How to Unclog a Toilet With a Drain Snake

Plunger not getting the job done? It might be time to reach for the drain snake.

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An hour or less




You've tried flushing, you've tried draining, and you've tried plunging. Before you give up and call your plumber, there's still one method for unclogging a toilet you should try. It's easy to learn (if a little gross) and requires just one special tool: the drain snake.

Tools Required

  • Drain Snake (Auger)

A drain toilet snake is a long wire coil with a corkscrew-like tip that you feed into your pipes until it encounters the clog. Even the least expensive toilet snake will clear a toilet. But the closet auger is a special type of drain snake designed to get around the first bend, keep debris at arm’s length, and yet still spin the coil to hook foreign objects. A rubber sleeve protects the enamel bowl from scrape marks. These toilet snakes are often short because most obstructions catch in the first S-bend or at the floor flange. (Plumbers report that the most common foreign objects are toys.) A toilet snake can also be used on clogged bathroom sinks.

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Project step-by-step (5)

Step 1

toilet snake used to unclog toilet

How to Snake a Toilet

Learning how to snake a toilet could save be a lifesaver when you’ve got a clogged toilet and nowhere else to turn. Here’s the step-by-step process:


Prepare the area around the toilet for any likely mess. Lay a couple of towels around the base, position a large bucket nearby and put on rubber gloves.

Step 2

Extend the Auger

Place the end of the auger into the toilet bowl so that it points down the drain. Turn the handle clockwise to extend the auger’s cable (or “snake”) down into the drain towards your clog.

Step 3

Find the Clog

Closet augers are typically made with about 25 ft. of reach, so you might need to crank for a while depending on how far down your clog is. When you feel the cable come up against some form of resistance, that means you’ve reached the clog and can stop cranking.

Step 4

Break Down the Clog

Once you’ve made contact with the clog, push the auger back and forth slightly a few times, then begin to crank the cable back in. Your goal here isn’t to bring the entire clog back up the drain; it’s to break down the clog enough so the toilet can flush.

Step 5

Flush to Remove

When you’ve fully retracted the auger, dump any nasty clog debris into the bucket you set up earlier. Repeat this process until the clog seems to be broken up and your toilet can be flushed as normal.

Woman Unclogging Toilet With Drain SnakeFamily Handyman