How to Use a Drain Auger

If you have pipes in your house (obviously) you should learn how to use a drain auger. 

Everyone from large families to single folks benefit from having DIY knowledge.   

Save yourself time and hard earned money with our tips below! 

how to use a drain auger
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What is a Drain Auger?  

A drain auger is a long flexible piece of steel cable with a bulb, spring, or pear shaped head attached on the end.  It’s attached to a handle or coiled up inside a canister.   

You can either manually hand crank the metal cable in your pipe, use a battery powered auger or a cordless drill. 

How Hard is it to Snake a Drain?

It’s not hard at all to snake a drain.  It will take you anywhere for 5-10 minutes to work those clogs out.   

If you learn how to use a drain auger, you won’t need to call a professional next time you have a clogged drain.   

Drain augers are designed to be simple to use, easy and effective at removing clogs.   

Even if you aren’t able-bodied you can use a drain auger to save some money and get those drains running free and clear. 

How to Use a Handheld Drain Auger

Using a drain pipe auger is super easy!  It isn’t confusing and easy to learn.   

A drum or canister auger is called that because it holds the cord or cable inside a canister.  This is the most popular kind of auger for unclogging sinks.   

Make sure you wear gloves and some old clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. 

Pro Tip
We recommend getting a garbage bag, or a 5 gallon bucket ready next to the clogged drain so that you can dispose of the stuff your auger pulls up and put the auger in there to take it outside for cleaning. Then you won’t get a nasty mess on your floor.


Steps to Unclogging Your Drains in 9 Easy Steps

How does a plumbing auger work?  Using a power drain auger is almost the same, but the power feeds/retracts the cable and also spins it for you. Get Your Drains Unclogged fast with the following step by step:

  1. Remove the sink stopper
  2. Feed the auger cable down the drain pipe
  3. When you hit something solid, that’s your clog  
  4. Feed about 6-12 more inches of the cable into the drain   
  5. Tighten the auger cable
  6. Crank the handle of your auger, which spins the cable   
  7. Pull your auger back out of the drain while wiping it off  
  8. Test your drain to make sure it is flowing  
  9. Repeat if required   
  10. Clean and store your drain auger

It’s recommended to wear safety glasses, gloves and and mask to protect yourself. If the blockage is too hard to remove or you are not comfortable using the auger, it may be best to call a plumber for professional help.

Before storing your auger, apply General Wire Snake Oil to your cable after you’ve cleaned it. This stops rust and keeps your cable from getting stiff and kinking while it’s in storage.

How to Use a Drain Auger: Our Weekend Unclogging Adventures

Here we are cleaning and doing some upkeep on a rental property.  We noticed some slow running drains so we used our Talon Pro Drain Cleaner and a manual drain auger to clear the drains of 3 years of gunk and hair. 

how to use a drain auger with a drill
manual drain auger

This drain auger doesn’t have the drill attachment option so we will have to manually crank the cable.  This augers got some miles on it!  Yours should last a long time too.

Using our manual drain auger on a slow running drain starting at the P Trap. This was an easy clog to clear in no time with an auger. 

But wait…Some Plumbing Info First: What is a P trap?

A P trap is a U shaped section of pipe that holds water in your pipes.  The image below is from my under my bathroom sink. The water sitting in the P trap keeps gas from rising up through your drains from the sewer.  

They are part of the building code.  The U turn in the P trap is where most clogs occur and may be where your drain auger gets stuck when you’re trying to unclog a drain. Here is a picture of the P Trap under my sink for reference.

Pro Tip
If you hit the P trap, or another bend in the pipes, slowly crank your drain auger while applying steady pressure to push it through. You should get through after a few cranks of the cable.

What if My Clog isn’t Coming Out?

Sometimes you might have a deeper clog and will need to remove the trap arm.  This is the piece of pipe that is between the P trap and the wall.  Get a bucket and place it under the trap arm.  Remove the trap arm and follow the steps above to feed your auger into the pipe in the wall and clear your stubborn clog. 

Removing your P Trap and cleaning it is a great idea. Also, auger all the pipes past the P Trap for a thorough cleaning a couple of times per year. Be careful is some of the pipe arms are glued together, you don’t want to break those fittings.

