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How to Unclog a Sink

You may not realize it but your sink is a workhorse. The second a sink gets clogged you’re going to have a big problem on your hands. Here are the best ways to unclog a kitchen sink, and the order in which you should try them so you can unclog the sink on your own without calling a plumber.

You’ve got this homeowner!

We will be using a kitchen sink as an example, but this will apply to bathroom sinks, mudroom sinks or utility sinks that are clogged.

 

Why is my kitchen sink clogged?

It’s a good idea to know how your kitchen sink can get clogged.  There are a variety of reasons. The most common ones are build-up in the pipes that can be caused by grease, coffee grounds, food scraps, soap scum residue and even hair. Over time these items can build up causing the flow of water to slow down and even stopping all together.

 

How to prevent your kitchen sink from clogging

As always an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure here are the things you can do to maintain your kitchen sink and prevent it.

Never put the following down the drain:

  • Animal fat
  • Oils
  • Grease
  • Meat
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg shells
  • Grain based starches like pasta or rice
  • Fruit and vegetable peels, seeds
  • Stickers (usually they are on the produce you bring home)
  • Paper products of any kind

While some of these are likely obvious, others may not be so evident. If grease does go down the sink drain, run hot tap water or even boiling water immediately (as long as it’s not PVC pipe) for a length of time so that it doesn’t stick on the side of the pipe or settle in the drain trap.

 

What tools will I need to unclog a kitchen or bathroom sink?

When it comes time to tackle a clogged kitchen sink it’s important that you have the right tools. Having the wrong tools can cause frustration and even damage your plumbing, so it’s good to make sure you have everything you need before you begin. The things you will need are:

How to remove standing water in a sink quickly

Sometimes your sink will have a bunch of food trimmings clogging the drain. All it needs is a little help.

If this happens and there’s no water going down roll up your sleeve take your index finger and spin it clockwise ( or counterclockwise if you are in the southern hemisphere) to create a whirlpool this will move around the food that is blocking the drain and may fix your drain clogged.

Here’s a quick video on how to do it.

If this doesn’t work, move on to the next step.

 

Unclog a sink using hot water

*Do not try this with PVC pipes as it could damage the plastic in the pipes

It is amazing how often this works.

Remove the kitchen drain stopper and see if there are any visible food scraps. There may be grease, soap and debris build up blocking the pipe.

  1. Fill a kettle with water and set it to boil.
  2. Pour a half cup of salt (I use regular table salt) down the drain. Let it sit for a few minutes.
  3. Once the water is boiling pour the water down the drain of your sink. Be mindful that you are holding scalding hot water and that any splash back could burn you.
  4. Turn on the water and see if your drain is draining any faster.

This method can dissolve any of the build up that might be in your pipes. Before doing anything else it’s always a good idea to give this a try as it works fairly often.

If that doesn’t work, move on to the next step.

 

How to unclog a kitchen sink: check the garbage disposal

The next place you want to check is the garbage disposal if you have one.

*Warning: Never put your hand down in a garbage disposal as it can result in loss of limb.

  1. Run the disposal and see if it is running correctly. This may clear your clogged and solve your problems.
  2. If your garbage disposal doesn’t turn on it may need to be reset. Perform a reboot on it and see if it works.
  3. Listen to see if you hear a low humming sound. The unit could be broken or jammed.
  4. If this is the case you can unplug it, and try to turn the blades manually underneath it using an Allen wrench. This could loosen whatever is causing the clog.
  5. Turn it back on again, press the reset button (it may have been tripped when it wasn’t turning) and will need to replace the unit or have it repaired.

If this doesn’t fix your draining issue move onto the next step.

 

How to unclog a kitchen sink with vinegar and baking soda

Using this home remedy method to unclog your sink is easy. All you need is a couple of household ingredients and you are set to go. With the stopper out take the following steps to unclog your drain naturally. This method is natural and has a very high success rate.

  1. Remove the excess water in the sink using a bowl.
  2. Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain. Use a spoon to make sure it gets down the drain or pour it into a funnel for better delivery.
  3. Pour one cup of distilled white vinegar down the drain.
  4. Replace the stopper to seal the opening (do this for the other sink too if you have a double sink).
  5. Give this solution 15 minutes to work its magic. While you’re waiting, set a kettle to boil.
  6. Pour the boiling water into the drain (unless it’s PVC piping then use hot water from the tap). This will react with the white vinegar and baking soda getting rid of any clogs in your drain lines.
  7. If this made some progress you can try it again. You may have a stubborn clog and a second treatment could do the trick.

If this doesn’t work, move onto the next method for unclogging a sink drain.

Note: You may be tempted to deal with your clogged drains by using a chemical drain cleaner. These caustic chemicals can often do damage to your pipes and plumbing system. It’s best if you are going to use a cleaner that is biodegradable. They take longer to work but they are more gentle on your pipes, and better for the environment as well. If you have a house with a septic tank these chemicals can be bad for the enzymes in your septic tank system as well.

