How to snake a toilet in five easy steps
To clear a clog in your toilet without a plunger, or if plunging hasn’t worked, a toilet snake can help you return to a functioning flush (sigh of relief). To get started, put on a pair of rubber gloves and make sure you’ve located the water supply in case you need to quickly restrict the water flow.
Note: Snaking a toilet is the final approach you should take before you call a plumber. Always start by plunging or trying a cleaning solution method like dish soap and hot water, or a mixture of baking soda and white vinegar. Read our guide to unclogging a toilet for step by step breakdown of each method.
Table of contentsWhat causes clogsWhat is a drain snake?How to snake a toilet in 5 steps
What causes clogs
Much like your kitchen sink drain (or any other drain, for that matter), toilet drains can become clogged. The usual culprits are waste, an object, or even toilet paper, which can all get lodged in the drain.
Look under your kitchen or bathroom sink and you’ll see a pipe with a bend in it that carries away waste and water. That’s called a p-trap (that u-bend plus the straight pipe that leads away looks like the letter P on its side). That same shape is incorporated into the porcelain that makes up your toilet, so visualize that when you are working to flush the clog through the toilet trap—you’re trying to move the clog through the bend just like the pressure of a flush does when your toilet is working regularly.
What is a drain snake?
A drain snake is a long, retractable metal cable that you wind down into a drain to either grab the material causing the clog, or force it through. A toilet snake is a type of drain snake made specifically for use on toilets. You use a toilet snake the same way that you use a drain snake, but toilet snakes are made specifically so that they don't damage the porcelain of your toilet bowl.
You’ll hear the words toilet snake, toilet auger, and closet snake used interchangeably, but the important thing to remember is that these tools are different from other plumbing snakes in that they have a protective rubber coating closeting the metal shaft to prevent your toilet bowl from being scratched or damaged.
How to snake a toilet in 5 steps
Visualize the p-trap shape when you are working to flush the clog through the toilet drain—you’re trying to move the clog through the bend just like the pressure of a flush does when your toilet is working regularly. When you see the flow of water into the toilet return at a normal water level, you’ve removed the clog!
Set the end of the toilet snake’s metal cable into the bowl, all the way down into the drain.
Crank the handle clockwise to send the cable into the drain until the cable has made it completely through. If it gets difficult to crank, let go of the crank to let it reset and then try again.
Slowly retract the cable by turning the handle counterclockwise to either break up or pull out the clog.
Once the cable is fully retracted and the clog is removed, you’ll see the water level return to normal. Flush the toilet to check that the toilet is draining normally once again.
Make sure to clean your drain snake after use.
If you find that you toilet is clogged often, try these preventive tips:
Always put the toilet seat and cover down after use to prevent objects from accidentally dropping in.
Only flush things that are meant to be flushed. For example, paper towels and cleaning wipes do not break down like toilet paper does!
Avoid using chemical drain cleaners that can cause build up in the drain and cause damage to the toilet bowl.
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