Drain Cleaning Equipment 101 – Hydro Jetting Vs Snaking Vs Flex Shaft

drain cleaning equipment

Not all drain cleaning machines are the same, and there is a time and place to use each machine.  Unfortunately, few plumbers are properly equipped for completing comprehensive drain cleaning.  Thankfully, B&P Environmental has a specialized drain cleaning division to pick up when plumbers simply cannot resolve the issue. We use many different types of machines to ensure the best results for you. Some of the machines that we use the most include:


Hydrojetting machines use a pump to push high-pressure water through hundreds of feet of hoses and out of special nozzles designed to clean sewer lines.  The machines, hoses, and nozzles come in many shapes and sizes, each designed to accomplish a specific task.  Some nozzles can even cost several thousands of dollars or more.  

Hydrojetting is usually the preferred method of drain cleaning when available.  The machines are typically mounted on a truck or a trailer.  The hydrojet is preferred because while cleaning and breaking up debris, scale, or roots, the water that gives the machine power also flushes the waste out of the system.  When compared to snaking that does not use water, this is a huge benefit.  Think of hydrojetting as power washing the inside of pipes.  B&P has hyrojet machines ranging from ⅛ inch all the way up to one-inch hoses, capable of cleaning any debris from a 2” residential drain line up to a 72” stormwater tunnel.  As discussed, these machines are large and powerful – when you cannot get access, other methods are to be used.  

Drain Snaking 

Drain snakes are typically a more simple and cheaper form of drain cleaning equipment. Drain snakes feed long metal cables down a drain, spinning various style tips/heads slowly to work their way down the pipe and through a clog.  Drain snakes are typically also more portable, which makes them easier to use inside buildings.  Snakes also have an additional benefit over something like a hydrojet and are often used inside a building in combination with a hydrojet for the best results.  That benefit is that the snake will not add additional water to an already overflowing drain!  So if a sewer drain is backed up, a snake can first be used to punch a hole in a clog to allow some or all of the water to drain, then a hydrojet can be used to fully clean the sewer pipes.

Drain snakes can also use different types of snake ‘bits’ or ‘heads.’  For example, a corkscrew retriever tip can be used to grab something like a sponge, scrub brush, or ball of roots so that it can be pulled out of the line, rather than pushed deeper into the system.  The main drawback to snaking is that it does not typically fully ‘clean’ the line as the cable is significantly smaller than the pipe it is working in. As a result, it cannot be guaranteed to fully clean the entire pipe diameter like a hydrojet or flex shaft will.  Regardless, the snaking machines are an essential asset in the drain cleaners arsenal.

Flex Shaft Machines 

Flex shaft machines are relatively new to the market, so few drain cleaners have them.  The flex shaft machine has three main components: a hollow sheath that does not spin, a solid cable core inside the sheath that spins at 2,500 RPM to spin a series of chains that expand due to centrifugal forces.  Because the chains expand, they will clean the full profile of the pipe.  Flex shaft machines do very well cutting through:

  • Grease
  • Roots
  • Assorted debris
  • Hard accumulated scale

Because the outer sheath does not spin – a sewer camera can be used with the flex shaft where the spinning head is just in front of the camera, so specific areas and issues with the pipe can be addressed.  Flex shaft machines work grease because they can be used anywhere and often can accomplish the job of a hydrojet where a hydrojet cannot be brought.

Our Experts Have the Right Drain Cleaning Equipment

Our B&P Environmental team has extensive drain cleaning experience, so we know which tools are right for the job. If you have any questions about the equipment we use or anything else about our drain cleaning services, reach out to our team today by calling (443) 292-9259. Learn more about our comprehensive cleaning services and how they can improve the condition of your drains today.

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