Which is the Better Drain Cleaning Tool: A Plumbing Snake or a Hydro Jetter?

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drain maintenance tips, how to keep drains clean, need a drain uncloggged Charlotte

This is what the inside of a corroded pipe look like. Water and waste no longer flow cleanly through the pipe, but instead get stuck and collect on the sides.

If you've noticed your drains are draining slowly or you repeatedly have to remove clogs, it's probably time to do a thorough drain cleaning routine in your home. Build up accumulates inside the pipes as the years pass. If they are not occasionally cleaned out, the passageway becomes narrower and narrower as a grease, hair and other gunk attaches to the insides of the pipes.

Pipes aren't supposed to collect a layer of gunk. They are designed to allow waste material to flow easily, without catching or sticking to the sides of the pipes. However, if you've used harsh drain cleaners or if the pipes are old and deteriorating, the pipes may also be suffering from corrosion, which makes it all the more likely that material will collect on the inside of the pipes instead of flowing through smoothly.

Plumbing Snake

Most people have a snake in their toolkit somewhere. While a snake is helpful for dislodging a clog that is located close to the drain (within a foot or so), a snake is best used to deal with an immediate drain clog. If grease, hair and gunk has been collecting on the inside of older, corroding pipes, a snake isn't going to be much help. However, if the clog is reachable by the snake and is small, you may be able to dislodge or break it up using a snake.

It's important to be careful when using a snake. You want to break up and dislodge the clog, pulling the material up and out of the drain instead of forcing it further down into the pipe. If you aren't skillful in using a plumbing snake, you may just make the clog worse as you jam it deeper down the pipe and compound the clogged material.

It's important to be careful not to scrape or damage the pipe as you use the snake. Such damage encourages corrosion of the pipes and future clogs.


A hydrojetter is an efficient, powerful plumbing tool that uses water pressure to blast clogs out of the pipes. It does a fantastic job of cleaning the pipes completely, removing all debris that has accumulated on the insides of the pipes. It is best used for deep clogs (unreachable by a snake) or clogs that are the result of years of accumulation of material on the inside of the pipes.

Hydro jetters are usually truck mounted and often carry up to 1,500 gallons of water for large pipe cleaning projects. Smaller hydro jetters are mounted on carts and used for light residential and commercial drain cleaning projects.

Hydro jetters consist of a pump, a motor or engine, a hose reel, a given length of hose and a various assortment of nozzles. The hydro jetter's high-pressure pump makes it possible to administer the powerful jets of water required to remove the years of accumulated gunk inside drain and sewer pipes. The hose alone can weigh up to hundreds of pounds on some of the bigger hydro jetters.

High-pressure hydro jetters usually operate with water pressures up to 4,000 PSI with flow rates of  between 2  to 25 gallons of water per minute. Pressure and water flow requirements vary by the length and sizes of the pipes being cleaned.  Small hydro jetters are available at hardware stores, but they should only be used by trained professionals. It is very easy to injure yourself or damage pipes if hydro jetters are improperly used.

Ongoing Drain Care

At least four times a year you will want to spend a couple hours looking over all the drains in your home. Use a cheap, disposable plastic Zip-It to dig into each sink, tub or shower drain and pull up any hair and gunk that has collected. Then use an enzyme-based drain cleaner to clean out the pipe. We like BioClean or BioOne; these enzyme-based drain cleaners eat away at the gunk inside your pipes without harming the environment or the pipes.

Professional Drain Cleaning Services

Never had your pipes hydrojetted before? If you've got slow draining sinks, tubs or showers, you'd be wise to invest in a professional drain cleaning service to get your pipes sparkling clean. Then you can just follow up with quarterly manual removal of gunk and applications of an enzyme based drain cleaning product. Your plumbing system will thank you for it!

Article Summary

Quick question & answer: What is the best drain cleaning tool?

Both plumbing snakes and hydrojetters work great to clean drains, but have different purposes. Snakes help dislodge small clogs close to the drain. Hydrojetters use water pressure to blast deep clogs from the pipes, completely cleaning them. However, hydrojetters should only be used by trained professionals.

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