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5 Ways to Unclog a Sink Drain

Clogged sinks are an annoying problem that can disrupt our daily routine. In many cases, if you know how to unclog a sink, you can do it yourself without paying a plumber.

Water running down sink drain

It’s no secret that soap scum, hair, food particles, grease and other debris can get stuck in drains and cause serious clogs. And if you don’t take care of clogs soon enough, they can lead to nasty odors, leaks and even water damage from standing water.

If left untreated, a clogged sink can lead to more severe plumbing problems such as burst pipes or leaks that may require costly repairs. Cogs in your sink can also create attract pests like drain flies or cockroaches. 

How Clogged is your sink?

Is your sink completely stopped up or just draining slowly? Is the clog in one specific sink or spread throughout your plumbing system? Answering these questions will help you determine which method to use for removal.

  1. Is is just the one sink? Is water is draining properly from other sinks or showers? If yes, you can probably take care of this on your own.
  2. If not, you likely have a bigger plumbing problem, and you can probably stop reading now and call a plumber.

But if you’re still with us, let’s go over the ways you can unclog a sink yourself.

How Do You Unclog a Sink with a Garbage Disposal?

If we’re talking about a kitchen sink that has a garbage disposal attached, you can use all these same following methods to unclog it. But there are a few additional steps you need to take first.

Turn off the garbage disposal. Make sure the garbage disposal is turned off and preferably unplugged to avoid any accidents while working on it.

Check for visible debris. Sometimes with garbage disposals, you can look down (with a flashlight) and see what’s clogging them. Use a pair of pliers or tongs to carefully remove any objects that are easy to reach.

At this point, you can start trying the rest of the methods below, like you would on any other sink.

Once everything is cleaned up, plug your garbage disposal back in, turn on cold water, then switch on your garbage disposal for about 30 seconds to ensure any remaining debris gets flushed through.

Unclog your Kitchen or Bathroom Sink with a Plunger

The plunger is one of the most tried and true methods for unclogging sinks.

First, place a sink plunger over the drain opening, making sure it creates a tight seal. Then fill the sink with enough water to cover the rubber part of the plunger.

Next, use a towel or rag to block any overflow holes and create a tight seal around the plunger. Then, push down with force and vigorously pump up and down several times to create suction that can dislodge clogs. Do this several times until you feel suction break and water begins to drain. 

If plunging doesn’t work immediately, don’t give up hope! Sometimes it takes several tries before you get results. You may also need to adjust the position of your plunger or try different techniques such as using a wet cloth to create better suction. Remember that patience and persistence are key when dealing with stubborn clogs.

But sometimes plunging alone won’t do the trick. If it didn’t, continue to the next step.

Using Boiling Water to Unclog a Sink Drain

Before reaching for harsh chemicals, consider using natural ingredients to unclog your sink. Start by pouring boiling water directly down the drain. Don’t just pour it into the sink. A tea kettle is great for this task. 

This can help loosen up any debris and flush it out. Once in a great while, this is all you need – problem solved! But in most cases, you will probably need to follow up the boiling water with another method.

Baking Soda and Vinegar for Clogged Sinks

Baking soda and vinegar are like the Batman and Robin of natural household cleaners. Here’s how to use them as a homemade drain cleaner. (This also works well on garbage disposals that are clogged or smelling bad.)

First, remove any standing water in the sink.

  1. Pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda down the clogged drain.
  2. Follow this up with a cup of vinegar.
  3. Pull up the drain stopper or put a towel or other object over it to close it off from the air.
  4. Give it at least 15 minutes for the baking soda and vinegar to fizz down inside the drain. This will hopefully clear the clog so it can be rinsed through. 
  5. Then pour very hot tap water or boiling water down the drain to rinse it clean. 

Now see if the water it flowing freely down the drain. If so, you’re done! If not, give it another try with the plunger. Sometimes the baking soda and vinegar have broken up the clog, but not enough to it to rinse through. When that happens, the plunger may be able to bring it up.

If your sink is still clogged after trying this method, try using a plunger to create suction that will pull the blockage through. Be sure to have enough water in the sink so that the plunger can create an effective seal around the drain.

If not…

Try a Chemical Drain Cleaner

When the low-chemical solutions don’t work, sometimes a good drain cleaner will. You can buy these at hardware and grocery stores, or order them on Amazon. I’ve had good luck with Drano Max Gel.

Follow the instructions on the bottle for some very effective drain cleaning.

Try Drain Snakes to Grab Sink Clogs

If the above steps didn’t work, it’s time to bring out the big guns: a drain snake. This tool is designed to break up tough clogs that a plunger can’t handle.

A drain snake is a long, flexible cable that you insert into the drain and twist to break up blockages. It’s an effective solution for clogs caused by hair, grease, and other stubborn debris. You can straighten a wire hanger out to use as a makeshift drain snake.

You can also buy a drain snake on Amazon, and they’re designed to be more effective than coat hangers. Just make sure to get the right one for your sink. For example, sinks with smaller drains require thinner cables than larger ones.

Also, be sure to wear gloves and eye protection as the cable can be sharp and dangerous if not handled correctly.

To use a drain snake, insert it into the drain until you feel resistance. Then rotate the cable clockwise while pushing it forward into the pipe.

Once you feel the clog break up and clear out of the pipe, slowly remove the cable from the drain while continuing to rotate it clockwise.

Using a drain snake can be messy and time-consuming but it’s often necessary for tougher clogs that other methods won’t budge. With patience and persistence, you’ll be able to clear even the toughest sink clogs.

Cleaning the Drain Clog out of the P-trap

If all else fails, you may need to clean out the P-trap (the curved pipe under the sink). Place a bucket under the P-trap to catch any water that spills out.

Unscrew or loosen the slip nuts connecting the P-trap to your plumbing, then remove it carefully. Clean out any debris inside and reattach it securely.

When to Call a Professional

While DIY solutions can often do the trick for unclogging a sink, there are times when it’s best to call in a professional. If you’ve tried all the above steps with no luck, it’s time to bring in the experts.

If you’re dealing with a particularly stubborn clog or notice strange smells coming from your sink, it’s also best to call in a pro. A skilled plumber will have the necessary tools and knowledge to diagnose the problem and provide effective solutions. Plus, hiring a professional can help prevent further damage or complications down the line.

Remember that when it comes to plumbing issues, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Ignoring a clogged sink could lead to bigger plumbing problems or even water damage in your home. So don’t hesitate to contact a qualified plumber if you need one!

Preventing Sink Drain Clogs

Now that you’ve successfully unclogged your sink, you want to prevent it from happening again. There are a few simple steps you can take to help keep your sink clear and avoid any future clogs.

First, avoid letting greasy or oily substances go down the sink, as they can solidify and cause a blockage. Don’t put fibrous or starchy foods (like potato peels) in the garbage disposal, as they can wrap around the blades and create a jam. 

You should also be sure to regularly clean your drains. Pouring hot water down the drain once a week can help dissolve any buildup and keep things flowing smoothly.

You may also want to consider using an enzyme-based cleaner designed specifically for drains; these cleaners break down organic matter without damaging pipes or fixtures.

And That’s How You Unclog a Drain

Unclogging a sink is frequently something you can DIY. It just requires some basic tools and techniques, and now you have them.

Remember, you need to take action as soon as you notice a clog to prevent further damage and avoid costly repairs. By maintaining good habits such as preventing food scraps and grease from entering the drain, you can keep your sink clear and running smoothly for years to come.