How to Unclog the Bathroom Sink
How to Unclog a Teenage Girl's Bathroom Sink
I am the proud father of twin girls who recently managed to survive their teenage years and make it through to twenty. Throughout those twenty years, I've had to contend with many things plugging up the bathroom sink ranging from pencils and hair to some very unsanitary objects that will not be mentioned here!
Suffice to say that I've had to come up with some pretty unique ways to unclog a bathroom sink. Some of the tools I have used over the years are:
- Toothbrush: Very handy once you've removed the siphon (or p-trap).
- Broken wire hanger: Great for grabbing wads of hair and other clogs from the piping.
- Wrench (or spanner): No, not used to bang the piping in frustration, but used to remove the siphon.
- My hand: As yucky as it can get, sometimes sticking your finger into the pipes near the siphon is the best way to remove much of the gunk coating the pipes.
- A paper clip: Brilliant if you want to grab some of the hair right at the top of the drain!
Luckily for you, I happen to have a clogged bathroom sink all ready to be unclogged, so I can actually show you how to safely unclog your sink without damaging your bathroom, your ego or in extreme cases your marriage!
Drano Snake Plus
While the method I show is a useful one and does unclog the sink very well, you may not actually have to remove the siphon to rid yourself of the dreaded hair blockage. The Drano Snake Plus is a superb tool that removes the need for advanced plumbing techniques!
Not only will you have a clean drain, but you will also avoid injuries caused by trying to squeeze into a cabinet that was designed to hold shampoo, not a human body!
What Causes Clogs?
Clogs are simple build-ups of 'debris' in the piping, the clog can be in the siphon, or lateral sections of the pipe and often are hard to clear. A clog is usually made up of congealing soap, grease, toothpaste, and hair, although if you have teenage girls, you'll probably find a few more items like nail clippings, makeup, hair clips, and other unmentionables will form part of the clog. I have found the bathroom sink clogged more times than I care to remember, but luckily it's actually taught me a little bit about plumbing!
Summary Method: How to Unclog a Bathroom Sink
Use tool to remove clogs close to the top of the drain - it's possible this is all you need to do.
Remove the siphon (often called p-trap) - clogs often build up here, this also gives you access to other pipes in the drainage system
30 - 60 minutes
Unclogging the entire system - now that you've cleared the main clog you can use Drano or boiling water to clear any other debris like soap residue.
Step 1: Remove the Immediate Clog
My bathroom sink has a pop-up plug, so I am unable to place simple devices to capture hair and other debris that may clog the sink, therefore quite often the drain will get blocked, and my only recourse is to try and use a tool to get to the blockage.
With the use of my handy straightened paperclip, I am able to delve into the depths of the upper drain and stealthily remove the hair that has caused the clog, in many cases the hair will clog around and just under the drain so probing with a paper clip may be all you need to do.
As you can see from the pictures on the right, I was able to remove quite a bit of hair and unclog the sink. There was a noticeable difference to the flow of water as it drained, but it still wasn't moving as quickly as I would have liked, so I had to move on to Step 2.
Step 2: Removing the Siphon (Often Called a P-trap)
From my experience, if removing the clog from the top of the drain does not alleviate the clogging problem, then there's probably a surfeit of hair blocking the siphon. Therefore you have to take your life in your hands and remove the siphon, and clean it thoroughly.
A few tips I have learned:
- Always have a large bowl or basket available to store the items from below the sink. While this is not imperative, if you simply move them onto a surface close to the sink you are undoubtedly going to feel the wrath of your better half when they see the mess you have created, while you know that it will be cleared up, it's far safer to keep things neat as you work!
- Have a second large bowl ready to place below the siphon as you remove it; there will be a lot of gunk and water released when you remove the siphon and having a bowl ready to catch this liquid will save a lot of time and heartache.
- Warm up! You may think I'm joking, but it is essential that you do a few brief stretches before attempting to remove the siphon, I must admit that the first time I attempted this, I found myself in a very awkward position jammed under the sink with cramps racking my legs, it was very uncomfortable I can tell you!
