How to Use a Toilet Auger Like a Pro: Don’t Scratch It
Last Updated on August 3, 2023 by toilethaven
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 can unclog a toilet 90% of the time, but some clogs will only be removed by an auger.
A toilet auger, also known as a closet auger or a plumbing snake, is a 3 to 6 feet long flexible cable with a coiled hooked head and a cranking handle used to unclog toilets. It works by pulling out the clog or breaking it into smaller pieces which can easily flow down the drain.
To unclog a toilet using an auger, push the auger down the toilet drain until you encounter resistance. Crank the auger handle clockwise until you go past the resistance. Make sure to use the bowl guard properly to avoid scratching the bowl.
The biggest concern while using a toilet auger is scratching the porcelain of the toilet bowl. Many have left ugly scratch marks on their toilet bowls after using an auger.
Luckily, 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 toilet clogs are normally stuck in 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 siphoning effect and flushing, and helps 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
The following are the steps to follow when unclogging a toilet using a toilet auger:
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 toilet paper in the bowl.
Use a small cup to bail out some water from the bowl and empty it into 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 the water flow to the toilet.
Remove the toilet tank lid and place it away safely so 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 directly into the bowl, it will swing around and knock against the bowl’s walls 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 so 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 gentle.
5. Start feeding the toilet with the cable
While holding the plastic tube with one hand, push 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 need to hold the 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 simultaneously will make it easier.
6. Start Cranking
After shoving in a considerable length of the cable, hold the auger handle and start cranking clockwise as you push it downwards. This will help it move through the trap and into the drainpipe.
Crank harder but gently. If you come through any resistance, crank in the opposite direction and clockwise again until you go through the resistance.
The danger of going on with the cranking even after encountering 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 the tube and the bowl guard in position.
When all the cable has been retrieved, 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 unclogged.
If the toilet 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 types 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 is 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 your best to unclog a toilet with an auger unsuccessfully, it is time to call a professional plumber. These 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 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, 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 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, a toilet backing up in the bathtub/shower, or even a clogged toilet.
By unclogging the vent stack, you can take care of all 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 water down the vent stack using a garden hose.
How to Clean a Toilet Auger
If you take good care of your toilet auger, it will serve you for a long time. After retrieving the auger from the toilet, it will be wet with water and contain bits of poop, toilet paper, and 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 be cut off while inside the toilet.
When you are done using the auger, clean it with a cotton rag/towel and bleach. Use another dry towel/rag to completely dry. If you have WD-40 or any hydraulic oil, 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.