How to unclog a sink

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Using a plunger to unclog a kitchen sink.

Using a plunger to unclog a kitchen sink.

Before using chemical cleaners or disassembling the pipe trap to unclog a sink drain, try one of these methods:

  • Drain Snake: A drain snake is great for removing hair from slow draining bathroom sink or tub drains. Insert the drain snake down the sink drain until it reaches the clog, then pull it back up. The brush or hooks on the end of the snake latch onto the hair and pull it out.
  • Plunger: When using a plunger to remove sink clogs, cover the overflow drain found on bathroom sinks and tubs or the second drain on double kitchen sinks to allow you to apply more pressure on the clog.

After the sink is unclogged, run hot water down it to flush out any grease. Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

Video Transcript Danny Lipford: Erin wants to know, “What do you recommend as the quickest and easiest way to unclog a drain?”

If your sink is clogged, like this, you’re definitely looking for the quickest and easiest way to get it unclogged. And the over the counter drain cleaners work most of the time, but they can be a little damaging to your pipes.

Before you try that, try this. This is a drain snake and has, a brush or sometimes several hooks on the end that will allow you to reach down and grab any hair that maybe clogging up your sink, particularly in a bathroom.

But if you have a lot of grease and food, you need a little pressure, and everybody has one of these. Very, very effective in unclogging the sink.

But if you have a double sink, like this, you want to make sure you take your stopper on the open side of the sink and seal that off so that that’ll put more pressure on the side of the plunger.

And then that’d be very successful in blowing through the clogged area. Then follow that up with plenty of hot water.

How to fix a clogged drain

Typically, clogged drains are the result of a foreign object or debris getting stuck in a drain pipe, or built-up residue that makes it impassable. Sometimes, the challenge is how to unclog a drain with standing water. If you didn’t catch the clog fast enough and water has backed up, it could make for a messy situation.

Drain cleaner. Often a sink clog can be remedied with drain cleaner, which is available at your local hardware or home improvement store. If you think that the clog isn’t too bad, you could also try vinegar and baking soda. If you prefer the non-chemical approach, try pouring some vinegar down the drain, and then follow it with baking soda. The combination will cause a fizzing reaction (that looks like carbonation) that can be effective for minimal sink clogs.

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Plunging. A plunger can be a quick solution when fixing clogged sink pipes. This takes some patience and a little practice. There are mini-plungers designed for a clogged bathtub drain, shower or sink, that might work better than a standard toilet-sized model.

Snaking. A drain snake is a very simple tool that can be used to dislodge a clog. It’s a small piece of plastic that can be inserted into the drain, and it has little “teeth” on the sides to provide resistance against hair that could be built up and causing the clog. You can view a video from This Old House to see one technique for snaking your drain.

how-to-fix-a-clogged-drain

Preventing a clogged drain

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the same applies when dealing with a clogged drain. Even if you’ve become a pro at fixing the situation, you’d much rather not have the clogs at all.

  • In the kitchen, take care when disposing of grease and oil in the sink. Find alternate methods when possible, and when you must dump small amounts of grease down the drain, always run hot water.
  • Keep your garbage disposal clean, and always run water when using it. In a sink without a disposal, use a strainer to catch pieces of food and debris to place in the trash.
  • In the bathroom, use a drain cover or strainer to catch as much hair as is possible. Clean the visible areas of drain openings frequently when you see debris has begun to collect.

Most of us can’t repair every issue that arises in our homes, but if you can learn how to unclog a kitchen drain or clogged bathroom sink, for example, you could save yourself some money and the headaches finding a reliable professional for the job. We’d also like to hear about your DIY experiences in the comments below. What tips or tricks can you share that worked for you?

