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Introduction to Drain Snakes and Hydrojetting

A clogged drain is a common yet frustrating plumbing issue that most homeowners will encounter at some point. When simple drain cleaners and plungers don’t get the job done, there are two more powerful methods that plumbers use to clear stubborn blockages: drain snakes (also called augers or plumbing snakes) and hydrojetting.

A drain snake, or plumber’s snake, is a long, flexible coiled cable that can be inserted down the drain and rotated to physically break up and hook debris that is clogging the pipe.

Hydrojetting involves shooting a highly-pressurised stream of water through the drain to scour and dislodge the blockage. Both techniques have their advantages and downsides.

Drain snakes tend to be simpler, cheaper, and less likely to damage pipes. However, they are not as thorough and often cannot clear very stubborn obstructions like tree roots. Hydrojetting has superior scouring action but works best when performed by professionals as the high water pressure can potentially damage pipes if not done properly.

This article provides an overview of how both drain cleaning methods work, when each should be used, as well as the key pros and cons to consider when dealing with a seriously clogged drain. With this information, readers can make an informed decision on the best solution for their particular plumbing dilemma.

How Do Drain Snakes Work?

Drain snakes, also known as plumbing augers or flexi-shafts, work by physically breaking up and removing blockages inside pipes. They consist of a long, flexible metal coil that is wound around a drum and fed manually into the drain opening.

To clear a clogged drain, the plumber first feeds the snake into the pipe, using the twist of the coil to work it around bends. The snake is pushed forward and the end is rotated, which allows the coil to grab onto built-up gunk, hair, and other debris snagged in the pipe.

As the snake is retrieved, the hooked debris is broken up and pulled out, effectively scrubbing the drain interior and removing the clog.

Drain snakes come in different sizes - smaller ones for sinks, shower and tub drains, and larger ones (up to 100 feet long!) for main sewer lines.

A flexible 3/8 inch coil is used for tight spots, while a 1/4 inch coil provides more strength for long runs. The snake diameter and length are chosen according to pipe size and estimated clog location.

Snakes work well for clearing minor clogs and soft obstructions like grease, soap build-up, food particles, and other organic matter. However, they are less effective against very stubborn blockages like tree roots or mineral deposits. Overall, drain snakes provide a simple, low-cost way to maintain and clear drains.

Advantages of Using a Drain Snake

Drain snakes have several advantages over hydrojetting:

  • Cost - Drain snakes are a fraction of the price of hydrojetting equipment and services. A basic hand-crank auger can be purchased for under $50, whereas hiring a professional hydrojetting service costs several hundred dollars.
  • Simplicity - Snakes are very simple to operate, even for DIY novices. Just feed the snake into the drain, crank the handle, and retract to remove debris.
  • Gentler on pipes - Drain snakes are less likely to damage pipes compared to the high-pressure water stream used in hydrojetting, which can potentially puncture or burst older pipes.
  • Accessibility - Snakes can fit into pipes as small as 1.5 inches, allowing access to clogs in tiny spaces. Hydrojetting requires larger pipes of at least 2 inches.
  • Versatility - Hand-held drain snakes allow you to target clogs in sinks, tubs, showers, and other small drains where hydrojetting equipment won’t fit.

The bottom line is that for minor clogs, drain snakes provide an affordable, user-friendly solution. They make an excellent first response before calling in the pros with hydrojetting equipment.

Disadvantages of Using a Drain Snake

While drain snakes are very useful for minor clogs, they do have some disadvantages compared to hydrojetting:

  • Limited cleaning ability - Drain snakes can only penetrate so far into pipes and cannot scour buildup off pipe walls as thoroughly as high-pressure water jets.
  • Not as effective for complete blockages - Snakes often cannot get past major obstructions like tree roots or collapsed pipes, whereas hydrojetting can power through.
  • Risk of scratching pipes - The metal coil may inadvertently scratch plastic or enamel pipes as it rubs against walls.
  • Cannot clear grease very well - Grease tends to stick to the snake, reducing its effectiveness for these clogs.
  • Slow process - Clearing a seriously clogged line with a snake takes patience and may require several attempts.

For these reasons, hydrojetting is recommended over augers for severe clogs or those involving grease, roots, or complete blockages. However, for minor sink clogs, drain snakes remain a handy first line of defence.

How Does Hydrojetting Work?

Hydrojetting uses an intense, highly-pressurised stream of water to clear blockages and scour the inside of pipes. Specialist hydrojetting equipment generates up to 4000 PSI (pounds per square inch) of water pressure that gets expelled through a narrow nozzle at the end of a hose.

To hydrojet a drain line, the hose nozzle is lowered into the pipe access point, like a cleanout or roof vent. High-velocity water is then pumped through the hose and jetted out of the nozzle. This creates a physical force that propels the nozzle forward through the pipe, bombarding and cutting through any buildup.

As the nozzle advances, the pressurised water stream scrubs the pipe walls and breaks up debris, grease, and even tree roots. The debris gets flushed down the pipes and washed out of the drainage system.

the water pressure, hydrojet hoses have a rear-facing nozzle that propels the hose forward without the operator needing to physically push from the access point. This allows the hose to get far down pipes and around bends.

