How to Unclog A Drain: 3 Powerful Tools to Tackle the Job

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: January 4, 2021

In a perfect world, the toilet would always flush with a healthy swoosh. Bathtub drains wouldn’t slow down, and the kitchen sink wouldn’t ever turn into a puddle. Your busy life would never be interrupted by clogged drains, but don’t despair when it happens.

While you understand the basics about how to unclog a drain, it’s a job you can handle better when you know what to use and how to use it. We’ve put together the information you need to tackle the problem along with pros and cons of each approach. Before you call a plumber, try one of these 3 clog-busting techniques.

Choose Your DIY Weapon

While there are countless products available for DIY drain clearing, you probably have at least one of these basics stashed under a sink or in a storage closet. Home improvement centers carry all of these items, and our how-to instructions can help you decide on the best DIY tool for tackling your job.

• Plungers
• Drain Snakes
• Compressed-Air Devices


Using a plunger is simple, and it usually solves most toilet clogs. A plunger’s size makes it harder to use in a sink, and the tool requires muscle and patience regardless of where you put it to work.

1. Wear rubber gloves so that you’ll have a good grip, and make sure that the plunger’s rubber flange is extended so that it seals tightly around the drain.

2. Place the flange over the drain, and gently push down. The plunger’s bell is filled with air, so a hard thrust will just blow out the seal you need to loosen the clog.

3. After your first careful push, pump the plunger vigorously up and down. Be careful to keep it firmly seated around the drain giving it 10 to 15 good pumps.

4. Finish by flushing the toilet or running water down the drain to help clear the loosened clog. Remember that it often takes several tries with a plunger to finish the job.

Power Tip

As a plunger ages, its rubber material cracks, and that prevents it from forming a tight seal around drains. Weigh the cost of a replacement against the time and muscle you’ll save with a new plunger.

Drain Snakes

Often called plumber’s snakes or augers, these long, wire devices work with toilets, sinks and floor drains. They effectively cut through and dislodge clogs, and they’re available in a variety of lengths.

1. If you’re working on a sink, remove the trap that covers the drain. It’s a good idea to wear rubber gloves because the job can get messy.

2. Insert the snake into the drain, and rotate it as you push it down. Keep a firm grip on the cable a few inches above the surface for better control.

3. When you reach the clog, continue to push and rotate so that it catches on the cable head. Slowly work the snake back and forth to dislodge the blockage.

4. Carefully remove the cable cleaning it as it comes out of the drain. Flush the toilet or run water to loosen the clog, and repeat the process as necessary.

Power Tip

You can take some of the mess out of using a drain snake with a hand-crank model that can be attached to a power drill. Whichever type of snake you use, be careful not to scratch tub, sink and toilet surfaces.

Compressed-Air Devices

You’ll find a variety of devices that unclog drains with a blast of compressed air. An air blaster is easier to handle than a plunger or snake, and it often clears a drain on the first try.

1. If your blaster comes with optional heads for toilets and different drain sizes, firmly secure the correct attachment to the device before filling it with air.

2. Following the directions on your model, use its pumping device to load its holding cartridge with air. If your blaster includes a gauge, a measurement of 20 psi is best for DIY jobs.

3. Position the rubber head over the drain, and gently push down to secure a seal. Don’t try to pump the device like a plunger. Just make sure that it’s firmly in place.

4. Position one hand over the top of the blaster to steady it, and then pull the trigger. The action is instantaneous and surprisingly quiet. Flush or run water to confirm that you’ve cleared the clog.

Power Tip

Be very cautious with air blasters that use CO2 cartridges. These devices are effective, but you can blow out pipe seals and gaskets. It’s best to let professionals use these powerful tools.

Helping You Solve Problems

We have confidence in your DIY abilities, so we hope that our drain-clearing strategies help you avoid calling in a plumber and dealing with water damage repair. If you have ideas and tips that you’d like to add, just let us know in our Comments section, and be sure to share this post with your fellow DIY warriors.

It’s our goal to help you identify and solve problems around the house while they’re still manageable. If a clogged toilet or drain does its worst, you can count on us.

ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba stands ready to answer your call 24/7 and we are here to help for any kind of plumbing leak for all of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs.