Sewer Snake Sizing

Sewer Cleaning Machine Size.

Sewer cleaning machines are made in different sizes to suit the job. If you were in need of a sewer cleaning cable, or a roto rooting machine, which cable or sewer cleaning machine would you purchase?

One of the two big box stores carries a line of Rigid brand, sewer cleaning products. The largest sewer cleaning machine kept in stock is the Rigid K-400. This machine comes with a 3/8″ hollow core sewer cleaning cable. Would you feel comfortable using the 3/8″ cable in a main line sewer cleaning project? You shouldn’t. There are articles on line, granting testimony to the effectiveness of a 3/8″ sewer cleaning cable from Rigid. O.k.? That person got away with using the 3/8″ cable on his 3″ diameter sewer line to clear root intrusion. Chances of winning a bet that this man is still fighting a battle with root intrusion are very high.

The 3/8″ sewer cleaning cable is primarily a branch line or a drain cleaning snake. It is best used on 2″ diameter drain lines. However, if you have a blockage of known cause, preferably a paper blockage or a soft blockage of a sort, you may fare well using a 3/8″ drain snake on a sewer line no larger in diameter than 3″. Professional sewer and drain cleaning service technicians would more than likely steer clear.

How to Size the Sewer Cleaning Cable

How to Size the Sewer Cleaning Cable

Obviously a small cable is for a small sewer line. You would not use a 1/4″ drain cleaning cable on a 3″ or 4″ sewer line. That much should be easy to see. However, what size sewer cleaning cable would you use on a 3″ sewer line or greater if there were roots or hardened grease in the sewer line?

Look at the selection of sewer and drain cleaning cables. The smallest is 1/4″. Then the 5/16″ drain snake”. Next in size is 3/8″ drain snake. Then a 1/2″ sewer cleaning cable. 9/16″ and 11/16″ sewer cleaning cables are the largest sewer cleaning cables you may find in a big box store. Not likely, to find the largest sewer cleaning cables in a big box store. But, that is a personal observation.

Let’s group the sewer cleaning cable size into small, medium, large and x-large.

  • The 1/4″ drain snake would be small.
  • The 5/16″ and 3/8″ drain snakes would be medium.
  • The 1/2″ sewer cleaning cable would be large.
  • The 9/16″ and larger sewer cleaning cables would be x-large.
  • The 1 1/4″ and 1 1/2″ drain lines are small. So, use a small drain cleaning snake (refer to the list just above). Preferably, the smaller the drain, the smaller the cable.

    The 2″ drain line would be considered medium. Therefore, use a medium drain snake.

    The 3″ sewer line is large. Use a large sewer cleaning cable.

    The 4″ and 5″ sewer lines are x-large for a residents or a small business building. Use an x-large sewer cleaning cable.


    When a cable encounters a blockage, the drain cleaning cable or sewer cleaning cable begins to flex. If the cable does not have a great enough tensile strength, and there is enough space inside the pipe, the drain cleaning or sewer cleaning cable can flex to the point it bends and wraps around itself. That means you have a knotted cable and you may not be able to retrieve the cable with out cutting the pipe. In the worst case scenario, you may be paying for an excavation. Very expensive! The fella who cleared is sewer line (undoubtedly 3″ or better) of roots got lucky. Don’t take chances. Professional sewer cleaning services have the right equipment. If you feel you may use the equipment repeatedly, purchase it. You will save money in the long run. However, if you feel your situation is rare and you will not have repeat occurrences, call a sewer and drain cleaning service.

    Diagnosing and fixing the drainage problem for a sink, shower or bathtub may be a long and difficult process. Be safe. If fixing the issue is something that is risky or not being understood, contact a drain service company. The range of pricing for a company who cares to do the job correctly is within $145.00 – $225.00. This depends on material used in piping, age of the house which would help the plumber understand the plumbing code that was used in assembling the plumbing system, access to the plumbing and what is assumed to be creating the blockage.


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