Last Updated on August 7, 2023
When our team got together to judge the Pro Tool Innovation Awards, some of our guys were surprised to see separate categories for drain snakes and drain augers. What’s the difference between a drain auger vs a drain snake? Aren’t they the same thing? Yes…and no.
Fortunately, we have Pros like our resident plumber, Scott Strollo, to help us (and you) sort this out.
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Drain Auger vs Drain Snake – Defining the Terms
Let’s look at the dictionary definition of both of these tools starting with the drain auger:
trap and drain auger: a plumber’s snake for clearing a trap and drain
And now, let’s look at the closest we can get to the drain snake:
plumber’s snake: a long flexible rod or cable usually of steel that is used to free clogged pipes
I don’t know about you, but I was always told not to use the word in the definition. In this case, the drain (plumber’s) snake falls under the definition of trap and drain auger.
How a Drain Auger vs Snake Work
Functionally, both a drain auger and a drain snake work the same. A drum houses anywhere from a few dozen feet of cable to 100 feet or more on some of the big machines.
You feed the cable into the drain and use a twisting action to either punch through the clog to loosen it or grab the clog to pull it out.
These tools may be hand crank, plug-in, or cordless. For many homeowners, having and using a drain snake costs much less than a service call to your plumber. Even powered models like the Ryobi hybrid drain auger cost less than a service call. The first time you use it successfully, the tool pays for itself.
Pros Define These Terms Differently Than Merriam Webster
When the dictionary fails, we turn to the professionals. As a plumber for over 15 years, Scott tells us the drain auger takes a different direction from the drain snake when it comes to the size of the drain. Designed to clear different types of products, plumbers consider drain snakes tools that cater to smaller drains like your kitchen or bathroom sink. The drain snake takes care of pipes ranging from 1-1/4″ to 2″ in diameter.
Conversely, drain augers tackle larger pipes like your toilet or shower drain. You use a drain auger for lines in the 1-1/2″ to 3″ range.
What About Larger Pipes?
There’s a reason we didn’t mention 4″ or larger pipes. For one, those typically don’t “clog”. When they do, it’s often from roots growing into outdoor sewage pipes. When that happens, you either need to replace them or use something like a mechanical auger or hydro-jet to clear out the obstructions.
Remember, regardless of whether you use a drain auger or a drain snake, keep these tools well-maintained. Check out our drum auger cable care tips article to get tips from the Pros.
Other Differences Between a Drain Snake vs a Drain Auger
It may go without saying that drain snakes usually have a smaller diameter cable than a drain auger. Since both tools clean by twisting the accessory at the tip, a drain auger needs a stouter cable to help it torque through clogs.
Likewise, cable tips don’t look terribly different between the two drain-clearing tools, but auger tips can be larger to twist into and through clogs that take up more space.