An electric eel is a snake-like device used to clear blockages in drains and septic systems. It is comprised of a coiled metal wire that rotates as it travels down a pipe.
When it encounters a blockage, its rotation either breaks the object up or screws its end into the object like a corkscrew, after which it can be pulled from the drain.
Types of auger
Also known as an auger, an electric eel comes in several different types. These include:
- Hand auger – This is used primarily in the drains under sinks and bathtubs to clear small blockages such as soap scum and hair.
- Closet auger – A closet auger is a short J-shaped auger used for toilets. It has a plastic boot on its end to protect the porcelain and will break up or retrieve most blockages.
- Drum auger – This is a heavy-duty motorised auger with interchangeable blades, commonly used for clearing tree roots in larger drain pipes
- Roto-Rooter – A roto-rooter is an American electric auger used to clean drains and septics. It has become the generic name for an auger across the US.
- Sewer inspection snake – While not an auger, this device is also useful for drain cleaning as it has a small video camera attached to its end, which allows the user to identify the blockage remotely.
How to use an auger
An auger is relatively easy to use, but care needs to be taken to avoid scratching the toilet bowl or damaging the interior of the drain pipe. The steps involved are as follows:
- Push the end into the toilet bowl or drain opening, and either crank the handle if it is a manual device or activate the motorised turning mechanism.
- Allow it to slowly feed down the drain until it encounters the blockage, at which point, keep turning it until you feel it either break up the obstacle and spin freely again or embed itself in the obstacle.
- If it has attached itself to the object, retract the wire and this should bring the object with it. Then run water down the drain at full force for several minutes until you are sure the blockage has been cleared.
Tips on preventing blockages
While you can hire an auger fairly cheaply at a hardware or equipment hire store, prevention is always better than cure, so here are some tips to keep your drains clear of blockages.
- Don’t put anything down them that is likely to coagulate, such as fats, grease and oils.
- Use a strainer on your sinks to prevent food scraps and other objects from entering your drains.
- Flush plenty of cold water through your garbage disposal both during and after operation.
Augers or electric eels are a great invention, allowing us to reach deep within our drains to clear or remove blockages. They are a simple idea based on a sound principle and have helped many a plumber and DIYer out of a potentially messy situation.