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September 23, 2021

Professional Tool Reviews for Pros


What’s the Difference Between a Drain Snake and a Drain Auger?

What's the Difference Between a Drain Snake and a Drain Auger?

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 snake and a drain auger? Aren’t they the same thing?


Fortunately, we have Pros like plumber Scott Strollo to help sort out of these questions.

10-Second Summary

  • Drain snakes clear smaller lines, usually 1-1/4″ – 2″
  • Drain augers clear larger lines, usually 1-1/2″ – 3″
  • The tools basically function the same way

What’s the Difference Between a Drain Snake and a Drain Auger?

Functionally, the two tools work the same. A drum houses anywhere from a few 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 Ryobi’s hybrid drain auger cost less than a service call. The first time you use it, the tool pays for itself.

Milwaukee M12 Drain Snake 06

It’s the Size of the Drain Being Cleared

Where these tools take different directions is in the size of the drain they’re designed to clear. Drain snakes work for smaller drains like your kitchen or bathroom sink. Drain augers tackle larger pipes like your toilet or shower drain. The snake covers lines from 1-1/4″ – 2″ range, and you’ll use an auger for lines in the 1-1/2″ – 3″ range.

Why don’t we mention 4″ or larger pipes? Those typically don’t clog. When they do, it’s often from roots growing into the pipes. Then, you either need to replace them or use something like a mechanical auger or hydro-jet to clear out the obstructions.

Remember, regardless of what tool you use, keep them well-maintained. Check out our drum and cable care tips from the Pros.

Other Differences Between a Drain Snake and a Drain Auger

You’ll notice that drain snakes usually have a smaller diameter cable than a drain auger. Since both clean by twisting the accessory at the tip, the auger needs a stouter cable to help it torque through the clog.

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.

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