How to unclog a pipe: 11 steps (with pictures)

How to unclog a pipe: 11 steps (with pictures)
How to unclog a pipe: 11 steps (with pictures)

To unclog a pipe, we usually use a kind of drill, a "ferret" with a spiral on one side and a handle on the other. There are two types of ferrets: the most common are pipe spirals, but there are also smaller ferrets, specially designed to unclog toilets. This article aims to outline how to assess the importance of the plug, then how to remove it yourself to avoid a cordial, but expensive visit from the plumber.


Part 1 of 3: Evaluate the importance of the plug

Snake a Drain Step 1

Step 1. Try using a suction cup plunger

Many sinks can be simply drained with a suction cup. If you haven't tried this solution yet, it may be worth it. This can help you avoid wasting time unclogging your pipe with a ferret. To check if the suction cup can be sufficient, follow this method.

  • Place the suction cup over the opening of the pipe. Check that the suction cup is aligned with the opening and that the latter forms an airtight seal.
  • Press the suction cup so that it reverses. Let it rise, before repeating the operation. Continue until water begins to flow back into the sink or tub.
  • If not, leave the suction cup aside and try something else.
Snake a Drain Step 2

Step 2. Attempt to clean the siphon

Many plugs form in the sink trap. It will be easy to remove such a clog by cleaning the siphon and the small grid that holds the hair or any other solid object. Clean the siphon using the following method.

  • Place a bucket under the siphon to catch the water and waste when you open it.
  • Remove the plug from the siphon, if applicable. This is usually located at the bend of the siphon. Insert a hanger or any other object long and thin enough to be able to scrape the waste and remove the stopper.
  • If your siphon does not have a plug, unscrew it using a pair of pliers. Remove the waste and clean it before putting it back.
  • If your line is still clogged after cleaning the siphon, continue to the next step.

Part 2 of 3: Unclog the pipe using a ferret

Snake a Drain Step 3

Step 1. Gather the different instruments

You will need a regular or toilet ferret, bucket, and rubber cleaning gloves. Also, get some towels to clean up any dirty water that might leak.

Snake a Drain Step 4

Step 2. Remove anything obstructing the pipe

If your sink has a small grid that can be used to trap hair and other items, set it aside.

Snake a Drain Step 5

Step 3. Feed the ferret cable through the pipe

Turn the handle clockwise when pushing.

  • Use both hands to push if it is difficult.
  • Grasp the ferret cable about two to three inches from the sink opening as you push it in. This will allow you to better control your movements and feel the cork with more certainty.
Snake a Drain Step 6

Step 4. Continue to push the snake inside the pipe until you reach the stopper

You will then feel some resistance, due to the obstruction.

  • You will probably have the impression that the cable hits a solid obstacle as it reaches the bend of the siphon. However, continue to push the ferret into the pipe.
  • You will know you have reached the traffic jam when the obstacle is relatively soft. As you press down on the ferret, you should feel a soft resistance.
Snake a Drain Step 7

Step 5. Try to hang up the stopper

Continue to rotate the ferret clockwise, before pulling lightly to check if you have hooked up the material blocking your pipe. Push on the stopper, to start breaking it up.

  • Continue the operation until you pierce the cork and pass to the other side with the ferret. Then continue to turn the handle to reduce the cork into small pieces.
  • If it does not seem possible to puncture the plug, you may be dealing with a solid object.
Snake a Drain Step 8

Step 6. Gently pull out the stopper

Carefully pull the plug towards the opening, so that it does not come off if you have managed to hook it with the ferret.

  • Clean the ferret with a towel as you pull it out. Throw the material blocking the line into a bucket.
  • Remove as much material as you can until the ferret is completely out.
Snake a Drain Step 9

Step 7. Check that the pipe is cleared

Run water through it. It may take a few seconds before all the remnants of the plug are drained, but the water should run out quickly.

  • If the line is still clogged, you will need to try to locate the clog from another location. For example, try to introduce the ferret into the pipe from the siphon. Unscrew the siphon again and insert the ferret into the drain pipe. Use the same technique as before.
  • If the water still does not flow out after trying from the siphon, it is likely that the plug is further down the line. Then it’s time to call your plumber.

Part 3 of 3: avoid new traffic jams

Snake a Drain Step 10

Step 1. Do not throw any solid object into your pipe

Cutting your hair over the sink or washing very dirty things in it can cause a blockage to appear. Instead, throw all solid objects in your trash, even if they seem too small to block the drain.

Snake a Drain Step 11

Step 2. Use a filter

You will avoid many plugs thanks to a filter or a small grid used to stop the hair and any other object. Equip both your shower and your sink. This way, it will be much less likely for hair to form a plug of knots along the pipes.


  • There are many electric ferrets dedicated to professionals; it is quite possible to buy one. Be aware, however, that they are sometimes very expensive and require some skill to use.
  • Try pouring boiling water down your drain at least twice, before deciding you need to use a ferret. If you don't notice any improvement, proceed as described above.


  • Sometimes the use of a ferret will just push the plug a little further down the pipe, making it even more difficult to locate and remove. Do not try to track your drainage system for the clog.
  • Never pour large amounts of grease into your pipes. In addition, it is best to run a good amount of hot water in your sink first, before pouring a small amount of grease into it. This will heat up the lines and prevent grease from settling there. Also dissolve the fat in a pan with hot water and washing up liquid, before disposing of it. Then run a new dose of hot water.

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