How to Unclog a Drain Naturally

Tools

  • A plunger or drain stopper to temporarily seal the drain.
  • A tea kettle

Ingredients

  • Small box of baking soda (Get it bulk through an Azure Standard Co-op.)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 quart of water

Directions

  1. Bail out any standing water in the sink until the sink and drain are relatively dry.
  2. Dump about 1/2 of a box of dry baking soda down the drain.
  3. Get your plunger or stopper ready and at your side, and be prepared to hold it down tightly.
  4. Following the baking soda, pour 1/2 cup of vinegar down the drain.
  5. Immediately after you pour it in, plug the drain with the plunger or stopper, filling the drainhole completely so nothing can escape. (If you have a double sink, cover both drains.)
  6. HOLD TIGHT! The interaction of the vinegar and baking soda will cause a “mini volcano” that will come up and out of the drain if you don’t keep it down there to bust out your clog.
  7. After the initial “volcano” subsides, leave the baking soda and vinegar mixture in the drain for about 30 minutes. While you are waiting, boil a tea kettle full of water.
  8. After 30 minutes, remove the stopper or plunger and slowly pour the boiling water down the drain.
  9. On the rare chance that your drain is not clear, just do it again. Occasionally I have had to do it twice in a row, but it doesn’t happen too often.
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Between a drain snake or Zip-It for hair, and good old fashioned baking soda and vinegar, you can now unclog a drain cheaply without dangerous chemicals, any time you need to!

This article was excerpted from my book Sustainability Starts at Home – How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. For more money-saving, planet-friendly tips, pick up a copy today!

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

5 Ways to Unclog Your Kitchen Sink

Before you place a call to your local plumber, check out these easy and efficient ways to unclog your kitchen sink.

1. Boiling Water

This simple and inexpensive trick can unclog your kitchen sink fast (and for free!)

Materials:

  • Tea kettle or something to boil water in

Directions:

Step 1. Boil a bot of water; if there is standing water in the sink, try to remove as much as you can while you wait

Step 2. Pour the entire kettle of boiling water down the sink and wait

Step 3. If the water doesn’t drain, repeat

2. Salt and Boiling Water

If you’ve tried to trick above and no luck, adding salt may help remove more stubborn clogs.

Materials:

  • ½ cup of Salt
  • Tea kettle or something to boil water in

Directions:

Step 1. Boil a bot of water; if there is standing water in the sink, try to remove as much as you can while you wait

Step 2. Pour ½ cup of salt down the drain

Step 3. Pour the entire kettle of boiling water down the sink and wait

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Step 4. If the water doesn’t drain, repeat

3. Vinegar and Baking Soda

Another simple and economical combination that can work on sink clogs.

Materials:

  • 1 cup of baking soda
  • ½ cup of salt
  • Tea kettle or something to boil water in

Directions:

Step 1. Mix baking soda and salt together and pour down the drain; let the mixture sit for at least two hours

Step 2. Flush with boiling water

Step 3. If the water doesn’t drain, repeat

4. Plunger

If you’re still dealing with a clog, or if your sink is filled with standing water, reach for a plunger.

Materials:

Directions:

Step 1. If you have a double sink, seal off the unclogged side with a stopper or wet cloth; this will help create a tight seal

Step 2. Place the plunger firmly over the drain; plunge several times

Step 3. When you hear the suction clear the clog, remove the plunger

Step 4. Flush the drain with warm water

5. Plumber’s Snake

This handy tool can clear clogs that may be stuck further down the drain.

Materials:

  • Plumber’s snake (sometimes called an auger)

Directions:

Step 1. Disassemble the drainpipe; this includes the P-trap that runs underneath the sink

Step 2. Locate the stub pipe; this is the pipe that travels behind the cabinet wall

Step 3. Insert the snake into the pipe

Step 4. Insert the snake until you feel it make contact with the clog; move the snake back and form to break it up

Method #2: Vinegar and Baking Soda

Some people love this method, others haven’t had as much success. It mainly depends on what is clogging up your sink. If hair is the culprit, this method may work, but another method will probably work better.

If you decide to give it a try, here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup of baking soda
  • 2 cups of white vinegar (heated up)
  • 2 cups of boiling hot water

The first step is to pour the baking soda down the drain, followed by the vinegar. It will fizzle and bubble up, indicating that it’s eating away at the mess clogging up the drain. Wait 1-2 minutes, and then pour the hot water down the drain.

If a horrible smell comes from the drain, you can put a few drops of lemon juice down the drain after you’ve rinsed the baking soda and vinegar away.

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