Hydrojetting requires experienced professionals to evaluate drainage layouts and operate the complex equipment safely. But in experienced hands, it is an extremely effective method for clearing severely clogged drains beyond what regular drain snakes can handle.

Advantages of Hydrojetting

Hydrojetting has several key advantages that make it the superior choice over drain snakes for severe or challenging clogs:

  • Extreme cleaning power - The highly pressurised water can scour and remove even the most compacted gunk, grease, and debris that snakes often cannot penetrate.
  • Clears roots and collapsed pipes - High pressure water can cut through thick tree roots and clear partial or complete collapses that completely block a drain.
  • More thorough cleaning - Jets flush away debris rather than simply pulling some out, leaving pipes much cleaner after the process.
  • No chemicals required - Hydrojetting is a water-only process with no caustic chemicals needed that may be hazardous.
  • Visual inspections - Inspecting cameras can be sent down the pipes to view cleaned areas and identify damaged sections.

While hydrojetting requires professional equipment and expertise, it is virtually unrivalled for clearing blocked drains, improving drainage, and restoring pipe function. Hydrojetting should be considered whenever regular snakes fail to resolve a stubborn clog.

Disadvantages of Hydrojetting

While an effective drain cleaning method, hydrojetting has some potential drawbacks to be aware of:

  • Higher cost - Professional hydrojetting services typically cost much more than using a basic drain snake.
  • Risk of pipe damage - High pressure water can potentially puncture, crack, or burst pipes that are old, fragile, or have existing damage.
  • Not DIY-friendly - Hydrojetting equipment requires professional training to operate safely and effectively.
  • Overkill for minor clogs - Using hydrojetting on small sink or tub clogs is wielding a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
  • Indoor use challenges - Dragging hoses and equipment into bathrooms and basements can make hydrojetting indoor drains messy.
  • Water usage - Hydrojetting consumes high volumes of water which may be problematic in drought-prone regions.

Homeowners should carefully consider the condition of their pipes before using hydrojetting. For minor household clogs, a standard drain snake is often the safer and more cost-effective solution.

When to Use a Drain Snake vs Hydrojetting

Choosing between using a drain snake or hydrojetting often comes down to the severity and location of the clog:

  • Minor clogs - For small clogs in sinks, tubs, and showers, a drain snake is usually the best first option. They can clear slight blockages and prevent them from getting worse.
  • Main sewer lines - Hydrojetting is preferred for main sewer lines with severe clogs or roots. The high pressure water can scour the entire pipe length more thoroughly.
  • Root intrusion - Thick root masses will likely stop an auger but can be pruned and flushed away with hydrojetting.
  • Grease clogs - Due to grease sticking to drain snakes, hydrojetting works better to fully flush away heavy grease deposits.
  • DIY capability - Snakes are simpler for homeowners to operate safely on small drains vs. hydrojetting equipment requiring professional expertise.
  • Old/fragile pipes - Drain snakes are less likely to damage delicate pipes. Hydrojetting is riskier on older plumbing.
  • Budget - Augers are significantly cheaper to purchase and use vs. the high cost of professional hydrojetting.

For serious sewer line clogs or backups on the main property line, hydrojetting delivered fast, superior results. But for routine maintenance and minor clogs, a hand auger is often the best DIY solution.

Professional Hydrojetting is Recommended for Safety

While hydrojetting is an extremely effective drain cleaning method, the high water pressures involved make it imperative that only licenced, professional plumbers perform the service.

Hydrojet systems operate at up to 4000 PSI of water pressure, which allows their nozzles to cut through even the most stubborn drain clogs. However, those intense pressures also carry risks if proper procedures are not followed.

Improper hydrojetting technique could potentially damage pipes, cause leaks and flooding, spray dirty water everywhere, and harm operators or bystanders if the hose whipped around uncontrolled. Technicians must understand drainage layouts to avoid hydrojetting in the wrong direction.

Leave hydrojetting for professionals with extensive equipment training who follow safety protocols. They will have the skills to diagnose drain issues, set up equipment safely both indoors and outdoors, operate the high-pressure jets responsibly, and clean up properly afterwards.

While the process comes at a higher cost than DIY drain cleaning, hydrojetting is extremely effective when performed correctly by qualified plumbers. Don’t take risks - professional hydrojetting services are the safest option for tough clog removal.

Contact a Professional Plumber for Assistance

At Marrickville Plumbing, we are fully licenced professional plumbers equipped to handle any drain issue - whether it is a minor sink clog or major blockage requiring hydrojetting services. Don’t waste time and money trying to DIY remedies that may potentially damage your pipes or fail to resolve the problem.

Our expert team has the knowledge and tools to accurately diagnose your drain clog, and we will recommend the most effective and safest solution. We are local to the Marrickville area and can respond promptly for emergency calls. You can trust our certified plumbers to resolve any persistent drain or sewer line blockage.

For professional hydrojetting or snake drain services in Marrickville, contact our team today. We offer competitive rates with no call out fees. Get in touch by phone on 1300 1234 5678 or email us at jobs@marrickvilleplumbingservices.com.au - we look forward to restoring proper drainage to your home or business.

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