Clogged and slow drains pose a problem for any homeowner. The best method of clearing a clog is a plumber's snake. Running a long snake into a toilet or other drain can work to clear the clog but may be difficult. Alternatives would be to find openings along the pipe or to use an alternate drain.
Using the Snake
A 30-foot plumbers snake will put a lot of tool into a short length of pipe. A toilet drain follows several curves before reaching the vent pipes and main drain. Thirty feet may not reach all the way to the main pipe, but will cover the majority of the distance. The downside to using such a long snake is that you will have to navigate turns and twists in the pipes. While most joints are Y-joints that point toward the main drain, you could force the snake back into the drain of an adjacent fixture. A 12-foot snake is ideal for most home plumbing needs. You do not have to insert all 30 feet into the drain; using small sections of the snake while turning the snake by hand achieves the same result as a shorter plumber's snake.
Always trace the pattern of your drain pipes. A shower and bathroom sink usually connect to the same drain as the toilet, with the toilet sitting between the shower or sink and the main drain. Following the toilet, you likely have an additional branch within 12 to 20 feet of the toilet drain. Inserting a shorter snake or a small section of the same snake into the alternate drain may allow you to reach the clogged section easier. All drains have access to the main drain. You may have to remove a drain basket from some drains, such as a shower drain, to gain access. All drains, however, are built to accommodate general plumber's tools including the snake.
Most pipes have access points. A clog that is deeply buried in a toilet drain that may require using a 30-foot snake is likely positioned after the traps and vent pipes. Several drains have an access point located near the outlet for the drain. The access point is a 2- to 3-inch pipe capped with a plastic cap and a square nut. A pipe wrench easily opens the access point. Traps, such as the P-trap or S-trap commonly seen on sinks, also offer a good access point. Most traps connect with slip nuts that can be undone by hand. Most plumbing requires a trap to be placed at each drain, offering an ideal access point that removes a lot of the hurdles associated with trying to force a snake through the pipe.
Rotary tools used by plumbers are usually necessary to clear hard clogs. The rotary tools have a sharpened blade for a tip, as opposed to the simple barbs on top of a plumber's snake. When a clog works it way past the initial few feet of a toilet drain but then clogs the whole system, a simple plumber's snake may not be sufficient to shred the clog. A smaller rotary tool, which can be purchased from most hardware stores, plugs into a device similar to a drill and are fed out through a canister allowing for multiple lengths to be used. Rather than trying to tackle the clog with a basic plumber's snake, use the rotary tool and an easy access point. The construction of the rotary tool is similar to the snake, which means inserting the tool into the drain follows the same principles.