The Best Drain Snakes for Unclogging Pipes on Your Own
Banish blockages in sinks, tubs, showers, and more with the right drain snake for the task.
Potato peels down the kitchen sink. Loose hair swirling through the tub drain. The little plastic soldier your toddler “gave a bath” in the toilet. Clogs happen. When water isn’t draining as quickly as it should—or, worse, isn’t draining at all—your first move might be to call the plumber. Or if you prefer to handle these things yourself, you reach for a drain snake.
Also called a plumbing snake or drain auger, this handy tool is simply a long, thick, flexible wire that “snakes” into drains and pipes to chew through clogs quickly and efficiently. But these blockage busters come in different types and sizes, depending on the recommended use. To help you choose and use the right drain snake, whether for a stopped-up toilet or a slow-moving sink, we’ve got the 411 on what to look for—and rounded up the five best drain snakes recommended by plumbers and homeowners alike for effectiveness and ease of use.
- BEST OVERALL: RIDGID Power Spin
- BEST FOR TOILET CLOGS: RIDGID K-3 Toilet Auger
- BEST FOR HAIR CLOGS: FlexiSnake Drain Weasel
- BEST UPGRADE: TACKLIFE Drain Auger
- BEST FOR PROS: Cobra Products 50-Foot Drain Auger
Shopping Considerations for a Drain Snake
Cable Length and Thickness
Drain snakes come in a few standard lengths and thicknesses. For the average homeowner who needs to unclog a sink, tub, or shower, a 25-foot cable between ¼ and 5/16 of an inch thick is sufficient to tackle common household issues. If you live in a multi-story home with bathrooms upstairs, look for a snake with a 50-foot cable capable of reaching clogs in longer pipes.
For a more serious clog in your home’s main water pipes, blockages further down the kitchen sink drain than your typical food clog, or problems with washing machine drainage, a tougher drain snake designed to handle larger pipes with bigger clogs is called for. Sometimes called medium drain machines, these powerful tools typically have a thicker cable—often ½ inch in diameter—and extend up to 75 feet to reach down deep into plumbing lines.
Drain Snake Head Design
There are two basic types of heads at the tip of a drain snake’s cable: cutting heads and coil heads. Some drain snakes allow you to switch out the heads, but most have one fixed head.
- Cutting heads have somewhat sharp blades or barbs to chew through solid clogs such as chunks of food or grease, roots, larger pieces of soap, thick clots of leaves or mud, or any other type of fairly solid substance blocking a pipe. These heads are most often found on large, powerful drain augers used by professionals.
- Coil or toothed heads are the best drain snake choices for most problems encountered by the average homeowner. These heads have a coil of thick wire or a toothed head that latches onto obstructions so they can be pulled back out of the drain. They are the best choice for retrieving toys or jewelry from toilets or sink drains, pulling out balled-up hair from a tub drain, tackling wads of paper or a flushed diaper, or scraping out fruit peels or other food clogs that aren’t solid.
Manual vs. Electric Drain Snakes
Most of the drain snakes used by the average homeowner have a small crank that’s turned by hand to advance and retract the cable. These manual drain snakes are fine for occasional use around the house to unclog simple blockages in your kitchen or bathroom sink, tub, or toilet. If you expect to use your drain snake on a regular basis (perhaps you live in an older home with temperamental plumbing, or have family members unsure of what should not be put down the drain), or you need to tackle major clogs in water mains, downspouts, or washing machines, you might prefer the extra muscle and reduced hand strain of an electric drain snake. These tools advance and retract the cable at the push of a button, and power their way through very stubborn clogs. You’ll pay for that oomph, however: As a general rule, while manual drain snakes are fairly inexpensive, you’ll pay three or four times that amount for an electric plumbing snake.
The Best Drain Snakes
Here are five drain snakes for a variety of uses that win rave reviews for getting the job done quickly and relatively easily.
1. BEST OVERALL: RIDGID Power Spin
Whether the clog is in your kitchen sink, bathroom sink, shower drain, or tub drain, the RIDGID Power Spin can come to the rescue. Its manual crank sends the 25-foot, 1/4-inch cable twisting and turning its way down your pipes, while the screw-shaped head chews through semi-solid clogs and also catches and retrieves hair, paper, or other fibrous gunk. Want a little more power than a hand-crank can provide? Just attach the drain snake to your power drill, and voila! Now it’s an electric plumbing snake. Reviewers praise its effectiveness and the convenience of using the tool either on its own or in combination with a power drill.
2. BEST FOR TOILET CLOGS: RIDGID K-3 Toilet Auger
While almost any drain snake can clear clogs from a toilet, there’s a risk of scratching or damaging the porcelain bowl in the process. Not so with the RIDGID K-3 Toilet Auger, which has a vinyl protective sheath over the metal cable to prevent unsightly scratches. Position the 30-inch tube inside the toilet so the rubber foot rests right at the bowls’ outlet, and then crank the three-foot cable down. The kink-resistant, super-flexible cable reaches down to the blockage, and its bulbous, coiled head easily breaks through soft clogs, while catching and retrieves more solids like wadded-up toilet paper, flushed toys, and dropped jewelry.
3. BEST FOR HAIR CLOGS: FlexiSnake Drain Weasel
Hair is one of the most common causes of slow-draining bathroom sinks and shower or tub drains. Luckily, the FlexiSnake Drain Weasel is designed expressly for the purpose of dealing with this problem. Crank the handle to send the 18-inch flexible snake down the drain and let its bristly tip, covered with micro-hooks, grab onto clumps of hair. Once the clog is gone, you can toss away the head of the snake (five replacement snake heads are included)—no need to store a dirty, gunky tool.
4. BEST UPGRADE: TACKLIFE Drain Auger
Tough clogs require tough solutions—just what you’ll get with the TACKLIFE Drain Auger. This battery-powered drain snake has enough muscle to push through all manner of clogs in pipes with widths between 3/4 to three inches in diameter. That includes all types of sinks, tubs, and showers, as well as gutter downspouts and most garden irrigation systems. The cable is 25 feet long with a corkscrew-shaped head, and the lithium-ion battery charges quickly and remains charged until the job is done. There’s even a small LED work light at the base of the handle—no need to hunt down a flashlight. Handy homeowners praise its ability to tackle clogs that otherwise would have required a plumber’s services.
5. BEST FOR PROS: Cobra Products 50-Foot Drain Auger
When dealing with a clog beyond the reach of the typical drain snake, you need the extra length provided by the Cobra Products 50-Foot Drain Auger. Its flexible cable is 1/2-inch thick and its corkscrew head plows through most common obstructions. Be aware, however, that manually cranking an extra-long drain snake takes quite a bit of muscle and perseverance. Many reviewers mention their surprise at how well it conquered even tough clogs in both indoor and outdoor plumbing.