How To Use A Closet Auger

Learn to clear clogs using a toilet snake

The most stubborn clogged toilets will sometimes not be cleared even by lengthy softening and vigorous plunging. In these situations, the next step is to use a tool called a handheld closet auger. The tem closet comes from the old euphemism for bathrooms, water closet, and refers to the fact that the auger is specifically designed for use on toilets and commodes. Augers are also the tool to use when attempting to clear any clog that is not soft or decomposable in nature, such as a toy or toiletry.

Differences in Drain Augers

There are several design and use considerations distinguishing types of drain snakes. Drain augers are tools which extend a heavy, stiff metal cable with a weighted end down the drain, thus clearing both the walls of the pipe, and anything blocking flow. But toilets and other fixtures are typically porcelain and chrome, both materials easily and permanently damaged by heavy weighted metal objects. For toilets, the foremost concern is damage to the fixture itself.

It is not recommended to use on a toilet a drain snake not designed specifically for toilet unclogging. This is because common handheld drain augers are intended to be used in a different manner and lack many of the protections a closet auger should have, and the potential for permanent damage to property is too high. You should purchase the proper tool for the job or call a professional if you have not been able to clear a clogged toilet using any other method.

For this reason, a well designed closet auger will have made several considerations for preventing damage to the toilet. Closet augers typically have longer, telescoping, shafted handles than augers intended for use on sinks and showers. The long handle will curve, j-shaped, at the end where the cable extends for insertion into the drain of the toilet. The shape and length of a closet auger handle allows the plumber or homeowner to work from above without stooping.

Closet augers will also typically shield the metal parts with heavy paint or rubber coatings, so that fragile porcelain is not scratched, chipped, or cracked while clearing the clog. The last characteristic of an auger intended for use on toilets is its short length. Many drain snakes, even handheld tools, can extend 25 feet or more down a drain. But closet augers are intended only to clear the complicated curve of the toilet drain and the surrounding area, and most closet auger cables are well short of ten feet.

Getting to Work with a Closet Auger

Standing in front of your clogged toilet, lower the auger from above, and insert the retracted curve tip into the toilet drain. The shape of the auger sleeve should get the cable around the first curve in the drain.

An extended metal sleeve will have retracted the cable. This sleeve is held in one hand and pressed down with considerable force. Do not damage your toilet, but expect to have to press quite firmly to move the stiff cable along. The other hand will work the rotating handle of the auger, which spins the cable and its angled tip. The combination of downward pressure and forceful rotation serves to screw the cable into the pipe, busting and clearing anything in its path.The best advice is to closely follow your drain auger’s manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions. Protective eyewear is advisable, because of the potential for splashes. Rubber gloves are not required, but can make the job more tolerable.

Extend & Retract Cable Several Times

Even so, it can take several times working the auger completely extended and back before a clog is fully cleared. As you work the auger, try to feel and determine the nature of the clog if you do not already know its composition. If something solid has been flushed such as a shampoo bottle, or something that will not decompose, such as paper towels, then you will want to work the auger in a manner to encourage the blockage back up and out of the toilet for extraction. You do not want to attempt to force such a clog further down the pipes, only to cause more trouble and expense.

Rotate the auger in both directions in the vicinity of the clog. Try to get behind it with the tip or entangle the mass. Then unscrew the cable slowly, pulling the auger from the toilet and hopefully bring the offending material or object along for the ride.

The Final Flush and Cleaning the Closet Auger Cable

It is a good idea to auger the drain at least once more after the clog has cleared. This assures that everything has been scraped away, and provides an opportunity to clean the auger. While the auger is fully extended down the flowing drain, you can flush the toilet and the water will rinse your cable clean. To be safe, remove the lid from the toilet for this flush, so if the clog returns, you can reach in the tank and stop the flow of water from overflowing the bowl onto the floor. You can also use a filled bucket for this final rinsing flush.

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