The Autism Mom’s Guide to Snaking Your Main Drain. Yeah, it’s not as fun as it sounds.

Sammy likes to flush everything.  Toys, coins, beads, food, gallons of milk, bars of soap, toothbrushes, anything he can find. And so he often clogs the toilet.

I really didn’t have a grasp on how the whole plumbing system of my house worked until Sam started causing countless plumbing woes. And out of necessity, because I lacked the funds to hire another plumber, I learned how to do it myself.

If the clog is in your toilet, but the plunger won’t work, you can use a snake. You can buy one at your local hardware store. Don’t buy the cheap one, it will break. (yes, I learned that the hard way) Buy the more expensive one (which will only be about $20 or so)

The snake will remove most toilet clogs – like plastic big birds, toy phones, and bars of soap.

But sometimes, the snake doesn’t do the trick either. That’s because the clog is past the toilet, it has gone into the main drain line.

Here’s a picture that explains it:

…oh wait.. that’s the wrong picture. Here it is:

Basically, all the drains in your home feed into a main drain line that runs under the house, then underground through the yard and out to the sewer or septic tank. And they all feed into it at a  different place, so in my house for instance it starts in my bathroom, then goes to the kitchen, laundry room, and guest bathroom – the sink, then toilet, then tub. So if there is a clog in the main line, you can pinpoint it by what drains and what doesn’t. If my tub drains but the toilet doesn’t then the clog is between the toilet and the tub. But if the tub won’t drain either, then the clog is past the tub, in the main line somewhere between my bathroom and 75 feet or so into my front yard on the way to the sewer.

And this happens at least twice a year. We hit a point where nothing in the house drains, no toilets, tubs, or sinks, and so of course it is a total disaster situation and we need to remedy it immediately. A typical plumber will charge at least $50 just to show up and knock on your door. And usually ours clogs on weekends, of course, so we would have to pay extra to get a plumber out. Any work on top of that and you are easily looking at hundreds of dollars in plumbing bills. All for that stupid toy that he flushed. The one he begged you to buy, then as soon as he got home he ran to the bathroom and flushed it. Yeah, that one.

So if you are in a similar spot as me, and you just can’t afford another plumber, then you can do it yourself. Yes you can!

You need a power snake. It is like the little toilet snake I mentioned before, but it’s bigger and badder. It is powered and long. They come in different lengths – 50, 75, 100 ft. We usually get the 75ft, it’s about 100 ft from my house to the sewer so it’s a risk that it won’t be long enough, but so far 75 has been enough. 50ft is too short, I think. Usually, in our situation, the clog seems to be about 70 ft or so into our yard.

You can rent one from Home Depot for about $60.

So Step One: Admit you have a problem and go rent a power snake.

There it is, don’t be intimidated, you can DO THIS!

Step Two: Locate your clean out valve. Ours was really hard to find, even the plumber couldn’t find it and he ended up taking our toilet off to do it. You cannot power snake the drain from the toilet, tub, or sink because they have traps and the snake will just break the pipe. So if you can’t find the valve you can take the toilet off and snake it through there  – but that’s a big pain. The clean out valve is usually located on the ground, near your house, either on the front or side of the house. If you can’t find it google “how to find my clean out valve” and it will give you some tips, that helped me find mine. Mine is on the outside wall of my house under my bathroom window – which is a really weird place, I found it all by myself 🙂

They usually have a round top with a square head and you need a set of big pliers to open it.

Step Three:  Set up your work space. You will be here a while, so I suggest you bring a chair.

Step Four: Bring the snake into position, set up the pedal where you can easily reach it with your foot. Make sure there is nothing in the way that may get tangled or snagged. The snake is strong and powerful but you always have control of it with your foot so you can always stop it if you need to. You absolutely must have leather gloves to do this. NO way around it. Home Depot gave them to us when we rented it the other two times but this time they didn’t so make sure you ask for them.

Pull the snake out and put it into the hole. Don’t try to shove it in, it will feed itself in once you turn it on. haha.

Foot on pedal, the little black thingy – that’s the pedal.

Step Five: You are ready to go.  Plug it in, turn the power switch to “Forward”. There are three settings – forward, reverse, and off. Forward sends it in, reverse sends it back and winds it up. It doesn’t do anything until you push the foot pedal.

Ok so when you push the pedal you need to have both hands on the snake as you feed it into the hole. It doesn’t just feed itself, you have to pull it and feed it in. Make sure it doesn’t get stuck or too much slack. If you hit a clog you can’t get past, sit on it for a while and run the snake then back it up. You may pull the clog out this way.  If you allow it to get too much slack you run the risk of it recoiling, and you could possibly get your fingers caught in there. Yeah, there’s even a “Watch out you can lose fingers” sticker on it. And that freaked me out too, and the first time I used it, it wasn’t feeding right and I got too much slack and it recoiled – it wasn’t that scary but I can see how it could have totally caught my fingers and been really extreme –  but it really isn’t as crazy as it seems. Once you get a feel for it you will be a pro like me. You can always just lift your foot off the pedal and stop it, even if you get a bunch of slack and it gets crazy, just remain calm. You are the master of this machine. Show it who’s boss. It’s like a sewing machine on steroids – a piece of cake.