 

How to unclog a kitchen sink with standing water using a plunger

If you can’t get any water down the drain because the sink is clogged so badly no water is getting through it’s time to use some force.

unclog a sink

  1. Your next step will be to use a plunger to try to push out and move any clog in your sink. There are specific sink plungers you can use which are smaller than a toilet plunger. This is a good one because the size of mouth will fit over most drains and can lay flat on the sink.
  2. Fill the sink with a few inches of water. You will need to do this so that the plunger can get proper suction on the drain.
  3. If you have a double sink seal off the second sink with a wet cloth or stopper.
  4. Use the clamps to pinch the line coming in from the dishwasher.
  5. Unclogging a bathroom sink? Make sure the overflow hole is covered with a wet rag.
  6. Put the plunger on the drain and make sure it sits flat. Ensure you have a tight seal and make sure that you are pushing water through the drain and not air. Spend some time plunging the drain. Give it a few plunges (20-30 seconds) and see if anything comes out. You want to make sure you have a good seal when you start your intensive plunging.
  7. If nothing is coming out of the sink, apply a little more force to see if anything can be dislodged. This can take some time.
  8. If you dislodge the block the water will begin to drain.
  9. Run some warm water down the drain to make sure it is flowing properly.

If this doesn’t work move on to the next method.

 

Standing water in your bathtub? Here’s how to unclog your bathtub drain.

How to use a plumber’s snake to unclog a kitchen sink

If you have a stubborn clog in your drain, using a plumber’s snake can help you. You can buy them at any hardware store or on Amazon. You could use a wire coat hanger, but for the money and the time it will save you having a plumber’s snake is an essential homeowner tool worth investing in.

A wire hanger can save on money but can take more time. Personally I like to own it as I can deal with these water issues when they arise quickly.

How to unclog the kitchen sink using a plumber’s snake

Here are the steps to unclog a kitchen sink using a plumber’s snake:

  1. Remove the stopper to get access to the pipes.
  2. Insert the drain snake as far down into the drain as possible. Remember that your drain pipes will bend at the P trap. There is an art to using a plumber’s snake and you want to make sure you aren’t just pushing the blockage further down the pipe. It’s a good idea to know how to use a plumbers snake before you attempt this.
  3. Insert the plumbers snake into the drain.
  4. Keep feeding the plumber’s snake until you hit something. When you hit an obstruction, tighten the setscrew and turn the handle on the snake to break up the debris. It will either break up or the screw will grab it.
  5. Once you feel you have successfully locked onto the obstruction, loosen the lock screw and slowly begin to pull the snake back up
  6. Clean the snake as you pull it back in as it will likely be covered in gunk.
  7. Repeat this process until you have removed the debris.
  8. Once you have removed the debris make sure to clean the drain snake thoroughly otherwise it may not work for you next time.
  9. Test the drain by running warm water down it to see if the water is draining properly.
  10. If the water is draining smoothly you are done. If the water is draining slowly keep reading.

 

Clean out the drain trap

The drain trap, or p-trap, is the elbow under the sink. There is a bend in the pipe coming down from the drain and on occasion food and other items can gather there and not flow through. This can cause your kitchen sink to become clog because water can’t move through it fast enough. To fix this is pretty straightforward.

  1. Remove any standing water from the sink.
  2. Place a towel underneath the sink for any splashing that might happen.
  3. Get a large bucket and place it underneath the pipe, this is to catch any water that may not have been flushed out or cleaned up when you emptied out the sink.
  4. Unscrew the connector to the P-trap. There should be a slip nut on either side of the P-trap which should make it easy to remove.
  5. Inspect the P-trap and remove any obstruction and gunk that may be stuck in it. Make sure to clean it out.
  6. Reconnect the drain trap and tighten the slip nuts on both sides turn the water back on to run down the drain.
  7. Inspect to make sure the water is flowing steadily down the drain and that there is no leaking from the reconnected P trap underneath the sink.
  8. If this didn’t work, or there was nothing in the trap, the blockage is likely further down the drain pipe and it needs to be cleaned out.

how to clog a sink removing the p trap

Snaking the drain line pipe to unclog the kitchen sink

If the p-trap isn’t the issue you will need go further into the pipe as it runs into the wall. Having a clogged drain pipe deep in a wall means you will need to use a drain snake. A wire coat hanger may do, but more than likely it won’t reach so you will need a drain snake to do the job. Here’s how to clean out a blockage in the wall from your sink.

  1. Remove any standing water from the sink.
  2. Place a towel underneath the bucket for any splashing that might happen.
  3. Get a large bucket and place it underneath the pipe this is to catch any water that may not have been flushed out or cleaned up when you emptied out the sink.
  4. Unscrew the connector to the P-trap. There should be a slip nut on either side of the P-trap which should make it easy to remove.
  5. Next unscrew the trap arm and inspect it for any obstructions and remove them. This will be on tight you will need a pair of pliers.
  6. Run the snake in through the drain stub to the wall.
  7. Screw the snake through the clog in the all and pull it out the same way we described earlier.
    Retract the snake when you have the block and clean it as it comes back into the housing with a wet rag.
  8. Replace all of the parts (trap arm, p-trap ) and run warm water through it.
  9. If this works you will want to put another half cup of baking soda and half cup of vinegar through to remove any residue you didn’t get.
  10. Flush the drain with hot water to flush out any items that didn’t get pulled out but were loosened in the process.

Call a plumber

If none of these steps of work for you to clean out and unclog your sink it’s likely there is a bigger issue and it’s time to call in a professional plumber. You you’ve done a a great job and tried your best, but some things are meant for professionals and it’s time to call in a plumber.

 

Click Here to Find a Professional Plumber in Your Area 

 

Final thoughts on unclogging a sink

The first time you have to unclog a sink it will feel overwhelming, but as you walk through the steps and methods above you will see that it is easier to do than you might think. Give yourself some time and the right tools to give it a try and you could find yourself saving a lot of money by doing it on your own. Good luck!

How to Unclog a Sink

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