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Toilet Auger vs Drain Snake: What’s the Difference? (Comparison & Guide)

Outdoor Toilet

Although you can expect appliances and systems in your home to fail and require maintenance, a clogged toilet is one of the more unpleasant issues to address. Seeing the water level rise instead of disappearing down the drainpipe is agonizing. Fortunately, there are a couple of tools that help you out when things get rough. We’ll discuss the differences between the toilet auger and snake and which one you should use for your plumbing problems.

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What are Toilet Augers and Snakes? What’s the Difference?

At first glance, toilet augers and drain snakes seem pretty similar. They utilize long stretches of flexible coiled cabling, crank handles, and special spear tips. However, there are a few differences between the two.

Toilet Augers

Toilet augers usually are much more heavy-duty than drain snakes. As the name implies, they’re specifically for toilets.

With special bowl guards—to minimize damage to the porcelain bowl—and a manual crank, an auger winds its way down the drain until it reaches the dreaded clog. It is here that an auger separates itself from the drain snake.

An auger uses its more rugged design and closed-spear tip to force its way through the obstruction. The goal of an auger is to break down the clog and force it through the sewage system.

Drain Snakes

Snakes are the smaller counterpart to toilet augers. They’re usually not the ideal tools for a toilet clog but will work in a pinch if that’s all you have.

drain snake
Image By: Narin Eungsuwat, Shutterstock

However, snakes are ideal for smaller drains such as sinks and bathtubs. The most significant difference between drain snakes and augers is how they remove the clogs. While an auger attempts to force its way through and demolish the obstruction, a snake is designed to pull it out the way it came.

Drain snakes are equipped with a special hook-tip that latches onto the blockage so you can retrieve it. You’ll also find some augers with a hook or grasping tip. But they’re more useful in larger diameter pipes simply pushing their way through.

How to Operate a Toilet Auger or Drain Snake

Very few augers or snakes come with an operating guide or user’s manual. Failure to properly use either can cause severe damage to your piping or toilet. So, pay close attention if you’ve never used one before.

Operating either an auger or a snake is relatively similar. After all, they’re both just flexible cabling. However, there are key details you should observe.

Using a Toilet Auger

  • Place the auger in the toilet bowl with the curved portion of the crank facing into the drainpipe. The handle should not go inside the drain, only the cabling. Leave a buffer of 4-6 inches of cabling between the drainpipe and the auger handle.
  • Once you’re in position, start guiding the auger down through the drain by turning the crank handle clockwise. DO NOT FORCE It. Slow and steady wins the race here.
  • When you reach the clog, stop turning your auger. You’ll know when you’ve reached the clog in your pipe. The crank handle will encounter more resistance than when winding your way down.
  • Once your auger has encountered the clog, slowly apply more pressure to drive the auger forward and break up the clog. There will be resistance, but don’t force it. This is the point where your plumbing system is most susceptible to damage.
  • If you feel that the auger has passed through the blockage (or has latched on if using a hook-tip), slowly withdraw the auger.
  • Once the auger has been cleared from your toilet and you feel you have better drainage, flush the toilet. If your blockage has cleared, it is back to business as usual. However, some clogs require multiple auger passes.
Pros of Toilet Augers
  • Heavy duty
  • Mechanical assistance pushing coil through the drain
  • Ideal for toilets
Cons of Toilet Augers
  • More expensive
  • Bulkier

Using a Drain Snake

  • Toilet snakes are smaller than most augers and don’t necessarily have a crank handle. However, you can still feed the snake by hand. You may have to rotate the snake in different directions to accommodate bends and twists in the plumbing. When doing this, we recommend wearing a pair of gloves. The metal coil can get rough on your hands, so it’s best to protect them.
  • Once you get past the initial bends of your toilet’s drainage, you’ll find the snake slides relatively easily through the piping. But eventually, you’ll reach your clog. And once you do, stop.
  • With the snake’s tip at the clog’s source, slowly twist the end into the blockage. When it can twist no more, attempt to pull out the offending item. Do this carefully. A snake is a simple, flexible coil, but when manipulated in unnatural directions (like that of a toilet drain), undue tension will be placed on the coil.
  • After removing the clog’s source, verify that the toilet is free and clear by giving it a flush. If the clog remains, you may need to use the snake several times to create a passage.
Pros of Drain Snakes
  • Cheaper
  • More compact
  • Great for smaller drains
Cons of Drain Snakes
  • More delicate
  • Must use hands to manipulate coil

Remember, if either of these techniques fail…Call a professional plumber. They have special equipment that can easily take care of your issue. It’s better to ask for help clearing a clog than pay for a complete piping repair.

Which Tool is Right for You?

To determine which tool is best for you, you really only need to ask one question. Where is your clog located?

If you have a clogged toilet, use a toilet auger. They’re specifically designed to handle tough clogs in plumbing. You should only use a drain snake if an auger isn’t available. Depending on the severity of the clog, it may take several tries with the snake to clear the toilet. However, if you have a clog in a sink or bathtub, the snake can usually remove the clog in one pass.

Featured Image Credit: PeakPX


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