Why consider the Milwaukee M12 Airsnake? If there is one thing that any plumber dislikes, it’s clearing blocked drains. It’s dirty, smelly, and sometimes can make you lose faith in humanity when you see what the source of the clog is. It can make you question how some people have made it that far in life without step-by-step instructions for everything they do.
Carrying a drain snake is a necessity as a plumber. Yes, they’re big and awkward to maneuver into houses for service calls. Thanks to Milwaukee though, more and more size-friendly drain clearing options are coming to the market and they have just introduced a tool designed to keep the snakes for the bigger more intensive clogs. All the same though, working with a dirty, rusted metal cord tends not to be the highlight of my day.
Allow me to introduce fighting out of the red corner, weighing in at 7.1 pounds and standing at a towering 20.9 inches, representing, Brookfield Wisconsin. Please welcome the newest member of Milwaukee’s drain clearing family, the Milwaukee M12 AirSnake.
So then what does this new heavy hitter come with? Well, put your $399 down on the table for the most comprehensive kit (Milwaukee 2572B-21), here’s what you get:
Milwaukee M12 AirSnake 2572B-21 Kit Contents
- Big, bold red carry case
- M12 REDLITHIUM 2.0 Compact battery pack
- Air Snake drain cleaning tool
- Handy 10-inch extension
- M12 Battery charger
- 1″ -2″ Drain plug
- 2″-3″ Drain plug
- 3″-4″ Drain plug
- (3) Straight connectors
- Drain shroud attachment
- Toilet Seal attachment
- 15 degree offset attachment
And a partridge in a pear tree!
Sounds cool! But what is it?
Say you have a clogged drain (sink, toilet, floor drain, it doesn’t matter). In order to break up the clog, you need to remove the p-trap, which by the way if you have never done is a pleasure in itself. Then you feed a dirty cable into the trap arm of the drain (this is the part of the drain that runs to the main stack) to be drained from the house to reach the clog. If that doesn’t work, you will have to locate the next closest cleanout (usually in the wall) and try all over again until you find the source of the blockage. What’s even better is that with each failed attempt to clear the blockage, you have to deal with that grimy cable when the time comes to retract it.
Now, imagine that you can avoid that whole song and dance. Would you? This is where the Milwaukee M12 AirSnake comes into the picture. This baby flushes away clogs by utilizing a pressurized burst of air into the drain. That burst of air doesn’t just pressurize the line. It creates kinetic energy that pushes against the clog, using the water that’s in the line like a tidal wave to move it. This air-powered drain snake even works on partial clogs—just make sure there’s water in the line.
It was designed for clearing slow drains, grease clogs, and any other “non-retrieval” clogs. If you’ve watched any of the Milwaukee marketing, you’ll know they claim that this handy dandy tool will clear up to a 3-inch drain up to 35 feet away.
Right then, how do you use this puppy?
Well, like most tools these days, you don’t need a master’s degree to figure it out. That being said, it’s remarkably easy to use.
First, select which adaptor is best for the job at hand and load it into the quick disconnect loading mechanism. You have a choice of 5 attachments including the toilet trap attachment. Next, all you have to do is set the air gauge to your desired pressure, press and hold the power button until it automatically turns off, places the adaptor to the drain and pull the trigger. That is the oversimplified version so allow me to explain.
When you first open the box, there is a large white sticker that covers the air gauge that tells you to always start trying to clear the clog at 5 PSI and increase the pressure by 5 PSI with each unsuccessful attempt that way the minimum amount of air needed to clear the clog is used. Why? Well, depending on the age and material that your drains are made of, 50 PSI may cause damage to them in the form of possibly popping fittings or compromising the integrity to the pipe.
Therefore, the thinner the pipe wall, the less pressure you will be able to use. For example, PVC drain is typically much thinner than ABS plastic pipes, so technically, you would be able to release a much higher burst of air into the ABS line.
So then how did it work outside the walls of the New Product Symposium?
Bloody beautifully! Did it work every time? No, but the times that I had to pull out the snake were when I had to physically go in to retrieve what was causing the clog or when the clog was just too far away. I’ll also note that Milwaukee says this tool is primarily used for grease based clogs, but as I discovered, it works for so much more than just that.
A Brief Test
Before I used the Milwaukee M12 AirSnake in a service setting, I tested it out on a stack that I was doing on a new house at work. I placed a clog (rags) in the middle of 5-foot, 1.5-inch ABS trap arm, filled the pipe with water to simulate a real back up to test just how effective this tool is. I tried it again on 2-, 3-, and 4-inch pipe with a 100% success rate clearing the blockage – until I reached the 4-inch pipe.
Once you get above 3 inches in diameter, the air pressure isn’t as effective. It still works with a 4-inch pipe, but the clearing range is significantly shorter.