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Difference between a Drain Auger and a Drain Snake

A drain auger is a tool that has a long metal cable, usually 25-50 feet long with a bulb head, that you feed into your pipes and rotate to remove both complicated and uncomplicated clogs like hair or crayons.

A drain snake is a short piece of plastic with teeth on the side. Do drain snakes work? When should I use a drain snake? Well, for certain clogs they do work. Drain snakes remove very shallow clogs like hair and that’s it. Drain snakes don’t clean out hard clogs, deep clogs, or clean out your pipes to prevent future clogs. We recommend a drain auger for all out readers, instead of a drain snake. Check out the differences below.

How to Use a Power Drain Auger  


Power drain augers take it up a notch.  They run on electricity, batteries, or you can attach a cordless drill to your auger and spin it that way.  You can also use them manually.

When tested, this Ryobi Power Spin Drain Cleaner exceeded our expectations for how easy and light it is to use.  We really liked how durable and well-built the auger felt. It’s our preferred electric model.

Using a power auger is the same as using a manual drain auger except the power ones feed the cable into the drain for you with Autofeed and then they also auto retract the cable out of the drain. It also spins it for you much faster than a manual auger. This makes it super easy to auger many drains efficiently.

Check out the instructions above for how to do this.

How to Use a Plastic Drain Snake


This has got to be the simplest tool available, but it does take more elbow grease than using a drum auger or a power drain auger.  It’s for the most shallow, uncomplicated clogs like hair.  Anything worse, and you’ll need a proper drain auger.

You simply push the plastic drain snake down your drain until you hit your clog.  Push it down a bit further while twisting to make sure you;ve got a good grip on your clog.  

You then pull the snake back up the drain and hopefully your clog is stuck on the tiny teeth on the sides of your snake.  

Keep trying until you believe you’ve got most of your clog out and then run some hot water down the drain for about 5 mins to really wash that clog away.

How to Use a Drain Auger on a Toilet

You shouldn’t be using a drain auger on a toilet.  Drain augers are built for tackling clogs in your drains, while toilet augers are built to remove nasty clogs from your toilet.  

They are two totally different types of pipes and clogs.  You need different tools to get the job done.  Check out our detailed post to see if you can use a drain auger on a toilet.

If you have a clogged up toilet, you should be using a toilet auger.

How to Clean Your Drain Snake

Your drain snake will be covered in some disgusting goo from your pipes and your clog once you’re done using it. 

Our best advice for cleaning your drain snake is: 

  1. Put your drain snake back down your pipe  
  2. Flush a ton of water and disinfectant or bleach down your pipe 
  3. Pull out the drain snake and place it in a bucket or a large garbage bag 
  4. Take the bucket/bag outside 
  5. Hose down your drain snake and scrub it with a brush and disinfectant 
  6. Let it air dry and then put wire oil on the cable to protect the cable from rust and corrosion

Can You Use a Snake on PVC Pipe?

Yes, but because PVC is plastic, you will need to be extra careful when spinning or moving the auger or snake around.   

Don’t try to get rid of clogs with chemicals if you have PVC piping.  Instead, try running some hot water down the pipes for 5 mins to see if that melts away your clog.  If not, you’re going to need to snake that drain. 

How to Get a Drain Auger Unstuck

Sometimes a drain auger gets stuck in your pipes because of all the bends in the pipes. What you have to do is crank your auger in a continuous motion and then push it forward a bit. You should feel it get unstuck while doing this. Then keep cranking it while you pull backwards. It will eventually become unstuck, you just need to be patient.

Drain Clog Prevention

Here are some tips to prevent future drain clogs:

  • Watch that the kids put anything down the drains
  • Clean out your pipes twice per year with a drain auger
  • Grease should be poured into a container and thrown out, not down your toilet
  • Use a drain catcher in your sink drains to catch any debris that gets into the sink

Cost of Hiring a Plumber Versus Buying a Drain Auger

Hiring a plumber to unclog your drains costs anywhere from $100- 250, depending on the area and how complicated the clog is. A drain auger can be as cheap as $30. You can also use your drain auger as many times as you like, so I consider it an investment.


How to use a drain auger isn’t confusing or hard and in the end, buying one will save you a ton of money on plumbers. 


What is a good drain auger to buy for me?

Check out our detailed reviews and how to buy the best drain auger in our post HERE.