In comparison with expensive drain cleaning machines and potentially dangerous cleaning chemicals, a plumbing snake is a very useful and versatile tool for DIY plumbing fixes. And when you're dealing with a pipe section as delicate as the one connecting your basement's floor drain to the municipal sewer line, there are few better options out there for reducing clogs. Check out these three tips for when you're using a plumbing snake on a clogged basement floor drain.
Opt For A Plastic Head Over A Metal Head
Plumbing snakes can come with either plastic or metal heads. While metal heads are slightly more efficient at clearing out clogs, plastic heads are necessary for jobs like toilet cleanings, where porcelain needs to be protected from scratches.
Even if your floor drain's pipe isn't quite as fragile as porcelain, there's no point in causing unnecessary damage where doing extensive repair work would require you to tear up the whole floor. So if it's possible, use a plumbing snake with a plastic head and be patient when it gets stuck once or twice. As long as you turn the snake's handle diligently and shake the metal spine every once in awhile, most obstructions can be overcome in short order.
Make Sure The Water Level In The Trap Isn't Too High
It'll be much harder to push the snake towards the clog in an efficient manner if there's lots of water sitting and running down the bottom of the pipe. While this isn't an issue you can always fix easily, you can certainly mitigate the problem if the water level in the drain's trap section is much higher than it should be.
When you remove the ball in the hole below the clean-out plug designed to prevent water from flowing back up out of the trap, be very wary if you find nothing but compressed water instead of a section of clear air below it. In this case, the water level is too high and you should cut down on it a bit via a wet-dry vacuum. This will allow excess water in the pipe to flow down into the trap, clearing the way for your plumbing snake.
After You've Removed Debris, Check To See If The Drain's Smell Has Changed
Once you've removed a decent chunk of debris from the pipe using your plumbing snake, one way to check whether everything's clear is to pour a bucket of water down the drain. If it all disappears, you know you've done your job well.
However, if it turns out that there's quite a lot of gunk left in the pipe, doing this will only complicate the rest of your job further. Therefore, you might want to use the alternative method of sniffing the head of the drain before and after you use the snake.
Since you need to remove the drain's clean-out plug to get at the main pipe, you should be sniffing very strong sewer fumes in the absence of a clog. Thus, if you don't smell anything that's particularly strong, you can be reasonably sure that you have more work to do.