I’ll also say that I did not have to set the tool to the 50 PSI max setting to dislodge any clog, either. After using this tool for a while, you can tell whether or not it is worth your time to keep raising the pressure or just to go for the wire snake. If it doesn’t clear after a few bursts with 45 PSI it’s unlikely 50 will work.
Getting Down and Dirty
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been using the AirSnake to clear everything imaginable, from backed up basement floor drains to clogged toilets – which is still degusting to deal with by the way. I recommend much Lysol to disinfect all the fittings. On a side note, get the kit that has the 10-inch extension as it will keep you from having to submerge any part of the tool making for an easier cleanup and protecting your investment.
Having used this tool on a variety of different fixtures, here are my thoughts on each:
Bathroom Sinks (residential/commercial)
First and foremost, remove the drain stopper but replace the packing nut before you try to clear the clog. If the sink is equipped with an overflow, use a rag and place it in the opening as throughout the cleaning process, debris may – and probably will – be forced up and out, especially if you have to use higher air pressures to clear the blockage.
Toilets and urinals
My recommendation – use the extension bit. There is less bending and it keeps the affected area away from the tool itself. Use the trap clearing attachment or the drain shroud attachment, whichever is a better fit for the application and use the tool going up in 5 PSI increments until the clog clears.
Kitchen sinks (commercial, residential), laundry tubs, and janitor sinks
With single compartment kitchen sinks, laundry tubs, and janitor sinks, this tool is simply a plug and play. I did not have a single instance where I had to use more 30 PSI to clear a clog, grease caused or otherwise. With a dual-compartment sink, simply use a tight rubber stopper or the sink plug itself in the second compartment, hold it firmly in place (especially if you are using a higher pressure) and pull the trigger. I have an oddly shaped 60-pound weight that sits perfectly in place on top of my rubber stopper. So in most cases, I just use that to hold the stopper in place.
Showers/tubs and floor drains
With showers and tubs, I found myself using different attachments depending on the style of drain I was dealing with. it means juggling between all the attachments, except the toilet trap plug.
With the floor drains, I use the shroud attachment almost exclusively except for the times that I can’t get a seal on the surrounding floor (example: an uneven concrete floor). When that happens I move to the appropriate size drain plug. If that doesn’t work. it’s time to pull out the cable snake.
Use the 2-inch pipe plug and start charging. The couple that I unclogged needed between 20 – 30 PSI. But still, start at 5 PSI and work up in 5 PSI increments.
Pro Tip: Remember to water test each and every fixture that you unclog with this tool. First, make such it didn’t just get reclogged further down the line. Also, make sure the air doesn’t expose a bad glue joint.
Pros and Cons
My issues with the Air Snake?
- I wish the attachments were made with antimicrobial coatings
- The light would be more useful if it could be independently turn on as needed
- It would be nice to have a suction setting as well for general drain maintenance
The things I like about it?
- The extension bit. You NEED it!
- Easy operation
- Easy to read air gauge
- The recoil is very manageable as you start using higher pressures
- Fairly quiet for an air compressor
- Can be operated with one hand if needed
- Don’t necessarily need to wear gloves while operating.
- No grimy cable to retract
- Minimal cleanup
- Can turn an hour job into a one that takes just minutes
Without having to set up buckets and rags to disassemble traps and having to deal with a messy cleanup, the Milwaukee M12 AirSnake makes clearing certain clogs much easier and faster. Speaking as a plumber, I can say with absolute conviction that any plumber needs to have this tool in their van. Now, that being said, by no means should you throw out your other drain clearing devices.
The Milwaukee AirSnake runs $329 as a bare tool. You can get the full kit for $399. Use this tool for preventative maintenance on slower drains. Milwaukee designed it as the first line of defense. If it doesn’t work, you’ll have to pull out the wire snake and get to work.
The Milwaukee M12 AirSnake is going to make life much easier, faster, and cleaner for us plumbers. It’s a tool that we need to embrace…. unless you like doing extra work where it isn’t needed. Did I mention that this puppy will pay for itself very quickly with the amount of time it can potentially save you?
Milwaukee M12 AirSnake Key Features
- Clears through Drain Covers & Traps with Powered Air
- Instantly Reach Clogs 35’ OUT
- Removes Grease & Sludge from Pipe Walls
- Up to 50 PSI for Tough Clogs Down the Line
- Power to Clear Clogs Past Vent Stacks
- Variable Pressure Control to Select the Right PSI for Compression fittings and Older Drain Lines
- Optimized Attachments for Sinks, Toilets, Floor Drains
- Over 25 Pressure Cycles on a Single Charge
- Interchangeable Attachments Optimized for Seals on 1”-4 drains, Permanent Drain Stoppers, and Toilets
- 15 Degree Offset Connector for Drain Access Under Fixed Faucets