Toilet Auger vs Snake: What’s the Difference and Which Tool to Use?

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Having at least one drain cleaning tool is essential to every household. You never know when a toilet or a sink is going to act up, and where will you be when it finally does and you don’t have anything to fix it?

In this article, let’s discuss the two most useful draining tools today: toilet augers and snakes, and why you need at least one of them in your house.

When I was in college, sharing a room with three other young people who have no concept of housekeeping, you could only find an old plunger in our tool closet. Fortunately, we only had to use it a few times during our four-year stay at the university.

Fast forward a few years, I got married and bought a house for a three-member family. Obviously, I had to have more than a plunger in my tool arsenal - especially with a kid who loved to flush his toys down the toilet.

Toilet Auger vs Snake

If you venture to Home Depot or Lowe’s, you would find a vast selection of drain cleaning tools on their shelves. Among these tools are toilet augers and snakes.

Both of these have the same function, but have slight differences between them. Nevertheless, how do you choose which one is the best for your home? And which one would be a better investment?

The Toilet auger

A toilet auger, also known as a closet auger, is a drain cleaning tool that is designed to maneuver through the toilet drain and get rid of the clog head on.

A regular toilet auger consists of a long shaft, the snake, a bowl guard, and a manual crank. Many of these toilet augers come cheap, but are not all necessarily durable. If I were you, I would invest in a good quality toilet auger that can withstand many uses and corrosion.


A toilet auger is used to remove obstructions in the toilet. Things like toilet paper, sanitary napkins, tampons, dental floss, baby wipes, and hair can accumulate in the trap and cause an obstruction. Consequently, this buildup of trash causes plumbing problems such as an incomplete flush or the toilet overflow.

A small accumulation of debris can be removed using a regular plunger, but for hard-to-remove clogs, a toilet auger may be a more effective tool.

Thus, I recommend getting a toilet auger for families with small children. You never know when a toy is going to get flushed down the toilet. If you have a lot of people in your house, it’s best to get one, too, in case a lot of debris gets flushed down the toilet.

How to use a toilet auger

Using a toilet auger is pretty easy and requires less effort than using a plunger. Well, in my opinion, anyway. Here’s a quick tutorial on how to use a toilet auger:

  1. Put on a good pair of gloves. You don’t want your hands to get splashed with toilet water!
  2. Pull the auger cable or snake all the way up until it reaches the bowl guard/elbow. You can do this by winding up the manual crank.
  3. Insert the head of the snake into the toilet hole. Make sure the head of the auger does not scratch against the porcelain toilet.
  4. Firmly grasp the shaft of the toilet auger. With the other hand, start cranking the auger slowly and carefully to start feeding the cable into the toilet drain.
  5. Feed the cable into the toilet until you reach the clog. Crank the auger back and forth in order to dislodge the clog into the drain.
  6. If the clog has caught on the auger, turn the crank backwards in order to pull it out and throw the debris in the garbage.
  7. Flush the toilet two to three times to ensure the clog is gone. Repeat the process if the water still doesn’t drain completely.
  8. Don’t forget to clean the toilet auger and the toilet.
clean the toilet

The Drain Snake

A drain snake is also called a top snake or a drum snake. It’s a small drain-cleaning tool that is similar to a regular household toilet auger.

However, unlike the toilet auger, a drain snake is mainly used to remove from bathtubs, sinks, washing machines, and showers.


A regular drain snake is composed of a metal cable that can be 25 feet or 50 feet long, a tip that is shaped like a corkscrew for catching debris, and a manual crank. For electric versions of the drain snake, it may be attached to a motor instead of a manual crank.

Different types of drain snakes

Drain snakes come in different shapes and sizes. Below are some of the common types of drain snakes that you can buy at your local Home Depot or on Amazon.

  • Cable augers

A simple cable or drain auger is composed of a long, flexible cable with a corkscrew attached to the end of it. A cable auger is operated using a manual crank that is turned to feed the cable into the drain hole. The corkscrew at the end of the auger is designed to snag debris inside the drain and pull it up.

  • Flat tape auger

Instead of a flexible hose as in a cable auger, a flat tape auger makes use of a flat cable. These types of augers are used to unclog pipes that are less than 2 inches in diameter.

  • Power auger

These types of augers have built-in motors or are attached to power drills. Unlike augers with manual cranks, power augers easily maneuver down the drain since you don’t need to turn a manual crank.

  • Rocket nozzle auger

From the name itself, a rocket nozzle auger makes use of high water pressure to drive clogs further down the drain. This type of tool is usually used by professional plumbers to dislodge stubborn clogs in the drain trap.

electric snake

How to use a drain snake

Using a drain snake is highly similar to using a regular toilet auger. If you have clogs in your tubs, showers, or sinks, here’s a general tutorial on how to use a drain snake to get rid of debris caught in your trap:

  1. Put on a pair of gloves before touching any equipment, especially when handling electric drain snakes.
  2. Insert the drain snake into the drain hole. If necessary, remove the drain hole cover.
  3. Turn the manual crank or turn on the motor (if you are using an electric one) to feed the snake into the drain.
  4. Feed the snake until it reaches the obstruction.
  5. Let the head of the drain snake snag on the obstruction, or continue pushing forward to dislodge the clog.
  6. Pull the drain snake out slowly and carefully.
  7. Clean the drain snake and throw away the debris that you pull out.

Toilet Auger vs Snake

If you haven’t figured out which drain cleaning tool to get yet, here’s the bottom line for you:

  • If you want a multi-purpose tool that you can use for numerous drains, choose a drain snake. Drain snakes are smaller and are more apt for sinks, tubs, and showers, but they can also be used for toilets with minor clogs.
  • If you want a tool that can get rid of a toilet clog quickly and easy, choose a toilet auger. Unlike a drain snake, it cannot be used for other drains, but it is more appropriate for removing toilet clogs more than anything else.