One of the most common plumbing calls is the clogged drain. The unpleasantness of the clog’s cause is matched only by the difficulty accessing it. Unlike most jobs where you are in direct contact with the work, pipes are behind walls or underground. When the customer’s chemicals fail to clear the clog it’s time for the Pros to address the problem mechanically. If you’ve ever had the misfortune of attempting to clear a tough clog with a manual drain snake, you quickly understand why professionals turn to motorized options with tools like the Milwaukee M12 Drain Snake.
Many drain snakes attach to drills or are larger devices with electric motors. The drill attachments are often flimsy and the larger devices require tail pieces and sectional cables that have to lay on a customer’s floor. They also use electrical cords which have the potential danger of contacting water and creating a shock hazard. The Milwaukee M12 drain snake strikes intentionally at these shortcomings.
In order to get an idea of the features and performance of this model, I cleared many kitchen, urinal, and lavatory drain stoppages over the past several weeks. I needed to know if the M12 is fit for professional use and whether there are any limitations compared to my normal equipment. Here’s what I found.
During my 16-year service career, I’ve welcomed the trend toward more compact, user-friendly tools, and smarter technology. The Milwaukee M12 drain snake seems to have those things, at least compared to the other options out there. The drum accommodates a 25-foot cable in either 1/4- or 5/16-inch diameters with either drop heads or bulbs.
I usually use a Ridgid K60 with a 5/8-inch cable, which is really a comparison of apples and oranges. However, I suspect it’s also possible that K60 could be overkill for many of the stoppages I encounter since it is one of the larger tools I mentioned. If the Milwaukee is appropriately sized and powered for normal stoppages, it would be much more convenient to use and lead to less wear on a customer’s floor.
The M12 is certainly a light tool. It has a flat bottom that allows it to sit upright. The drum shield is a nice feature as it prevents the snake from hitting the user or the fixture while it spins. It has an LED workspace light which has become standard on many power tools. This will be particularly helpful under cabinets. Other notable features include a removable inner drum for cleaning and a slide action cable lock. Of course the big question remains: can it get the job done when it’s called upon? I’m hanging some hope on it, because the size and weight will be a huge advantage.
Snakes in a Drain
Leaving the larger tool in the truck and just carrying the Milwaukee inside is very convenient. It’s challenging to get my normal equipment into a room and inside cabinet space without making a mess. I found the Milwaukee’s compact design and carry bucket eliminated much of the usual cleanup I normally have to do. I also didn’t have parts of the tool to drag around on the floor – the drain snake is self-contained. The cable feeds easily out of the drum and into the drain.
The snake’s flat bottom allows you to set it on the floor and free up a hand. At the same time, the tool is light enough to pick up and easy to operate with two hands as the drum shield spins. The ability to set the Snake on the floor or cabinet bottom is a great feature, but I noticed it puts your wrist in an awkward position. I’d like to see the handle’s angle changed to better accommodate the hand/wrist position when it’s on the floor.
I didn’t have much overhead work during this review but it’s easy to imagine that a tool this small and light is perfect for that kind of job.
Besides being well-powered and able to handle any of the kitchen and bath stoppages I threw at it, the battery is remarkable. I’ve charged it once in three weeks and used the snake many times. Some reviews express skepticism that the M12 can get the job done, but it really can.
Limitations and Advantages
Of course, I wouldn’t push this drain snake past its limits of small stoppages in waste arms and similar jobs. It’s probably not going to clear anything under the ground because the cable is too small for those jobs. But that’s really okay – it’s similar to the 12V vs 18V power tool discussion. I can clear the majority of stoppages with a lot less hassle using Milwaukee and save the larger tools for the relatively fewer tough jobs.
Pro Tip: Milwaukee’s M12 Drain Snake includes a variable speed trigger. Use this to your advantage to control the amount of mess created when unclogging a drain.
It would be nice if the cable had interchangeable heads. The K60’s have 5/8- and 7/8-inch cables with an interchangeable funnel, cutter, and drop heads. The Milwaukee M12 drain snake uses 25-foot bulb and DH cables in 5/16-inch and 1/4-inch diameters but you have to change the whole cable to change the head. The K60’s larger cables and more aggressive heads are for tougher jobs that perhaps the Milwaukee isn’t suited for, but it still would be nice to have head options for the cables.
The Bottom Line
The Milwaukee M12 drain snake’s compact design, weight, power, and battery life make clearing waste arm stoppages and similar jobs remarkably easier. It can fit in tight spaces, creates less mess, and there’s much less equipment laying around a customer’s house or business. I’d like to see interchangeable cable heads, a modified handle angle for sitting on the floor, and a larger cable size capability. But those things wouldn’t deter me from buying it as it is. I would certainly recommend this to other professionals. At $219 for the bare tool and $249 for the kit, you’ll be glad you have it on the job.
Milwaukee M12 Drain Snake Features
- Lightest Professional Drain Line Machine
- Hybrid Design: Provides benefits of both handheld and floor based drain cleaners in one machine
- Drum Shield: Protects user & fixture during use
- Removable Inner Drum: Helps prevent cable bind up and contains mess inside the drum
- Slide Action Cable Lock Mechanism
- LED Light: Illuminates work area underneath sink and other dark spaces
- Drum will accept other manufacturer’s cables
Milwaukee M12 Drain Snake Specifications
- Model: Milwaukee 2571-21/2571-20
- Length: 17″
- Weight: 10.25 pounds
- Height: 10.9″
- Width: 9.9″
- No Load Speed: 0 – 500 RPM
- Capacity: 25′ length of 1/4″ or 5/16″Inner Core Cable
- Warranty: 5 years
- Price: $219 (bare), $249 (kit)
Available Drain Cable Sizes
- 5/16″ x 25′ Bulb Head Cable (48-53-2571)
- 5/16″ x 25 Drop Head Cable (48-53-2572)
- 1/4″ x 25′ Bulb Head Cable (48-53-2573)
- 1/4″ x 25′ Drop Head Cable (48-53-2574)
- 5/16″ x 25′ Bulb Head Cable w/Drum (48-53-2581)
- 5/16″ x 25′ Drop Head Cable w/Drum (48-53-2582)
- 1/4″ x 25′ Bulb Head Cable w/Drum (48-53-2583)
- 1/4″ x 25′ Drop Head Cable w/Drum (48-53-2584)