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! 🙂


     Things get destroyed beyond imagination. And that destruction occurs in moments. Seconds. Fractions of seconds.

     Sammy, my son with autism, is extremely active. He is in constant motion. He is always jumping, climbing, running, dancing, etc. If he doesn’t have structure and supervision he causes mass destruction. He is big now, 7 years old, and so he has become much like having a wild bear or gorilla in the house. Things get destroyed beyond imagination. And that destruction occurs in moments. Seconds. Fractions of seconds.

   He does not sit still. His favorite pastimes are: shredding anything he can find that is shreddable (paper, cardboard, his sister’s homework, etc.) and climbing anything that is climbable (the doors, the cabinets, shelves, couches, TVs, tables chairs, the kitchen sink, the fridge, the counter, the toilet, the shower, the closets, etc.) and then jumping from and/or swinging on the thing that he just climbed.

     I’m pretty convinced that even if I removed every article of furniture from the house he would still find a way to climb all the way to the ceiling.

    And of course, when you climb and shred things all day, the best thing about that is that you can sprinkle confetti all over the house from the highest point in each room. So, a floor that has recently been cleaned can look like something out of that Febreze commercial in about 2 minutes flat.


I tried to find confetti videos on youtube to maybe help satisfy that visual stim – and he likes them – but they don’t really stop him from shredding things and making confetti in real life — this is one of his favorite videos at the moment:


   Cue the crazy, tired mama

        So I have a question for anyone who reads my ramblings. What do you suggest I do with Sam to help decrease the chaos and destruction at home?  He needs activities that are messy, full of movement, and confetti, and in a perfect world – activities that I can orchestrate easily, isolate to one room, and that will occupy him while I clean, cook, tend to my daughter – you know, the usual.

     We have some tried and true favorites, like trips to the park and swimming and painting and swinging. But I need new ideas. What he needs most is sensory input. He likes deep pressure and lots of movement and impact. He is always seeking proprioceptive and vestibular input. 🙂

We have a small playroom with a hammock swing and tv and padded floor and small trampoline. But he is pretty bored with it and always wants me to push him on the swing for hours on end. I need to find more activities that he can do by himself while I get other things done around the house. The way it is now, I clean one side of the house while he destroys the other side. Then we switch. And repeat….

   The other day I was cleaning the living room and Sam was in the laundry room smashing lightbulbs and licking the broken pieces. Yup. Licking them.  So I can’t clean while he is home, and I can’t clean while I work (obv) — so when do I clean? At midnight?

    He is non stop into everything. If I leave him in the bath he squirts the toothpaste into the tub. Or sticks his head in the toilet. Or covers himself in VapoRub. We have locks now on the cabinets so we can hide the stuff now and hopefully limit the destruction. I am thinking we need some sort of climbing structure in the playroom (which is small, approx 10ftx9ft) and some way for him to jump and get impact … 

Any suggestions are much appreciated. My brain doesn’t work well after years of sleep deprivation so maybe the solution in right in front of my face and I can’t see it. Well, I can hope anyway eh? 🙂


August 2020