Plumber's snake

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A man clears a sanitary sewer pipe with a motorized snake.

A plumber's snake is a slender, flexible auger used to dislodge clogs in plumbing. The plumber's snake is often reserved for difficult clogs that cannot be loosened with a plunger. It is also sometimes called a toilet jack or electric eel.

Auger varieties[edit]

Plumber's snakes have a coiled (helix-shaped) metal wire with a broader gap between the coils at the terminal end. The operator turns a crank to rotate the helix as it moves through the pipe.

If the clog is caused by a dense, but shreddable obstacle, such as tree roots or glass wool, the auger might break-up it up enough to enable flow. A small, lightweight obstruction might be snagged or corkscrewed by the auger, enabling the operator to pull it away. As the auger rotates, it also flails against the interior walls of the pipe, scraping off minerals and oil.

Hand auger / hand spinner[edit]

Hand auger
Hand auger

Hand augers are useful for clearing sink and bathtub drains. They are unsuitable for sending through flush toilets, because the wire might damage the bowl; also, flush toilets have relatively large drain pipes in which the narrow snake can be become tangled. (A 14-inch cable, for example, should never be used in a drain with a calibre of more than two inches.)

Closet auger / toilet auger[edit]

The closet auger (named after water closet) feeds a relatively short auger through a hook-shaped length of metal tubing. The hook shape makes it easier to feed the auger into the toilet. A plastic boot on the end of the auger protects the finish of the visible porcelain. Since most toilet clogs occur in the trap built into the bowl, the short cable is sufficient to break up or retrieve the greater majority of clogs.

Drum augers[edit]

Drum auger
Drum auger

A drum auger is a motorized auger with modular blades designed for various gauges of pipe. A drum auger is powerful enough to cut through tree roots. Used unskillfully, they can also damage plastic pipework and even copper tubing.

Roto-Rooter[edit]

Further information: Roto-Rooter § History

The Roto-Rooter is an electric auger invented in 1933 by Samuel Blanc, an American. His wife called the invention a Roto-Rooter, because the cable and blades rotated as they cut through tree roots inside sewer pipe. Competing companies made imitations after the Blanc's patent expired in 1953, but the machine is manufactured by and for a United States company called the Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]