I had to take a hand off to snap the pic, hold it with two hands as you push the pedal and feed it in. At first I had a hard time getting it in, but just be patient and keep trying, once you get past the first curve it’s smooth sailing.

You may feel it hit an obvious clog, or it may knock it out of the way without you noticing. Sometimes when you reverse it and pull it out you pull the clog out too, other times you never know what clogged it. This time it looked like our clog was just a bunch of paper towels – the snake came out wrapped in wads of them….


And yeah, it’s really me doing this work. Don’t I look like I am having fun?

Yes, it’s really me doing the work. I’m having a blast as you can tell.

So there it is. After that you just reverse it out, hose it off, and bring it back to the store. (they’ll charge you if it’s dirty) Check the tub and toilets to make sure they drain well. If they don’t, just snake it again. The snake comes with different attachments, I haven’t needed them yet, but if it doesn’t work the first time try the attachments.

Happy Snaking Everyone! 🙂


There is plenty of time for worry – this is time for calm

I often get asked how I handle my stress and I usually have the same answer: I meditate. When you think of meditation what pops into your head?

When I used to think of meditation, I would picture people sitting with their legs crossed, their hands on their knees, with perfect posture and in a place of total enlightenment:

And that’s awesome. But my back hurts. And when I try to sit like this, instead of quieting my mind, all I can think about is how uncomfortable I am and how much my back hurts. And so that was when I would stop meditating and declare it doesn’t work and give up. Then I saw an interview with Deepak Chopra  and he said to meditate you should get into a comfortable position.

Of course as an autism mommy, business owner, mommy of a typical 8-year-old, domestic goddess,  etc… I don’t get a lot of “me time”. Very rarely is there quiet in my home. Usually it is quite the opposite:

So my version of meditation is not a very zen version of calm. Maybe we need a new category for meditation – the busy mom version.

I catch whatever few moments of calm I can find and use those moments to take deep breaths and quiet my mind. My favorite place to do this is my bed – lying flat on my back, no feet on the floor or hands on knees with palms facing up… just lying flat. But I do touch my pointer finger to my thumb, this helps center me in my happy place. My happy place is the blue ridge mountains.  

And maybe I am doing it wrong – but it works.

I try to get at least 20 full minutes of meditation time a day but usually I have to just split it up into several little moments throughout the day. I sometimes close my eyes for a minute and focus on my breath at red lights, or in the car line while picking the kids up from school (I recommend putting the car in park if you try this haha) And even when I can’t close my eyes I just take the time to intentionally focus on my breath and calm my mind. And one of my favorite times for nice quiet meditation is when I get in bed to go to sleep.

I breathe deep. Inhale big and exhale longer than I inhale. I clear my mind. Which is next to impossible since I usually have to listen to the kids and translate the sounds to determine the level of destruction they are  causing in my absence. But that’s okay.

Thoughts will enter my mind, I worry if I paid that bill or what’s for dinner or if homeworks done or if the dogs need to go out, but then I just usher the thought out and clear my mind again. There is plenty of time for worry – this is time for calm. And lots of thoughts enter, and they just get ushered out. I just keep my focus – picture my mountain view – and clear my mind.

Another approach I have tried is to focus on what I want. Once, I really wanted to win these concert tickets so every day all week I meditated for 20 minutes and pictured myself on a mountain with the tickets in my hand. And you know what? I won the tickets!!! It was awesome!! But I didn’t have the same luck when I pictured myself with a giant winning lotto check in my hand. Doh! So I went back to just clearing my mind and not thinking about anything except how it feels to be on the mountain looking at that magnificent view. It feels happy and calm 🙂

I have moments of being a very stressed out person. And I am often irritable and overwhelmed, I am always grumpy in the morning, and exhausted by 2pm though my son usually doesn’t settle down (if he sleeps at all) until after 11pm. My typical daughter can drive me batty with her constant chatter and questions – and one liners — like last night when I was cleaning dog pee off the floor and yelling and mad at the dog and then I slipped in the pee and fell and hurt myself — she chimed in with “Well that’s what you get for yelling.” And of course my son with autism keeps it interesting by climbing and/or breaking  and/or peeing on everything in sight.

Sooooo… of course I drink plenty of booze.

But aside from that — one thing that really keeps me sane in this crazy world — is meditation. And a positive outlook. And realizing that this is my life, I need to be here now and enjoy it before they are all grown up and I am a lonely old woman with a perfectly clean house and no more kids running around keeping it interesting. Well except for the grandkids…

An anonymous poem I found in a magazine reminds me of what is important:  “I hope my children look back on today, and remember a mom who had time to play. There will be years for cleaning and cooking, but children grow up when we aren’t looking”

So I just have to roll with the punches and realize how blessed I am. One day I will look back fondly on this time as “the good ol’ days” 🙂

August 2020