Drain Snake VS Drain Auger

The world of plumbing has several tools when it comes to cleaning or declogging a drain, or fixing leaks, and some tools are designed specifically for a particular job that often seems to confuse people. A Drain Snake and Drain Auger are two such tools that serve similar purposes when it comes to cleaning and unclogging drains but there are slight differences that make these tools serve unique purposes. 

A Drain Snake, often called a ‘plumbing snake,’ is a long, flexible tool that is operated manually by inserting it into a clogged drain to reach and dislodge things that are causing the obstruction. Drain Snake typically has a handle at one end and a flexible spiral coil at the other which is designed to crawl into tight spaces and even make its way through “P trap”, bends, and corners of the pipes and drains. 

A Drain Auger, on the other hand, is a more complex tool. Auger consists of a spiral coil, similar to the Drain Snake but comes inside a canister. The auger is used by cranking the lever on the canister which in turn lowers or retracts the coiled spring inside the drain pipe. Drain Auger can be electrically powered and is more useful in fighting tougher clogs.  

Understanding The Difference Between a Drain Auger and a Drain Snake

There is a difference in how a Drain Snake is used compared to the operations of an Auger. While the two terms, Drain Snake and Auger are often used interchangeably, we thought it’d be best if you knew the differences between these two important drain cleaning tools to make the best choice when you decide to pick one to fight that nasty clog under your kitchen sink drain or your bathroom. There are specific scenarios where you can make use of a drain Snake/Auger to dislodge minor to severe clogs in your drain pipes. While a Snake is a simple tool that can go inside small drain pipes and break down minor clogs, Augers are a little more complex, go a long way inside the drains, and are more powerful, making them efficient against severe clogs. 

How Does a Drain Snake Work?

Drain Snake VS Drain Auger

Drain Snake is a manually operated tool that is easy to use and promising against minor clogs and is very effective in pulling out clogs rather than breaking them apart when inserted into small drain pipes with turns and bends, by pushing in and then twisting inside the pipes to pull debris out and clear the clog. Since these are small and manual tools, Drain Snakes can’t go very far into the drain, so they are useful when the clog is near the mouth of the drain. 

A drain snake comes in various sizes but the handheld ones usually come with 15-25 feet of cable. These snakes can be used on pipes ranging from 1-¼’’ to 2” in diameter and are quick and efficient in pulling out hair, scum, and other waste. Furthermore, a drain snake can also be used periodically on bathroom drains, bathtubs, and shower drains as a preventive measure to avoid the buildup of debris and waste over time, preventing future clogs. 

Limitation of a Drain Snake

While the Drain Snake is a great tool in fighting clogs, it’s not the best one out there. There are some limitations to this device that we are now going to discuss. 

  1. Not suitable for Tough Clogs:  Firstly, Drain Snakes are not as useful against tougher clogs. Because of their flexible design, these snakes turn on themselves if pushed too hard against something like a drain pipe. Sometimes, the snake’s head can damage the pipe itself if it turns back, and this leads to a more severe problem like a leaking pipe.
  2. Limited Reach: The limited reach of the Drain Snake makes them inefficient against some deep-lying clogs and toilet clogs as they can turn on themselves when they reach the wide mouth of the drain pipe where it meets the main sewer line or the toilet drain. The shorter cable length also contributes to the efficacy of drain snakes as this can only be used in shallow clogs that happen in narrow pipes.
  3. Simple Design: Drain Snakes are simple machines and are easy to operate and handle but this also makes them less useful against clogs that require heavy power. Sometimes, a clog can be stubborn and not easy to dislodge and this is when a Drain Snake is not the perfect tool to reach out for as they are only designed for simple operations at the shallow end of the drain pipes. 
  4. Limited Functionalities: Due to its simple design, motor-less mechanism, and shorter reach of the cable, Drain Snake has very limited functionality. The drain snake can be used by most people if they follow simple instructions or watch a how-to-use drain snake video on the internet.

However, despite having a simple design and limited functionality, the drain snake continues to be used widely by homeowners to fight clogs in their bathroom and kitchen drain pipes and has been providing good results if used properly in areas where it works best. 

How does a Drain Auger work?

Drain Auger typically has thicker and more rigid cabling combined with a motorized or hand-crank mechanism to push and pull the cable inside drain pipes. A Drain Auger, also referred to as a ‘Drum Auger,’ has a long spiral cable that can go deep down into the drains and even sewers to dislodge clogs. This tough contraption is designed to disintegrate debris from a deep-formed clog or even pull them out with a hooked end, depending on the severity of the clog, to restore the flow of water in your drain pipes.

