How to Unclog a Sink Drain in Your Kitchen or Bathroom
You turn the water on in the sink expecting to wash your hands or clean some dishes. However, the water either goes down very slowly or nothing goes down at all. You can’t let it stay blocked, or else it could burst the pipe and end up costing hundreds (even thousands) of dollars to fix. It’s a huge hassle to go out and buy a sink chemical drain opener or a drain snake, but the drain needs to be cleared as soon as possible.
Everyone goes through this experience at least once. Luckily, there are plenty of remedies to fix clogged sinks that don’t require a trip to the store. Here are some easy ways to unclog sink drains using everyday household items. If you don’t want to take this project on yourself call the trusted plumbing company at All Dry USA.
Before You Begin
Before beginning the unclogging process, there are a few things you should do to prepare:
- If the sink pipe should leak or bursts, you should put a bucket underneath the sink. This is also a good idea if you need to unscrew any connecting pipes to unclog the sink from the bottom because the bucket will catch excess water.
- Since you’ll be handling a lot of water and potentially chemicals, make sure to have a pair of rubber gloves to keep your skin dry.
- The garbage disposal is a handy but potentially dangerous tool. When inspecting it, make sure it’s off to prevent any injuries from occurring.
Flush the Drain with Hot Water First
Flushing the drain with hot water is the easiest and least expensive method to try, so it makes sense to do this first. The other methods are also easy, but they require a little more effort. While bringing a pot of water to a rolling boil, scoop any standing water from the sink using a cup or bowl.
Once the water is boiling, carefully remove the pot from the stove and pour the boiling water straight into the drain. The hot water should move or dissolve any food or dirt particles almost immediately and unclog the sink.
If this doesn’t work, boil and pour a pot of hot water down the drain a second time. The beauty of this method is that it can be done many times with very little cost; no money spent on drain cleaner or chemicals!
Do not use this method if any part of the sink drain is connected via PVC pipes; If you flush with hot water, the hot water could damage or break the PVC material. Only use this method on sinks with non-PVC pipes.
If the boiling water method doesn’t work, move on to the next method.
Try Plunging Next
Smaller clogs can be dislodged with a cup plunger. You can use cup plungers over the sink drain much easier than a toilet plunger, but use a plunger if necessary. Make sure if you’re using a large toilet plunger, it has not been used in a toilet. If it has, consider either purchasing a new plunger or using another method of unclogging.
- Fill the sink about a quarter to a half of the way with hot water. This ensures that the sink has enough water to submerge the plunger head fully.
- Position the plunger over the drain.
- Work the plunger up and down quickly and swiftly. Watch the seal around the drain so you don’t puncture it. This will apply large amounts of pressure and suction to the drain, which will dislodge most clogs.
To prevent water from back flowing into the dishwasher while plunging, clamp the dishwasher line closed.
If the sink is a two-compartment sink, stuff a washcloth or rubber stopper in the non-clogged side of the sink. This is so the plunger’s pressure is applied to only one side of the sink.
If plunging doesn’t work, use another method of unclogging.
Inspect the Garbage Disposal
If neither of the two methods listed above work to unclog the sink, the problem may be the garbage disposal. Sometimes food particles (or even kitchen utensils) can get stuck in the garbage disposal, resulting in a clog. Run the garbage disposal and listen for any metallic sounds to rule out the possibility of a metal kitchen utensil stuck in the disposal.
If the garbage disposal runs, but it doesn’t clear up the clog, it’s unlikely that the disposal is the cause of the clog. However, if the garbage disposal doesn’t run at all, it may have overheated. Reset the unit by locating the reset switch, then turn it on again. This may cause the clog to clear.
If the garbage disposal does not clear up the clog, consider peering into the garbage disposal with a flashlight. Make sure to turn off the breaker for the garbage disposal first so that no injuries occur. Any foreign object or blockage can be removed from the garbage with a pair of tongs or pliers.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
When mixed, baking soda and vinegar will bubble up and dislodge any clogs in the sink. This remedy is much more natural than purchasing a drain cleaner that contains harmful chemicals and odors:
- Pour one cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by one cup of vinegar.
- After pouring in the vinegar, place a rubber stopper or sink drain cover on the drain opening so that the mixture doesn’t erupt from the drain.
The mixture will (hopefully) dislodge any foreign objects. After 15 minutes, run hot water through the drain to clear up the clog. If this didn’t work, repeat the process two or three times based on how much baking soda and vinegar you’re willing to spend on this project.
Remember to wear rubber gloves during this process. Although baking soda and vinegar aren’t an especially corrosive solution and won’t harm most people, it can still irritate skin.
If it still doesn’t work, move on to the next method to unclog the drain pipe.
Use a Shop-Vac
Most vacuums can clean both wet and dry messes, making this tool one of the easiest ways to unclog a sink drain. If you have a shop-vac in your garage, it can be used to dislodge foreign objects from the sink drain.
Set up the shop-vac for wet use and place the tube at the drain opening. Turn on the vacuum and listen to whether the clog came out of the sink drain. This can take anywhere from a few seconds to at least a minute–some clogs will come out very slowly, while others are slick or slippery enough to come out with the smallest amount of pressure.
If the clog is on only one side of a two-compartment sink, plug the non-clogged sink before vacuuming. If the other drain isn’t plugged up, there will be no pressure applied through the pipe system and the shop-vac will be sucking up air through the other sink and not moving the clog at all.
The pressure from vacuuming should be enough to unclog the drain.
Make a Small Drain Snake
If all else has failed, you may have to create a makeshift drain snake to unclog the sink. There are two ways to accomplish this:
- By using a long zip tie
- By using a wire coat hanger
If the clog is close enough to the drain opening, the zip tie method should work.
- Take a long zip tie (at least 6 inches long) and cut small, upward sharp points at a 45-degree angle into it on each side. It should look like a feather when all cuts are made.
- Next, insert this zip tie into the sink drain and wiggle it around to catch any hair, dirt, or large pieces of food that may be caught in the drain.
- Pull it out slowly to unclog the drain.
If this doesn’t work:
- Unfold a long wire coat hanger and bend the end with a small hook.
- Insert this into the drain (carefully) and feel for any obvious blockages.
This method may damage the drain if it used too aggressively, so make sure to do it carefully. If you feel a blockage, try to use the hook to grab onto it and pull it toward the sink drain. If it doesn’t budge, or if it’s too difficult to pull out, do not try to force it.
Hopefully, one of these methods will work and you now know how to unclog a sink drain. If none of these methods to unclog the sink drain work, it may be time to call in a professional. Some clogs are especially tricky to remove and require a plumber or specialist. To try and remove these tricky clogs may be dangerous, especially with little to no experience in what to do if something goes haywire (such as an accidental flood or pipe burst).
If none of these methods have worked for you, call one of our experts at All Dry USA to make sure your sink drain gets unclogged quickly and easily.