New to Drain Cleaning – What should I get?


Q. I’m planning to start my own plumbing company in the near future. What type of drain cleaning tools would you recommend for a person who is new to the drain cleaning world?

A. You’ve made a smart decision. Even though augers and hydro jetters are one of the most common tools in the plumbing world, flexible drain cleaning shafts have a few important benefits compared to them. One of the most attractive benefits of a flex shaft sewer machine is that it can pay for itself in just a couple of uses. But to get the most out of this, you need to have a couple of important things in mind:

The material of the pipes

PVC pipes and metal pipes require different kinds of drain cleaning chains. A chain which is perfect for removing tough blockages in cast iron pipes is too aggressive and will cause damage to PVC pipes. It is recommended that you use a plain chain in PVC pipes and a chain with hard metal bits if working in metal pipes. Drain cleaning chains for flex shaft plumbing are suitable for removing fat and grease, stubborn blockages, root intrusion, urine scale or tuberculation in pipes.

Pay attention to your area specifically. Are there more PVC or cast iron pipes there? That information will significantly affect your choice of the sewer cleaning chain

The type of work that you will be doing

Are you aiming to remove blockages, or descaling pipes? Or, would you like the ability to do both?

If you would like to remove blockages in pipes, the best drain cleaning chain to use with your flex shaft sewer machine would be a standard sewer chain knocker which has two hubs and individual chain links that go from one chain hub to another. Especially suitable for blockage removal are the sewer chain knockers with a drill head in the front that will obliterate obstacles in different pipe sizes. On the other hand, circular chains excel at descaling pipes since they clean the entire inner circumference of the pipe.

Domestic or commercial customers

Another thing to take into consideration is if the majority of your clients will be domestic or commercial customers?

If you will be working with domestic clients, then the types of drains that are most likely to clog will be toilets, sinks, or laundry drains.

I’m sure you’ve got a plunger, but so does your customer. If they’ve called you, the plunger didn’t work. The best tool for clearing a clogged toilet is a 6mm (¼”) flexible shaft with a mini drain cleaning plain chain. Unlike an auger which would damage the porcelain, the flex shaft sewer machine has a heat and chemical resistant sleeve which will prevent damage to the toilet bowl while you work from the toilet into the sewer system. Also, it will save you the headache of removing and replacing the toilet pan.

Flex shaft plumbing for commercial customers will have different kinds of challenges. Usually, you will face troubles of larger fatty deposits in pipes, struvite, or tuberculation in pipes, and many times you will need to descale limescale and urine scale from communal toilets.

This is also closely connected with the average size of the pipes. If you are going to be cleaning 4” pipes, then the size of the flexible shaft would be different from if you would be cleaning 2” pipes.

The thickness of the flexible drain cleaning shaft depends on the number of bends that you would like to pass through and also on the size of the pipe that you are working in. The more bends you need to get through, the thinner the shaft should be. However, the thinner the shaft is, the less torque the shaft delivers.

Flexible shaft length

Most clients insist on getting the longest shaft possible. Yet, on average, most of the blockages occur within 20 meters (65ft), and most clean outs are located 25 meters (80ft) apart. However, this is something that you would know more about since you have better knowledge of your specific client’s needs. When you choose one of the recommended flexible sewer cleaning shafts, please be sure to keep this in mind.

The longer your flex shaft is, the less torque is delivered to the other end, as there is a slight loss in energy passed through the flexible shaft.

Consider purchasing two shorter flex shafts with a shaft connector so that you have less to carry around on site, and when you need extra length, you could simply connect an additional shaft. In this way, you could also connect a thinner flex shaft to a thicker flexible sewer cleaning shaft to give you flexibility when needed, as well as the torque to drive the thinner shaft.

The number of bends

A thinner flexible drain cleaning shaft will give you more flexibility needed to navigate multiple bends, at the expense of torque. More rigid shaft also has its advantages and disadvantages. A rigid shaft provides more torque and is better suited for certain situations, but they lack the flexibility that thinner shafts have. Weighing up these variables will allow you to make the best choice while choosing between a more flexible and a more rigid shaft.

For example, if you consider the bending radius of a 2” pipe is not the same as the radius in a 4” pipe, so every time you pass through a junction or bend in a pipe, you are exerting pressure between the shaft and the sleeve which affects the torque supplied to the sewer chain knocker. Reducing the amount of pressure on each bend has an impact on the performance of the tools. For example, a ½” shaft would struggle to pass through a junction or an elbow bend in a 2” pipe because the bending radius available in a 2” pipe is less than the bending radius of a ½” shaft.


When taking all of these points into consideration, you will be able to find drain cleaning tools that will be perfect for you.

While these tools will pay for themselves relatively quickly, when you have established yourself and you can invest in more expensive equipment, then you could consider the benefits of a Ridgid K102 or Ridgid K204, or even the Ridgid K306 machine. Another very popular brand is the Picote Mini Miller or the Picote Midi Miller or even the Picote Maxi Miller. In another blog, we will be talking about the advantages and disadvantages of using these tools.

If you are not sure which tool will suit your needs or if you have any questions about the flex shaft plumbing, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at