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How To Use A Plumbing Snake To Unclog A Kitchen Drain

how to use plumbing snake

If you have a clogged sink drain and you’re already tried to unclog it with a plunger but wasn’t successful you’re probably going to have to go a bit further and snake the drain.

When you look under your kitchen sink and see the pipes this may seem like a daunting task but it’s really not that bad when you take the necessary safety precautions and have the right tools.

Tools Needed:

  • Power Snake Drain Cleaner
  • Bucket or pan
  • Newspaper
  • Adjustable Slip-Joint Pliers
  • Leather Gloves

general pipe cleaner

To determine whether you are using the proper drain cleaning tool you must first locate the source of the problem.

If the clog is in a small drain like your kitchen sink, a tub or a shower a drain cleaning tool like the one pictured above is the appropriate tool to use.

You can pick up a power rod snake from any rental place like Home Depot or Lowes.

If several drains are affected then the blockage is probably in a larger line common to those drains.

If this is the case then this tool would not be the right tool for the job and you’ll probably need to call a plumber to clear larger drain lines.

Using a power rod is a safe and clean way to clear small drains.

However, as with any power tools certain safety precautions are necessary.

Plumbing Safety Precautions

Remember these safety rules as you operate the machine.

  • Check the power cord to make sure there are no cuts or frays.
  • If the power cord is not long enough, use a heavy-duty 3-wire extension cord plugged into a grounded outlet.
  • Do not operate the machine while standing in water.
  • Wear leather gloves to protect your hands while you are handling the cable. (do not use cloth gloves)
  • Wear safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from any debris from the rotating cable or drain opening.
  • Never use the machine in a drain that has a chemical drain cleaner in it.
  • Know how to shut off the machine in an emergency.

How To Use Plumbing Snake

Here’s a step by step process on how to use a plumbing snake on a kitchen drain.

Unscrew the Nuts That Hold the P-Trap

By the way, the P-trap is the thing that most often corrodes when you use drain cleaners over a period of time.

If you are constantly experiencing a clogged drain and you use a lot of the drain cleaners you’ll discover that they are very corrosive.

They will settle in the P-trap and corrode the metal although many P-traps being used today are made of PVC like the one you see in the picture below.

slip nuts

Put down a bucket to catch the water that is currently sitting inside the P-trap.

Take off the P-trap and the wall tube that goes into the main drain.

You should be able to unscrew the plastic slip nuts by hand and remove the P-trap.

Remove The P-Trap

p-trap removal

Pour the water from the P-trap into your bucket.


Once you remove the wall tube you will see some buildup that is part of the reason for the clog.


Remove the small extension pipe that will be in the way as you snake the drain.


The plumbing snake should be moving in a forward motion whether you are pushing it forward or pulling it out.

As you are looking at the drum it should be turning in a clockwise direction.


Loosen the chuck on the power snake and start feeding the rod into the main pipe until you meet resistance.

Feed the pipe until it stops. You will either hit a clog or a bend in the pipe.

Line up the rod with the main pipe and feed it until it stops. Tighten the chuck to lock the rod into place.

Allow 4-6 inches of space between the chuck and the main drain opening so that the rod doesn’t flex.


Turn on the machine and gently push it into the main pipe letting the rod do most of the work to avoid torque buildup.

Once all of the rod has been fed into the wall and the pipe cleaner is near the drain opening, stop. Loosen the chuck again so that you can get a few more inches of the rod out of the drum.

Lock the rod down again once you have 4-6 inches of separation. Continue to feed the rod into the hole.

Keep loosening and feeding the rod into the drain until you have worked the snake all the way in which may be quite a distance.

Do not force the cable into the drain. You won’t clear the line any faster and you could damage the cable or seriously injure yourself.

The rod must turn freely as the cage rotates. If it jams the cable will build up torque and start to buckle.

If the cable begins to buckle or twist, stop and loosen the chuck and push any excess cable back into the drum before continuing.

When you meet resistance in the line move the rod back and forth until the resistance lessens and the cable moves freely again.

As you feed the snake into your line you will eventually feel it break through to your main drain.

You’ll know this is happening because the cable will become very easy to push or you will have used your entire rod.



Once the cable is all in it will help break up and loosen anything that has created the clog.

Once you’ve completely rodded the pipe loosen the chuck and slowly pull the rod out of the pipe.

If it doesn’t pull out easily by hand then tighten the rod and slowly pull it always keeping the drill turning in a forward motion.

Unclogging a kitchen drain can be a little messy but it’s very easy to do whether you have grease, food or any type of hard build up.

A general pipe cleaner will help you break right through the clog.

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