drain snake can clear clogs at any point throughout the drain system. For light-duty clogs, use a cable that is 1/4 inch or 5/16 inch thick. If you are dealing with tough clogs, consider investing in a drain snake with a 1/2-inch-thick diameter.
As mentioned above, some drain snakes are made for breaking through clogs, while others are made for grabbing clogs and pulling them out of the drain. These two different functions are achieved with the use of specialized drain snake heads. Cutting heads are made to cut through solid clogs with sharp blades and barbs. Professionals frequently use cutting heads on heavy-duty electric drain augers.
Coil heads or toothed heads are designed to wrap around, latch onto, or otherwise grab objects that are causing clogs. Once attached, the drain snake can be pulled out of the drain carrying the clog, like a ball of hair, wads of toilet paper, wipes, sanitary pads, diapers, and other objects that shouldn't be put down the drain.
How do drain snakes work?
Drain snakes are designed to slide into the drain pipe and maneuver around bends to reach the clog in the pipe. Once the snake makes contact, the user rotates the drain snake head against the obstruction to break it up. Some drain snakes have a grabbing tool to deal with obstructions that cannot be broken up. When the snake encounters the mass in the pipes, the user opens the claws, then closes them again to grab the mass and pull it out.
What pipes are drain snakes safe for?
Drain snakes are safe for use in PVC and cast iron pipes. If you have galvanized steel or your pipes are coated with zinc, a drain snake can scratch the pipe and cause damage.
Additionally, you should not use a drain snake to unclog your toilet. A snake can scratch the porcelain and damage the toilet. Instead, use a toilet auger with a rubber or plastic sleeve to protect the porcelain finish while unclogging the toilet.
What is the difference between a drain snake and an auger?
While the names are often used interchangeably, drain snakes are typically used for clogs and blockages in smaller drains. Augers are used for larger pipes, including toilet, tub, and shower drains.
How long a drain snake do I need?
If you’re tackling small clogs in your sink or toilet, a snake or toilet auger up to three feet in length is all you’ll need. For sewer or driveway drains, a snake of 25 to 50 feet is appropriate.
Why Trust The Spruce?
Additional reporting and research for this article was done by Timothy Dale, a long-time home improvement expert specializing in plumbing, construction, and product recommendations, among other topics.