Toilet Auger vs. Plumbing Snake: What’s the Difference?

When facing the frustration of a stubborn clog lodged in a drain, many plumbers and DIY enthusiasts reach for the same tools: plumbing snakes and toilet augers.

But while the two share many similarities, even down to the same intention, they’re not quite the same.

Instead, they differ on several fronts, including the design, function, and specific scenarios where they’re most useful. Understanding these key differences can help you make the right decision when debating between the two to remedy your plumbing predicament.

Understanding Toilet Augers

A toilet auger, also known as a closet auger, is a specialized tool designed to tackle tough clogs in toilet drains. It features a long, flexible shaft with a curled end intended to break up obstructions and a hand crank to navigate it through the pipe.

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This tool is a reliable and effective solution for dealing with stubborn toilet blockages that prove to be too tricky for a conventional plunger.

How They Work

A toilet auger works by twisting through blockages inside the toilet’s drain to break them up. Blockages of toilet paper and other solids can become lodged in the toilet’s pipes, preventing waste and water from draining properly.

The toilet auger is an extension that allows you to reach the problem with ease to break it up and get things moving smoothly.

Once the auger reaches the blockage, a few twists to the handle usually help dislodge the clog and escort the waste on its way. While it serves a dirty purpose, it does its job well.

How to Use a Toilet Auger

  1. Get ready: Using a toilet auger is a smelly, dirty job. So, protect yourself by donning utility gloves and having a bucket or towels on standby to catch any water or debris.
  2. Insert the tool: Carefully insert the end of the auger into the toilet’s drain hole, ensuring the protective sleeve is in place to prevent damage to the toilet bowl.
  3. Reach the clog: Feed the auger through the toilet drain, turning the handle to extend the auger cord until it reaches the clog. When it reaches the clog, you’ll feel resistance in the cable, as it can’t go any further.
  4. Break things up: Once you feel resistance, begin rotating the handle to break up the clog. Most toilet augers are equipped with a hook or claw at the end to work through the obstruction.
  5. Remove the auger: Once you’ve dislodged the clog, slowly retract the auger, keeping the handle movement consistent to avoid damaging the toilet.
  6. Check your handiwork: Flush the toilet to ensure the clog has been completely cleared. You may need to repeat the process if the toilet is still not flushing correctly.

As always, ensure you handle the tool with care to avoid causing damage to your toilet fixtures. If you attempt to remove the clog from your toilet multiple times using the auger but to no avail, it’s best to call a plumber.

Some clogs are more complex and require more in-depth solutions.

Deconstructing Plumbing Snakes

A plumbing snake, often referred to as a drain snake, is an essential tool used to unclog and clear obstructions from various types of plumbing fixtures.

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Consisting of a long, flexible metal rod with a spiral blade at the end, plumbing snakes are designed to break through stubborn blockages lodged in various types of drains. The opposite end of the snake usually features a handle for easier operation.

Unlike a toilet auger, a plumbing snake is not specifically designed for any particular type of pipe, making it a versatile tool to keep in your arsenal.

However, due to the absence of a protective sleeve, you’ll need to be careful when substituting it for a toilet auger. Since it doesn’t have a sleeve to prevent the cable from damaging the delicate porcelain of a toilet, it’s not ideal for that application.

How They Work

A plumbing snake works much the same as a toilet auger. However, unlike a toilet auger, plumbing snakes are versatile and can tackle multiple types of drains.

They can handle sinks, bathtubs, showers, and more, effectively breaking up clogs and dragging them out of place.

Once you feed the snake into the drain experiencing problems, you’ll feel the coils at the end meet resistance. At this point, a few turns to the handle will help dislodge and break up the clog, ensuring water can move smoothly through the drain.

How to Use a Plumbing Snake

Using a plumbing snake is a straightforward process that involves the following steps:

  1. Prep the area: Put on a pair of utility gloves for hygiene and safety, and grab a bucket or towels handy to capture any water or debris that may come out of the drain.
  2. Feed the snake into the drain: Slowly feed the end of the snake into the drain, turning the handle clockwise as you go. You should feel resistance when you meet the clog, as the coils will not easily travel further.
  3. Dislodge the blockage: Once you reach the clog, rotate the handle on the snake to break it up. You might need to apply some force here, but be careful not to be overly forceful, as you could damage the drain.
  4. Remove the snake: Once you’ve broken up the clog, start to slowly retract the snake, continuing to turn the handle in the same direction with even, steady motion.
  5. Check the drain: Lastly, run water to check your handiwork and see if the drain is clear. If it’s still blocked, you may need to repeat the process.

Careful handling is crucial when using a plumbing snake to avoid damaging your pipes or fixtures. Additionally, remember that it’s best to call a plumber after several tries without fruitful results.

So, What’s the Difference?

Plumbers Snake

The primary difference between a toilet auger and a plumbing snake is the design. A toilet auger features a design tailored to its purpose, complete with a protective sleeve that prevents the cable from damaging the delicate porcelain construction.

In contrast, plumbing snakes are less specialized. Instead, they feature a lengthy cable with a spiral blade at the end that can tackle clogs in most drains. While they could work for a toilet clog, the lack of a protective sleeve could spell trouble for the toilet’s delicate porcelain surface.

The best choice for your plumbing needs hinges on the type of drain you’re working with. If you’re working with a toilet, the toilet augers are ideal. For other types of drain clogs, a standard plumbing snake is sufficient.

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