Augers come in various sizes, ranging from ¼ inches in diameter to 1 inch, with cables extending from 3 feet to more than 50 feet in heavy-duty models. Typically, you would use a Drain Auger with an ¼ inch cable for a 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inch pipe and an ½ inch cable for pipes up to 4 inches in diameter.  For anything more than that, you’d need to seek a professional as they are trained to handle severe clogs using heavy-duty augers. However, if you are trained in using the device, they can be rented as well. 

These Aguers can be used in wider drain pipes against multiple types of clogs and can also give results in breaking down tough clogs in sewer pipes. 

Limitation of a Drain Auger

Drain Auger can be an efficient tool in fighting severe clogs but it comes with some challenges in operation. We have listed some of the key points you should consider before choosing Drain Auger as a tool to unclog your drains and sewers. 

  1. Complexity: The use of a Drain Auger can consist of some complexity as using an Auger requires more technical skill and safety precautions compared to a drain snake. To ensure that it works and doesn’t have any adverse effects, you have to follow operation instructions which can sometimes be challenging for some people. 
  2. Cost: For regular homeowners, buying an Auger could be more costly than an inexpensive Drain Snake. While a drain snake can be bought for something as low as $15 from Home Depot, a Drain Auger could cost you somewhere around $50 to $1000 based on the size and power of the machine. 
  3. Potential Damage: On top of that, if used on a small pipe, the Drain Auger poses the threat of damaging the pipe with its sharp end which could further worsen the situation with your kitchen or bathroom drain. Precise operation instruction and steady hands are necessary to use the Drain Auger. 
  4. Size and Weight: Heavy-duty Augers are bulky and heavier to work with and require physical prowess to handle making them not the best choice for old people. Handling heavy machinery could be a challenge for everyday people and it is advised that you call in a professional if you want to use an Auger to clean drain clogs. 

There are different types of Augers available in the market that range from handheld ones to industrial scale based on the power rating of the motor, length, and the diameter of the cable so always make sure you’re getting the one that suits your needs before investing. 

How to Choose Whether to Use a Drain Snake or Auger

A decision to choose whether to use a drain snake or an auger to combat a drain clog should be made only after assessing the situation at hand. While it might appear like the Drain Auger offers more functionality and a wider range of applications against clogs deep down into the drain pipes, a Drain Snake is a perfectly suitable tool to remove clogs that are shallow and are not severe.

Drain Snake Usage: Usually, a Drain Snake is the first resort in unclogging drains as it is easy to use and requires no technical knowledge. If the clog is located near the drain hole, the snake can work its magic in minutes to clear the pipes. On top of that, a Drain Snake can easily be operated to clear soft clogs regularly by every homeowner.

Drain Auger Usage: A Drain Auger, on the other hand, can go several feet deep down into the sink or bathroom drain pipes. Specifically,  if the clog is more severe and deeper into the pipe and a drain snake does not do the trick, that’s when you need a Drain Auger to get things done.  

Other factors like the price point, condition and location of the clog, and the person using it, all vary the usage and benefits of these two tools used to unclog drains. 

Using Professional Plumbing Services

Unclogging drains is not always an easy task. While the usage of tools like drain augers and snakes can do the trick for you, sometimes it becomes necessary to seek help from professionals who have a better understanding of the problem. Sometimes DIY methods and improper use of chemicals and tools can cause more harm than good by accidentally causing more blockage or chipping the drain pipe making the situation worse. This can also bring adverse effects on the building’s plumbing and the proper itself. If a drain snake doesn’t unclog your kitchen or bathroom drain, and you lack the experience and expertise to operate a motor-powered auger, don’t hesitate to call out for help. 

Professionals at Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Water Cleanup are well-versed in locating various kinds of clogs in sink drains, kitchen drains, bathtub drains, and toilets and are precise in identifying the severity of it. With over 35 years of experience under our belt, expert plumbers at Roto-Rooter are capable of utilizing tailored drain cleaning services with a proper step-by-step study and breakdown of the problem. We use tools and technology that are designed to break down even the most severe of clogs and we do it all non-intrusively and in the most efficient manner. 

Call us today if you require help in fixing your clogged drain or require a routine inspection of your drain pipes at an affordable cost that will help keep the plumbing system in your home as good as new. Remember, when it comes to plumbing, prevention, and inspection are always better than the cure.