Can You Snake an AC Drain Line?

Drain lines often clog. Whereas it is easy to remove some clogs, things may not be straightforward with others. Having a clogged drain line can be quite unsettling. You may also not have the time to call a plumber to unclog your AC drain line. Thus, knowing how to deal with stubborn clogs may be a good idea. One often common solution is to snake your drain line. You need to have the right snake and follow the correct procedure.

Yes, you can snake an AC drain line if you have the right type of snake. A standard plumbing snake may not do the right job. You may have to use a smart snake. Also, you need to understand the right procedure to use to clean a clogged AC drain line using a snake. This is important to ensure that you complete the process well.

What are the Signs of a Clogged Drain Line?

It is easy to tell if your AC drain line is clogged. If you can detect a blockage early enough, you can avoid many of the problems that usually follow.

Here are some of the most prominent signs that your drain line is clogged. Remember, you do not have to see all of them at once to tell that your drain line has a clog. On many occasions, you may see one or two signs.

A Full Drain Pan

Your drain pan is one of the best components that you can use to tell if there is a problem. However, your drain pan is not supposed to be full of water at any time.

If you realize that the drain pan is full of water, there is a problem with the drain line of the AC system.

Sometimes, you can rely on seeing water damage on the walls near your unit instead of focusing on the drain pan alone.

A Musty Smell from the Air Vents

The presence of a musty smell coming from the air vents of your AC unit is a clear sign that there is a problem deep inside the drain line.

The foul smell usually comes from smelly water that may be trapped anywhere along the line. The more the water remains trapped inside the drain line, the more intense the smell will become.

The AC Unit is Faulty

Sometimes, your AC unit will suddenly switch off because of the presence of clogged water inside the lines. When the water settles inside the pipes finds its way to the float switch, it forces the entire unit to shut off. The unit will hardly switch off unless you snake the drain lines.

Why should you Snake a Drain Line?  

There are many reasons why you should snake your drain line. Here are some of the most important ones.

  1. Clogging can damage your AC unit
  2. If the water finds itself on the float switch, it will trigger the AC unit to shut down. If the water reaches other sensitive components of the unit, it may damage them. Replacing an AC unit is a costly and time-consuming affair. Thus, to prevent such from happening, you need to check your drain line repeatedly. Once you realize there is a problem, deal with it immediately.
  3. A clogged drain pipe produces a bad odor
  4. The bad odor that comes from the stale water trapped inside your AC drain may be a source of trouble in the whole home. As the bacteria and mold growth increases in the stale water, the stench continues to be strong. Only by using the right type and size of a plumber’s snake can you free the stale water and do away with the stench.

How to Snake a Clogged Drain Line  

Snaking a clogged drain line should be a walk in the park if you understand what to do. One important thing to remember is to use a smart plumber’s snake.

Traditional plumbing snakes cannot effectively go through the sharp corners of PVC elbow traps. A smart plumber’s snake consists of a flexible stainless-steel material and a small ball at the end.

The flexible material can easily reach all the corners of your lines. Here is a simple procedure that you can use to snake your clogged lines.

  1. Open your drain lines
  2. This is a fairly simple step. You need to find out where your air conditioning system is. The ac drain line is usually outside near the unit. Find the drain line access point to open your drain lines.
  3. Insert the snake into the drain line and push it as much as it can go
  4. Ensure the snake reaches the deepest parts of the clogged condensate drain line. Sometimes, the condensate may settle deep into the drain pipe. So push the drain snake as deep as you can.
  5. Twist the drain snake to collect as much residue as possible
  6. The small ball at the end of your smart snake frees the entire drain line of residue when well used. Twist your snake several times so that the small balled end can clean the condensate drain thoroughly.
  7. Pull the snake out of the drain line
  8. The end of the snake would have cleaned your clogged ac drain line completely. You may reinsert the snake into your drainpipe as much as it is necessary to ensure that all the condensate is out. Your drain pipe may be particularly stubborn. This occurs if so much residue has dried up inside the pipe.

How can you Prevent Clogging of your Drain Line?  

Clogging can be very costly. Apart from the discomfort of bad odors and a system not functioning well, clogging can cost you money. You may be forced to redo some components of your system. This is always very costly.

