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How Plumbers Masterfully Unclog Drains: Tools and Techniques Revealed

plumber holding plunger in sink with water

Clogged drains are one of the most common plumbing issues homeowners face. Whether it’s a slow-draining sink, a backed-up shower, or a toilet refusing to flush properly, dealing with a blocked drain can be frustrating. While there are numerous DIY methods to try, sometimes the problem persists, and that’s when you may need to call in a professional plumber. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various tools and techniques plumbers use to unclog drains effectively.

What Causes Drain Clogs?

Before diving into the tools and techniques used by plumbers to unclog drains, it’s essential to understand what causes drains to clog in the first place. Common culprits include hair, soap scum, grease, food particles, mineral buildup, and foreign objects. Over time, these substances accumulate inside the pipes, narrowing the passageway and leading to blockages.

Essential Tools for Unclogging Drains


Plungers are the most recognizable tool for clearing clogged drains. They work by creating suction and pressure to dislodge the obstruction. Plumbers often use different plungers for various fixtures, such as sinks, toilets, and showers.

Plumbing Snake (Auger): 

A plumbing snake, or an auger, is a flexible cable with a coil or blade attached to the end. Plumbers insert the snake into the drain and rotate it to break apart or retrieve the blockage. There are handheld snakes for small clogs and motorized snakes for more stubborn obstructions.


Hydro-jetting is a potent method that employs high-pressure water to blast away debris and build-up inside pipes. It’s particularly effective for clearing grease, tree roots, and mineral deposits. Professionals utilize specialized equipment to deliver water at pressures of up to 4000 psi. Our Edwardsville drain cleaning professionals adopt this eco-friendly method to ensure thorough and environmentally safe pipe cleaning.

Pipe Inspection Cameras: 

Sometimes, the cause of a clog isn’t immediately apparent. In such cases, plumbers use pipe inspection cameras to identify the problem. These cameras are inserted into the drain, allowing plumbers to see the interior of the pipes in real-time and pinpoint the location and nature of the blockage.

Chemical Drain Cleaners: 

While not always the first choice due to potential environmental and health concerns, chemical drain cleaners can be effective for minor clogs. However, plumbers caution against overuse, as these harsh chemicals can damage pipes over time.

Techniques Plumbers Use to Unclog Drains

Plumber unclogs Toilet with chemical drain cleaner

Manual Removal: 

This technique involves physically removing visible obstructions near the drain opening. Plumbers may use tools such as tweezers, pliers, or even their hands to extract debris like hair, soap scum, or food particles. Manual removal is typically effective for surface-level clogs that haven’t traveled far into the pipes. It’s a straightforward and cost-effective method, but more is needed for more stubborn blockages deeper within the plumbing system.

Rooter Service: 

Root intrusions are a common cause of sewer line blockages, especially in older homes with mature trees nearby. When tree roots infiltrate underground pipes seeking moisture and nutrients, they can cause significant obstructions. Rooter service involves using a specialized plumbing snake equipped with a cutting blade to sever tree roots and clear the pipe. Plumbers insert the rooter into the affected drain or sewer line and navigate it through the pipe, cutting roots and dislodging debris. This technique requires skill and precision to avoid damaging the pipes, making it best left to a licensed plumbing professional.

Enzyme Drain Cleaners: 

Enzyme-based drain cleaners are eco-friendly alternatives to chemical cleaners. These products contain beneficial bacteria and enzymes that feed on organic matter, such as grease, hair, and soap scum, breaking it down into smaller particles that can be easily flushed away. Unlike harsh chemical cleaners that can damage pipes and harm the environment, enzyme drain cleaners are safe and won’t cause corrosion or toxic fumes. While they may take longer to work than chemical cleaners, enzyme cleaners offer a gentle yet effective solution for minor clogs and ongoing maintenance.

Preventive Maintenance: 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure for drain clogs. To prevent future blockages in kitchen sinks, toilets, or shower drains, plumbers recommend implementing preventive maintenance measures such as:

  • Flushing drains with hot water regularly to dissolve grease and soap residue.
  • Using drain strainers or hair catchers to prevent hair, food scraps, and other debris from entering the pipes.
  • Avoiding pouring grease, oil, coffee grounds, and other substances down the drain.

By adopting these preventive measures, homeowners can prolong the lifespan of their plumbing system and minimize the need for costly blocked drain repairs or emergency services.

Each technique plays a vital role in the plumber’s toolbox for effectively unclogging drains. Depending on the severity and nature of the blockage, plumbers may employ one or more of these methods to restore proper drainage and prevent future issues. Whether manually removing debris, cutting through tree roots, using enzyme cleaners, or practicing preventive maintenance, professional plumbers have the expertise and tools to tackle even the most stubborn drain clogs.

Effective Solutions for Clogged Drains

Dealing with a clogged drain can be a hassle. However, with the right tools and techniques, plumbers can effectively clear the obstruction and restore proper drainage. For minor clogs, they might use plungers and plumbing snakes. For more severe blockages, hydro-jetting is often employed. Professional plumbers have a range of solutions at their disposal. Understanding the causes of drain clogs and practicing preventive maintenance can help homeowners minimize plumbing issues. If you’re facing a stubborn clog that DIY methods can’t handle, don’t hesitate to contact a licensed plumber for assistance.

Rooter-Man Plumbers of Southern Illinois, expertly clear drain blockages using specialized rooter services, manual removal techniques, enzyme drain cleaners, and preventive maintenance strategies. Trust us to keep your drains flowing smoothly and efficiently.

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