What is an Electric Eel and What Does It Have to Do With Plumbing?

If you’ve got a blocked drain or sewer main, then someone may recommend that you get an electric eel and put it down your drains.

What?! Why would you put an electric eel down your drains???

An electric eel is another name for a plumbers snake, also sometimes called a toilet jack or Roto Rooter.   It gets its name because it long and thin. Electric Eels are made by a company based in Ohio by the same name. However, many people use the term electric eel for generic products made by other companies.

The end of an electric eel has a sharp U-shaped claw on it. The electric eel gets pushed down the clogged drain. As it does, an electric motor turns the claw. The claw will tear up whatever is obstructing the drain, removing the clog.

Electric eels are great for cleaning sewer mains which are clogged by tree roots, and also good in some drain clogs such as when inspection shows that a big wad of debris is stuck at one point in the drain. However, it is important to note that electric eels only tear a hole through the center of the clog. Sometimes this is enough to dislodge the clog completely from the side of the pipes. But sometimes the clog still remains on the side of the pipes, so water won’t flow as well.

Oftentimes, clogged drains are not caused by a single mass of debris stuck in the pipes. Clogs in older plumbing systems are often due to system-wide buildup of debris. Over the years, the debris builds up and makes the pipes get narrower. Putting an electric eel down the drains won’t get the buildup off the sides of the pipes so in these situations it is better to clean the drains using hydro-jetting, a process during which pressurized water scrubs the sides of the drain clean.