How to Unclog Sinks in Kitchens and Bathrooms

Jennifer L. Betts
Unhappy Woman Using Plunger In Clogged Sink

Water not draining down your stainless steel sink is never a good scenario. Get your rubber gloves ready and learn how you alone can unclog your sink. Whether you choose to use a magical commercial cleaner or create a homemade clog cleaner, understanding the ins and outs of drain clogs is important. And if you are really adventurous, you might just remove your drain trap.

Plunging the Drain

Just like a clogged toilet, all your need is a good plunge to remove that small ball of gunk and get things moving again. You'll need a sink plunger for this venture, but a toilet plunger can work in a pinch. With plunger in hand, it's go time.

  1. You're going to need water in the drain for the suction to work. Add some if necessary.
  2. Position the plunger over the drain.
  3. Rapidly plunge 10 or so times.
  4. Repeat as necessary.

Wait It Out

Drains work by gravity and sometimes all gravity needs is a little time to do its job. You can help gravity out by adding a little boiling water to liquify any oil or grease in the drain. For the waiting method, you'll simply:

  1. Get as much water as possible out of the clogged drain.
  2. Add boiling water to the drain.
  3. Allow it to sit overnight.
  4. Run the water and see what happens.
Plumber's hand using plunger in bathroom sink

Cleaning Your Clogged Drain Naturally

When you have a slow-moving drain or need to get the grime out of your pipes, your first instinct might be to reach for the Draino. Rather than dump those chemicals down your sink, get things moving again with some natural drain cleaners. While baking soda and vinegar can make a powerful clog fighter, there are a few other homemade recipes you can try if you don't have them on hand.

Cola Drain Cleaner

Cola can make a refreshing drink, but it can also make a powerful cleaner. For this method, you're going to need a 2-liter of cola and boiling water.

  1. Try to siphon all the water out of the clogged sink.
  2. Pour an entire 2-liter, preferably at room temperature, down the drain.
  3. Wait for about 2 hours, overnight would be best.
  4. Boil a cup or two of water.
  5. Flush the drain with the boiling water.
  6. Repeat if the clog still exists.

Lemon and Baking Soda

You know that baking soda and vinegar are a powerhouse for grim fighting goodness. But lemon juice can also work to create a fresh smelling cleaner. First, you'll need:

  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup baking soda
  • Boiling water

With your clog demolishing ingredients at hand, you are ready to decimate that sink full of nasty.

  1. Remove as much water as you can from the clogged sink or tub.
  2. Pour in the baking soda and let it sit.
  3. Add the lemon juice.
  4. Allow the foamy duo to work for about an hour or two.
  5. Follow up with boiling water.
  6. Celebrate success or try again.

Peroxide and Baking Soda

You might be noticing a theme here, because baking soda is a powerful grim fighter. Mix it with peroxide and you have a one-two punch that is guaranteed to get your sink moving. For this method, gather:

  • 1 cup of peroxide
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • Boiling water
  • Bowl
  • Spoon

Unlike the other methods, you're going to need to premix your concoction before applying it to that grimy clog. The mixture should have some nice foaming action, so don't be alarmed. With your foam in hand, you'll:

  1. Spoon the mixture into the sink. You'll want to add all of it and try to let it get to the heart of the clog.
  2. Allow the foaming action to work for 30 minutes to an hour.
  3. Flush the drain with boiling water.
  4. Give it another go if necessary.
Baking soda poured to unclog drainage

Salt and Vinegar

Salt and vinegar aren't just your favorite chip flavor, they create a strong drain cleaning agent. To flush that grit using this cleaning combination, you'll need:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • ½ cup lemon juice, optional
  • Measuring cup with a pour spout
  • Boiling water

With this clog-kicking combination at hand, you are ready to lay a smack down on that matted hairball. For this homemade cleaning concoction, you'll need to:

  1. Mix the ingredients together in the measuring cup.
  2. Pour the concoction down the drain.
  3. Allow it to sit for 15-20 minutes, more if you have a stubborn clog.
  4. Rinse with the boiling water.
  5. Do a happy dance for you moving drain.

Chemicals for a Clogged Drain

Sometimes the nastiness has gotten out of hand or your pipes are just clogged. When natural cleaners aren't doing the job, it's time to reach for cleaners with powerful enzymes and chemicals to eat and dissolve that buildup. Common commercial cleaners include:

  • Green Gobbler DISOLVE - this clog eliminator uses powerful chemicals to liquefy sludge, hair and grease. It is also non-corrosive.
  • Draino - a household name in drain cleaners, Draino comes in several varieties and uses a thick formula to cling to and dissolve clogs and clean pipes.
  • Liquid Lightning - this cleaner uses buffered sulfuric acid to dissolve obstructions.
  • Liquid-Plumr - another well-known name in the drain cleaning game, Liquid-Plumr uses a 3-in-1 action to cut through grease and dissolve gunk plugging the drain.

To use these cleaners, you'll grab some gloves and follow the instructions on the back.

Removal of blockage in the sink

Drastic Measures

If you have a full blockage or dropped something down your sink, it is time to get drastic. Get your plumber hat on and tool belt ready because it just got real.

Snake the Drain

To snake a drain, you are going to need a drain snake. If you don't have one, you can typically buy one at your local hardware store or supercenter. For drain snaking, follow these steps:

  1. You want to get to the drain hole, so remove any traps or covers over top.
  2. Slowly start feeding the snake down through the hole until you feel resistance. This means you've hit the clog.
  3. Spin the snake in the drain to chop up the clog and push through it.
  4. Pull out the snake removing any debris that comes with it.
  5. Run water to see how successful you were.
  6. Try again if necessary.
Snaking the drain

Cleaning the Trap

If you are removing the trap, it means that you've hit expert level in do-it-yourself home repair. If you don't feel comfortable at this level, just call a plumber, otherwise, grab your tools such as:

  • Wench or pliers
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Drain brush

Take a deep breath because it is time to start taking apart your sink. With your tools in hand, start by:

  1. Use the sponge to get as much water out of the drain as you can. You really want to get it clear.
  2. Your going to be pulling off the drain so water is going to come out. Get your bucket ready and under the drain.
  3. Check out the pipe and look for the J part, this is where your trap will be located and what you are going to remove.
  4. Grab your wrench or pliers and start loosening the nuts that are holding the trap in place in both areas.
  5. Remove the trap by pulling it straight down.
  6. Allow the contents of the sink to drain. If you did well in step 1, it shouldn't be much.
  7. Use the wire brush to clear out the trap.
  8. Flush it with water a couple times (in a different sink).
  9. Examine the rest of the pipes for clogs to make sure that you got it.
  10. Slip the trap back on and secure it in place using the wrench.
  11. Run water and check for leaks and further clogs.
  12. Repeat as necessary.
Plumber Fitting Sink Pipe In Kitchen

Getting Your Sink Clean

If you've made it this far then you are a drain cleaning master. Not only are you ready to create your own drain fighting concoction but you know how to go full on do-it-yourself mode to check your trap. And if a clog is ever too much for an amateur to handle, call your local plumber for your plumbing repairs.

How to Unclog Sinks in Kitchens and Bathrooms