How to Unclog a Pesky Sink


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You're going about your business, washing the dishes after a tasty meal, when your kitchen sink starts filling with water. Few things are more annoying than a sink that gets clogged easily, forcing you to put the dishes down and wait for the water to drain. Sometimes, it's so bad that the water never drains! Since we've all experienced this frustration, here's how to unclog a sink once and for all.

Use Water to Unclog a Sink

how to unclog a sink

Although kitchen sinks are one of the most common clogs, these methods also work for shower drains or bathroom sinks. One of the easiest go-to ways to fix a clogged drain is to use boiling water. The blockage in your sink's drain is probably made up of grease, soap residue, and bits of food, which can often be cleaned up with boiling water.

To use this method, bring half a gallon of water to a boil. Pour the boiling water into the drain opening. Wait a minute, and then turn on the faucet to check how well the drain works. If it is still draining slowly or not at all, pour another half gallon of boiling water in. However, don't use this method if your drain has PVC pipes, since the boiling water could melt the plastic.

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Check the Garbage Disposal

how to unclog a sink

If the sink clog isn't better after two boiling water pours, it's time to move on to another method. If your sink has a garbage disposal, this could be the source of your problem. Sometimes, garbage disposals stop working, and food debris get stuck in them even if you turn them on.

If your garbage disposal isn't working, try pressing the reset switch at the side or bottom of the unit to restart it. Then, try turning it on. If your garbage disposal is working fine, but the sink is still clogged, skip to the next method for how to unclog a sink!

If your garbage disposal isn't working, it's best to continue problem solving. If resetting doesn't help your garbage disposal to work, disconnect the power to the unit. Then, insert an Allen wrench or a similar tool into the disposal, breaking up the clog by turning the blades manually. Twist until the blades turn more easily. If that doesn't work, here are some ways to fix your garbage disposal. If you can feel the blockage getting smaller, continue until the clog is gone, and then turn on the faucet to check if the drain is working again.

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Use a Plunger to Unclog a Sink

If water and garbage disposal tips didn't help your clogged sink, there are more options! A plunger is often a great way to get rid of whatever is clogging your sink. A flat-bottomed plunger is the best one to use for a sink, but you can use the toilet plunger if that's what you have available.  To use a plunger, fill the sink to about halfway with hot water. Then, put the plunger over the drain and pump up and down quickly, for a few times. Stop to check if the water is draining. If not, continue pumping until the water begins to drain.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

how to unclog a sink

If your pesky sink is a stubborn one, it may still be clogged! As this point, it's a good idea to try using baking soda and vinegar to unclog the sink, which have a similar effect to chemical drain cleaners. Remove any standing water from your clogged sink with a cup. Then, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, pushing it into the drain with a spoon. Once it's in the drain, pour a cup of white vinegar down the drain opening.

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Then, put a stopper in the drain to seal the opening, and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes. Take the cover off and run hot tap water down the drain. If your blockage seems improved, but is still there, repeat these steps. If not, move on to another method!

The Plumber's Snake

A plumber's snake is a tool that is essentially a long, spiral snake that you can insert into the drain. When it hits a blockage, you can use the handle to take out the debris. An electric snake will have even more power to break up really stubborn clogged drains. If you don't own a drain snake, you can devise your own with a coat hanger. Get a wired coat hanger and use pliers to unwind the hanger, making it into a long, straight wire.

However, make sure to keep the end of it hooked. Put the wire down the drain opening, and when you feel a blockage, use the hook to grab it and pull upward. Make sure not to push it down further with your snake. Once you've pulled up enough debris that you think the drain will work, run hot water down it to check. If it's still blocked, keep using the plumber snake, or try our next method for stubborn clogs!

Clean the P-trap to Unclog a Sink

If you're wondering what in the world a P-trap is, it's the elbow-shaped pipe under many sinks. This may be the source of your problems, and if it is, no amount of unclogging the drain will help you. To fix a clog in the P-trap, you'll have to take the pipe apart to clean out the gunk that's blocking it. It's best to use rubber gloves, goggles and towels to minimize the mess.

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Start by placing a bucket under the pipe. Then, unscrew the connecters on the pipe that connect it to the drain pipe. Look for a slip nut on either end of the P-trap. Take the P-trap off and clean out any residue or grime you find. Then, reconnect it, and check whether all is fixed by turning on the faucet to run water down the drain.

If the sink still doesn't work, you may need to go further down the pipe to find the clog. Remove the P-trap once again, and remove the horizontal pipe connected to the wall as well. Feed a coat hanger, plumber's snake, or auger into that pipe. Feel for any buildup, and pull it out of the pipe just like you did when using the plumber's snake on the sink drain. When you've removed all debris, reassemble the P-trap, tightening the connectors, and run hot water down the drain. Check that there isn't a leak from any of the pipes you reassembled!

Preventing Clogged Sinks

Hopefully your sink is up and running again! If not, it might be time to call a professional plumber to get the job done. It's also useful to know how to prevent this problem in the first place. For anyone who tried as many methods as we listed, you probably never want to experience another clogged sink again! For one, don't put large amounts of food into the garbage disposal at once. Another tip to keep your sink from clogging is to avoid putting oils, meat, coffee grounds, egg shells, peels, gum and paper products down the drain.

Watch: 5 Reasons You Should 'Spring Clean'