When our team got together to judge the Pro Tool Innovation Awards, some of us were surprised to learn that there were separate categories for drain snakes and drain augers. What is the difference between a drain auger and a drain snake? Are they not the same thing? Yes, not at all.
Luckily, we have professionals, like our resident plumber Scott Strollo, who can help us (and you) with this.
Table of contents
- Drain Auger vs Drain Snake – Defining the Terms
- How Drain Auger and Snake Work
- Professionals define these terms differently than Mirriam Webster
- What about bigger pipes?
- Other Differences Between Drain Snakes and Drain Augers
Drain Auger vs Drain Snake – Defining the Terms
Let's look at the dictionary definitions of these two tools, starting with a drain auger:
Trap and Drain Auger: A Plumber's Snake for Clearing Traps and Drains
Now, let's look at the closest place to the drain snake:
plumber's snake : a long flexible rod or wire, usually steel, used to unclog clogged pipes
I don't know about you, but I've always been told not to use this word in definitions. In this case, the drainpipe (plumber's) snake falls under the definition of trap and drain auger.
How Drain Auger and Snake Work
Functionally, drain augers and drain snakes work the same. On some large machines, the drum can hold anywhere from a few tens of feet to 100 feet or more of cable.
You feed the cable into the drain and use a twisting motion through the clog to loosen it or grab the clog and pull it out.
These tools can be hand cranked, plugged in, or cordless. For many homeowners, the cost of owning and operating a drain snake is much less than the cost of calling a plumber. Even a powered model like the Ryobi Hybrid Drain Auger costs less than a service call. The tool pays for itself the first time you use it successfully.
Professionals define these terms differently than Mirriam Webster
When dictionaries fail, we turn to the professionals. As a plumber for over 15 years, Scott told us that drain augers are oriented differently than drain snakes in terms of drain size. Designed to clean up different types of products, plumbers consider drain snake tools for the needs of smaller drains like kitchen or bathroom sinks. Drain snakes handle pipes ranging in diameter from 1-1/4 inches to 2 inches.
In contrast, drain augers tackle larger pipes, such as toilet or shower drains. For lines ranging from 1-1/2 inches to 3 inches, you can use a drain auger.
What about bigger pipes?
There's a reason we didn't mention 4" or larger pipe. One, those don't usually "clog". When they do, they usually grow from their roots into an outdoor sewage pipe. When this happens, you'll either need to replace them, or use something like a mechanical auger or hydro jet to remove the obstruction.
Remember, whether you use a drain auger or a drain snake, it's important to maintain these tools properly. Check out our Drum Auger Cable Maintenance Tips article for tips from the pros.
Other Differences Between Drain Snakes and Drain Augers
It goes without saying that drain snakes generally have smaller diameter cables than drain augers. Since both tools clean by twisting the tipped attachment, the drain auger needs a stronger cable to help it twist the clog.
Also, the cable tip doesn't look too different between the two drain cleaning tools, but the auger tip could be a bit bigger to screw in and through a clog that takes up more space.
agree? disagree? Let us know in the comments section below!