Unclogging a Sink Drain in the Bathroom or Elsewhere
What to do When the Sink is Backed Up
It's never good to see standing water in your sink and of course this means you have a clogged drain. So now what? You could always take the dirty dishes or clothes to the neighbor's house but this will not fix the problem.
There are a couple of things that most people will try first being some form of liquid drain cleaner and plunging. Though liquid drain cleaners are nice because they're simple to use and don't make a mess, they don't always work against tougher clogs. Plunging too is a rather simple method of getting your sink to drain but again, may not be the answer when working on stubborn clogs that are further down the line.
If this is the case for you, snaking the drain may be the only thing that's going to get the job done. Snaking a drain with a hand snake is not difficult to do but can be a bit messier than our first 2 options. If you've not snaked out a drain before, the following will help you with a couple tips on how to go about doing so.
Fighting the Tough Clogs
How many of you have had clogs that drain cleaners just won't clear?
If you have poured a liquid drain cleaner into the sink and it did not work, be very careful about proceeding with snaking your drain. Be sure to protect yourself by wearing gloves and eye protection. If the chemicals did not work then they are still present in the water and you don't want to get this all over you or definitely not in your eyes or mouth.
How to Empty the Sink When the Drain is Clogged
First thing is first, let's get the sink emptied out so that you can keep the mess to a minimum. This is very simple to do and only requires something to catch the water like a bucket or large bowl and perhaps a wrench to loosen the nuts that are holding the trap together.
The trap, or P-trap as it's often called, is the curved piece of drain that is located just below the sink. The trap is held together with 2 nuts, one that is on the "drop" coming from the sink and one that is located on the U shaped part of the trap. This is the one you want to loosen to drain off the sink.
Simply loosen, DO NOT REMOVE, this nut with your bucket placed underneath the trap and slowly let the water drain out of the sink. If it doesn't look like your bucket will hold all the water, just tighten the trap nut back up (this is why we don't remove it yet) so that the water stops draining, you can empty your bucket and begin to finish draining the sink.
Now that the sink is done draining, take this part of the trap out and inspect it. This may be where your clog was and if so, you can clean it out, put it back together and go on about your day. If not, it's time to start snaking the drain.
Snaking a Clogged Sink Drain
When a drain is clogged bad enough to stop drainage, it's usually blocked in a horizontal run section of the drain. This means that if the clog wasn't in your trap, it is likely down the line further and in an area that you cannot reach or see. If you are on a first or second floor, you may have to snake the drain from where you've just removed the trap however in this case, we will be looking at a clog under the basement floor.
As you can see in the picture to the right, just before a plumbing drain enters the concrete, there is what's called a clean out. This is simply an access to do just what we're doing, snake the drain. You just remove the plug and begin to insert the snake. Here are the steps to follow from here.
NOTE: You may want to get some old towels and gloves for this part. It can get messy.
- Loosen the locking nut on the snake so that you can feed it out of the housing.
- Begin to feed the snake into the drain until you feel resistance and can't hand feed it anymore.
- Tighten down the locking nut so that the snake can now be turned.
- Begin to twist the snake by holding the handle and turning the crank until you feel it begin to drill through the blockage. You may see the snake being fed into the drain as you go and will have to loosen the lock nut again, pull out more snake, tighten the nut and begin to turn the snake again. Repeat until you can begin to hand feed the snake again or until you've inserted all of your drain snake.
- Once you've broken through the clog or ran out of snake line, begin to recoil the snake into the housing.
- Be sure your trap is reassembled, your plug is back in place on your clean out and begin to run hot water slowly down the drain. If your sink is emptying out as the water runs, you're back in business. Be sure to give it a couple of minutes though to be sure that you've solved your problem. If not, repeat these steps until the sink drains properly.
These are very handy for snaking a sink trap but not the main drain.
Tips for Working on a Clogged Drain
There are a few things you may want to be aware of when snaking a drain. As I've mentioned, wearing gloves can keep your hands from getting some pretty nasty stuff on them. Also, have a bucket or 2 nearby. Lastly, you can never have enough old towels handy for unexpected messes. Pick a couple that you wouldn't mind throwing away when you're done here as well because again, you may very well find that the water you'll be dealing with is pretty nasty.
When you snake a drain, sometimes back pressure can "burp" back at you. You will be snaking away when all of a sudden, a nice flow of water will head your way and unfortunately, right out of the clean out. You'll want to be prepared for this in case it happens.
Professional Drain Snaking is Expensive
I'm not gonna lie to you and say that snaking a drain is any fun. It can be messy, dirty and yes, smelly as all get out but there is a bright side.
Having a professional plumber come out to snake your drain will not only leave you waiting quite some time for him to show up but will also set you back a few hundred dollars in many cases. Tackling this simple project yourself can literally save you hundreds even if you have to buy a drain snake.
I hope this hub has offered you some tips that will be handy to you when needed and as always...happy home owning.