Also, calling a certified HVAC professional to help you clean the drain line may be expensive. The good news is that there are many steps that you can take to prevent clogging in the first place.

Use a Drain Pan Tablet

A drain pan tablet helps prevent clogging inside your drain lines by breaking down all the mildew and other solid materials. The tablets come in bottles. A bottle usually contains hundreds of these tablets. Using tablets is a straightforward process.

Once you have changed your filters, you place about two hundred tablets in the condensate pan. They will actively break down all the bacteria mold mildew and prevent slime from forming.

Maintain your Drain Lines

One simple but particularly important practice is to ensure that the drain line slants towards the ground. Check the drain line coming from the system to ensure that it is slanting at a good angle. This will prevent stagnant water from forming inside.

If the standing water stays inside your lines for a long time, it causes the growth of bacteria and mold. Also, condensate drain will not occur properly if the drain line.

Create a Visible Tube Section for Observing the Pipes

You can get a technician to replace a small section of the tubing with a clear rubber trap material. Occasionally, peep through the visible section to ensure that the water is draining well. If you realize that you cannot see through, consider replacing the old drain line with a new one.

Other Ways to Unclog AC Drain Line

There are many other ways of unclogging a drain line apart from snaking it. Here are some of the methods that you can use.

Manually Clear any Blockage

You can use air pressure or water pressure to attempt to clean your drain line. For example, you can take your garden hose when water pressure and direct it inside the lines. The pressure of the water may be enough to break down the clog and remove the condensate.

Also, you can push some compressed air through the lines. However, if this fails, you may resort to snaking your lines.

Alternatively, you can use warm soapy water or even vinegar water to remove the clogs from your drain. You may then use a thin wire brush to clean the clogged ac drain line.

Using Vinegar and Water

Some people believe that it is good to use vinegar to clean their drain lines. However, you should never attempt to use vinegar for this purpose. Using vinegar to clean your drain lines may damage the evaporator coil.

The evaporator coil is a highly delicate component of your system. You can find the evaporator coils deep inside the indoor air handler. Without the evaporator coil, the indoor air handler will not function properly.

In addition, the indoor air handler helps to keep the temperature in your home under control. Thus, using vinegar will inadvertently damage the indoor air handler.

Using Bleach

Bleach has a similar effect on your evaporator coils like vinegar. Bleach will corrode the evaporator coils in your HVAC unit and undermine the ability of the air handler to work. Therefore, avoid using bleach to unclog your drain lines.

Use a Shop-Vac and Water

You can effectively clear debris from your lines by using a shop vac hose and water. To do this, attempt to remove the loose debris from the end of your drain line outside your house.

Connect the shop vac hose outside of your air conditioning unit through the clean-out access point if this does not work. Pour water from a jug into the condensate line.

The shop vac hose will then remove all the debris from your lines. One word of caution is necessary. Do not flush water towards the air conditioning system.

Doing this may cause water build-up and may cause damage to the delicate internal components of your system.

Rebuild the Drain Line

If the residue inside your system is too much and already hardened, you may have no option but to rebuild the drain line. You should consider this the last option because of the need to save money.

However, if none of the other alternatives here seem to work, you will have to get a technician to remove the old lines and install new ones.

Can You Snake an AC Drain Line FAQs

Can I Use Bleach in my AC Drain Line? 

No, you should never use bleach in your drain line, even as a routine maintenance procedure. Bleach will corrode the evaporator coil and damage your entire system.

Is a Drain Pan Tablet good for my AC Line? 

Drain pan tablets are good for your AC line. Once you have put them in the pan, they will ensure that no debris forms inside the lines. However, remember to keep the remaining tablets in airtight conditions. This will ensure that you use them again.

When should I Replace my AC Drain Line? 

Replace your AC drain line when you can no longer clean them. If they are permanently blocked, it may be time to get a technician to replace the entire system.


Snaking your drain lines should be a routine maintenance procedure. It will help to keep the air conditioning system in good shape. Dirt, mold spores, and other debris usually accumulate inside your drain lines over time.

You can remove them manually or use warm water or compressed air. If all these methods fail, use a smart snake to remove the dirt. A smart snake will navigate through the PVC traps and remove all the dirt deep inside the clogged lines.