Once you are suitably prepared (removed content of cabinet and place bowl beneath siphon), you are ready to remove the siphon.
- Start off by unscrewing the 'nut' at the highest point of the siphon; sometimes this will only be hand tightened so you won't need a wrench, but often it will be very tight, and you will need to loosen it gently with the wrench. Be careful if you have a plastic siphon as you can very easily crack the piping.
- Once the higher 'nut' has been loosened, begin to loosen the lower 'nut' - try and hold on to the siphon as you do this so that you do not drop the siphon and spill the water that is trapped within it. Slowly lower the siphon once you have loosened this 'nut' and empty contents into a bowl, I note that you should not empty the water into the sink, you've just taken off the siphon remember? In my younger years, I did this, as Homer Simpson would say, DOH!
- Using a toothbrush or your trusty old paper clip clean out the siphon so that no debris remains. Rinse out the tube with boiling water to remove any oil or soap residues.
- Clean out the piping as best as you can with the toothbrush and paper clip before fastening the siphon back on; if you have the Drano Snake Plus, you will be able to remove some of the debris that may be clogging where the siphon piping joins the main plumbing.
- Re-Fasten the siphon back onto the pipes, this time tighten the lower 'nut' first, in some cases depending on the siphon you can tighten by hand—you want to tighten enough so that there are no leaks—run some water once you think the siphon is secure to see if it is watertight.
- All you need to do now is clean up so that your wife doesn't notice the difference. I note at this point that my wife has fixed clogged sinks many times—the job can be done by anyone—and doesn't always need a macho man!
Step 3: Unclogging the Entire System
Once you've removed the entire hair-ball concoction that probably now resembles a 'bad hair day' you should use Drano fluid to flush your system, this will take care of any other clogs that may be further up your system beyond your magic paperclip. I suggest you use a full container of Drano fluid and leave it at least 30 minutes, not only will this help remove any residual clogging but it will also ensure that any other build-up of hair further down the system will be cleared.
Once you've left the chemicals for an hour or so (time enough to watch the latest Dr. Who episode, bet he never had to fight the hair monster!) you can flush the system with water.
If you are unable to get Drano, you can boil a couple of gallons of water and pour this down the drain, as this will be hotter than your regular hot water then it will assist in removing a lot of the soap residue and other gunk that can accumulate in your drains.
Tips on How to Avoid Blockages in Your Sink
- Once a month, boil a couple of gallons of water and slowly pour it down the sink, as the water is a lot hotter than tap water then it can dissolve much of the soap residue and other greasy deposits that are lining the walls of your drain pips.
- Use a drain screen. While this isn't possible in all sinks, a drain screen will sit below your plug and pick up much of the debris that can cause blockages such as hair, etc.
- If you have a pop-up stopper you should clean it regularly, these type of stoppers can collect debris and cause blockages quicker.
Origins of the Word Plumber
The Latin for lead is pumbum, thus lead is symbolized by 'Pb' on the periodic table. As the Romans used lead in conduits and pipes, anyone working with these was known as a Plumbarius, this was later shortened to Plumber.
Fun Facts About Plumbing
- Albert Einstein was an honorary member of the Plumbers and Stemfitters Union.
- The Egyptians used copper piping for their plumbing over 3000 years ago.
- In a year the average household wastes 9000 gallons of water while waiting for the water to get 'hot'
- Only 2% of the Earth's water is fresh, most of this is in icebergs or glaciers or underground sources.
- The Egyptians named the toilet 'House of Honor'
- The Romans named the toilet 'Necessarium'
- The Tudors named the toilet 'Privy or House of Privacy'
- The French named the toilet 'La Chamber Sent or the smelly chamber'
- The British name the toilet 'toilet, loo or bog'!
- 70% of men leave the seat down
- 89% of women leave the seat down
I am not a plumber; I never will be a plumber! However, I managed to save myself about $300 by simple improvisation and the use of superior unclogging solutions. My method may not be the best, and by spending a few dollars you could remove the need for removing the siphon; however, my solution will ensure that my bathroom sink remains unclogged for another year or so. I hope that you also now have the skills to unclog drains!
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2011 Simon Cook