How to Use a Toilet Auger Like a Pro: Don’t Scratch It
By the time you decide to use a toilet auger, chances are that you have tried using a plunger with little or no success. A toilet plunger is able to unclog a toilet 90% of the time but some clogs will only be removed by an auger.
A toilet auger which is also known as a closet auger or a plumbing snake is a 3 to 6 feet long flexible cable with a spring-like head and a cranking handle that is used to unclog toilets. It works by pulling out the clog or breaking it into smaller pieces which can easily flow down the drain.
The biggest concern while using a toilet auger is scratching the porcelain of the toilet bowl. Many people have left very ugly scratch marks on their toilet bowls after using an auger. Thankfully, a good auger will have a bowl guard in place. It also has a long plastic tube which makes it easy to drive in the cable and also to retrieve it.
The toilet bowl guard is curved and you are therefore able to position it at the toilet bowl outlet. This will provide you with a safe way of introducing the auger inside the toilet drain.
Most toilets clogs are normally stuck at the toilet trap. The toilet trap is the bottom-most part of the toilet which is S-shaped. A toilet auger’s flexibility allows it to negotiate its way through this part.
By design rather than accident, the toilet trap acts as an anti-clog mechanism, creates the siphon effect and hence flushing and also helps to retain a small amount of water at the bottom of the bowl. This water prevents unpleasant sewer gases from coming up into your bathroom.
How to Unclog a Toilet with an Auger
Before starting to unclog your toilet, make sure that you have rubber gloves and if your bathroom floor is tiled have some boots on. There is always a chance that the floor will be wet and therefore slippery leading to a fall.
1. Drain the Toilet
If your clogged toilet is overflowing or the bowl is full of water, you will need to drain it first before snaking it. This will be an unpleasant experience especially if you have poop and/or toilet paper in the bowl.
Use a small cup to bail out some water from the bowl and empty into it a bucket. It is important that you have rubber gloves on at all times during this job.
At this point also, your toilet tank is full of water. While using the auger, you will need to check if the toilet has been unclogged by flushing the toilet. If you flush the toilet but unfortunately the toilet is not unclogged, you risk an overflowing toilet bowl.
Look for a shut off valve on the wall behind the toilet. Turn it clockwise to turn off water flow to the toilet.
Remove the toilet tank lid and place it away in a safe place where it cannot break. Reduce the level of water in the tank to about half. Please note that the water in the tank is clean unlike the water in the bowl.
2. Pull back the cable inside the tube.
Before putting the auger inside the toilet bowl, you should pull the cable all the way back inside the tube such that the auger head is touching the bowl guard.
The auger cable is so flexible and if put it directly into the bowl it will swing around and knock against the walls of the bowl and end up scratching it. The plastic tube on the other hand is rigid enough to give you control while pushing the cable.
4. Position the auger head inside the toilet outlet
Carefully put the toilet auger head inside the toilet bowl outlet slowly that you don’t touch the porcelain. The bowl guard should sit on the toilet outlet facing upward.
Please note that the auger will still scratch the inside of your toilet trap. This is however not important as that part is not visible. What you don’t want to do is to crack it and that’s why you should be really gentle.
5. Start feeding the toilet with the cable
While holding the plastic tube with one hand, start pushing the auger cable inside the toilet with your other hand.
Although the auger has a cranking handle, you can’t start cranking right away. The handle will be too far from your hand and you will therefore need to hold the actually cable with your hand and push it down the toilet.
This will need a bit of strength as the auger meanders through the toilet trap. Twisting the cable and pushing it at the same time will make it easier.
6. Start Cranking
After you have shoved in a considerable length of the cable, hold the auger handle and start cranking clockwise as you push the downwards. This will help it move through the trap and into the drainpipe.
Crank harder but gently. If you come through any form of resistance, crank in the opposite direction and then clockwise again until you go through the resistance.
The danger of going on with the cranking even after encountering a resistance is that the auger could become entangled inside the toilet trap or drainpipe and therefore become very difficult to pull out. The head could also be stuck inside the trap and continued cranking could result in it cracking.
7. Retrieve the auger
When the entire length of the toilet auger has been used, it is time to retrieve it. To retrieve the toilet auger, do not pull it out all the way. That would leave you with a badly scratched toilet.
Crank the handle counterclockwise to retrieve the auger with one hand while making sure that the other hand is firmly holding tube and the bowl guard in position.
When all the cable has been retrieve and the auger head is at the bowl guard, remove the bowl guard slowly again making sure it does not touch the porcelain.
8. Flush the toilet/repeat
If you managed to pull out the clog then well done. Even if you didn’t come out with anything, perhaps the clog was broken down into tiny pieces. Flush the toilet and see what happens.
If the toilet flushes perfectly, open the shut off valve and let the tank fill with water. Flush the toilet once more to confirm that it is actually unclogged.
If the toilet unfortunately is not unclogged, go down with the toilet auger again. Sometimes it takes more than just one try to unclog a toilet.
And that is how to use a toilet auger to unclog a toilet. If while using the auger you noticed that you went down pretty easily and didn’t encounter any resistance, your toilet is most likely clogged way inside the drainpipe and might need something longer.
You may want to hire a longer motorized toilet auger. These type of toilet augers can reach up to 100 feet or further.
Before deciding to call in a plumber you may want to do one more thing if you have tried to unclog your toilet and nothing works. Removing your toilet is a simple DIY and most of the time the best way to unclog a toilet.
If a hand towel or hair comb was stuck in the toilet trap, removing the toilet will make it so easy to remove them with your bare hand from the bottom of the toilet.
You can also decide to remove your toilet prior to using a toilet auger if you are scared of scratching it.This is especially the case if you decide to hire a longer toilet auger. For a guide on how to remove a toilet, check this post.
9. Call in an expert
If you have tried you level best to unclog a toilet with an auger unsuccessfully, it is time to call in a professional plumber. This guys have loads of experience and sophisticated tools and equipment for such jobs.
How to use a Toilet Auger to Unclog a Vent Stack
A vent stack is a piece of pipe that runs from your toilet drain to the top of the house and through the roof. Its work is to remove air from the inside of the drain and therefore enabling waste to flow freely inside the drain.
If the vent stack is clogged, air will have no way of leaving the drains and pressure will therefore build up resulting in what is called negative-pressure. You will notice that you will have a slow flushing toilet, a toilet that bubbles/gurgles when flushed, toilet backing up in the bathtub/shower or even a clogged toilet.
By unclogging the vent stack you can then take care of all of these problems. Climb to the top of the house roof using a ladder with the toilet auger to check the condition of the vent.
If you find clogs at the top that you can easily pick up with your hand go ahead and do it. If not you will need to use the auger.
Insert the toilet auger down the vent stack and start cranking the handle clockwise while pushing it down. When the entire length of the handle has been used up crank the handle in the opposite direction to retrieve it. Do this 2 or 3 times.
The toilet auger is going to cut the clogs into small pieces that will fall down the drain and wash away. You can also pour in some water down the vent stack using a garden hose.
How to Clean a Toilet Auger
If you take good care of your toilet auger then it is going to serve you for a long time. After retrieving the auger from the toilet, it will be wet with water and will also contains bits of poop and toilet paper as well as minerals that build up in the drain.
If you go ahead and store it as it is then without a doubt it is going to rust and therefore become weak. A weak auger can cut off while inside the toilet.
As soon as you are done using the auger, clean it using a cotton rag/towel and bleach. Use another dry towel/rag to completely dry. If you have WD-40 or any hydraulic oil then apply it all over the cable.
While storing a toilet auger, make sure that you put it in a moisture-free place. This will prevent it from rusting and therefore last long.