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How to Unclog the Bathroom Sink

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Unclog the drain in your sink in a few simple steps.

Unclog the drain in your sink in a few simple steps.

How to Unclog a Teenage Girl's Bathroom Sink Drain

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!

This is my bathroom sink that has a minor clog.

This is my bathroom sink that has a minor clog.

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.

Though if you have teenage girls, you'll probably find a few more items like nail clippings, makeup, hair clips, and other unmentionables that 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!

3 Steps to Unclog a Bathroom Sink Drain

  1. Remove the immediate clog.
  2. Remove the siphon.
  3. Unclog the entire system.

Quick Summary of Steps to Unclog Sink



Use tool to remove clogs close to the top of the drain—it's possible this is all you need to do.

5–10 minutes


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.

10–60 minutes

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. 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 in 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.

2. Remove 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.

How to Remove and Thoroughly Clean the Sink Siphon (P-Trap)

  1. 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 a wrench. Be careful if you have a plastic siphon as you can very easily crack the piping.
  2. 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 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. 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!
  3. Use a toothbrush or your trusty old paper clip to clean out the siphon so that no debris remains. Rinse out the tube with boiling water to remove any oil or soap residues.
  4. Clean out the piping as best 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

3. Unclog 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 for 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 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. It will assist in removing a lot of the soap residue and other gunk that can accumulate in your drains.

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!

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. Since the water is a lot hotter than tap water, 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 types 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 Steamfitters 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 named the toilet 'toilet, loo or bog'!
  • 70% of men leave the seat down
  • 89% of women leave the seat down

Be Your Own Plumber

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


S.A.M. on December 19, 2019:

A much safer, easier & cheaper way to clear a drain:

Boiling water, salt, boiling water, salt, etc. until it's clear. Then, maybe weekly or monthly, the same in all your drains to keep clear. Keep chemicals out.

Ana Massien from Griffin, Georgia on May 12, 2018:

I love this article. I have used extreme amounts of glycerine soap (softsoap variety) to unclog a toilet and also a sink as well as the shower drain, works. 409 as well. Drano works better and so does the very cheap $1 dollar store brand Mr. Plumber.. it works better than the drano.

You can also try baking soda and vinegar, as well as drop some b vitamin veggie caps into the drain and run hot water behind it.

Helping a slow drain: Use a straw and insert it into the drain, gravity takes over. Be careful not to insert straw too far down into drain or you will lose straw. Attach a long pipe cleaner into the top part of the straw to avoid losing straw.

Fork also works, inserted handle into drain, gravity takes over and water will run around fork or spoon, and allow drain to ..drain! Amazing. Be careful not to lose fork in drain. If so, use needle nose pliers to pull out fork. Happy draining.

Thomas Mulrooney from Burnley, Lancashire, UK on February 04, 2013:

I will never understand how my girlfriend seems to produce so much hair! Clogged drains are the worst though, it's not exactly a fun job. Thanks for the incredibly detailed tips!

plumbersedinburgh on May 30, 2012:

nice post.... great step by step guide for unblocking a sink. My girlfriend has the loooooongest hair ever, I have to do this near enough every time she washes here hair! I have said she should either shave it all off or go for dreadlocks! haha

Great advice! Thanks

Diana Grant from London on February 14, 2012:

Hi Simey, I came here via HP over to PInterest and then via your Pin to this page.

Re toilet seat - we keep the lid down at all times (save when in use), as our cat likes to paddle.

xethonxq on December 03, 2011:

I use a dental pick when my drain gets clogged...very effective (same idea as the paperclip). :) Great hub SimeyC!

Nurfninja from Earth on November 10, 2011:

hilarious and well written. You sir, have a gift.

Judy Specht from California on September 11, 2011:

Congratulations on a very informative and useful hub.

Les Trois Chenes from Videix, Limousin, South West France on September 08, 2011:

Great hub and full of interesting little facts. Loved those. Congratulations.

Blake Jackson from Missouri on September 07, 2011:

Nicely done! Your hub has style and makes good use of many of the modules...wish I'd thought of some these...Oh hey, congrats on the grand prize win. Quality really shows.

Simon (author) from NJ, USA on September 07, 2011:

LOL that's exactly what i said!! Thanks for the congrats!

Mrs. Menagerie from The Zoo on September 07, 2011:

Woooohooooo! Congratulations!

Elizabeth on September 04, 2011:

Careful to not use to much baking soda. It can actually clog into a gunky paste before the vinegar has a chance to dissolve the baking soda.

htodd from United States on September 03, 2011:

Great post..nice

Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on September 03, 2011:

Brilliant hub but none of your advice will work for the pedestal sink I have here which does not allow access at the back apart from a hole you can get your hand in but you cannot see what you are doing as it is facing the wall. The pipe goes straight down to the floor and there is no p-trap and it appears that the blockage is under the floor seeing as I have got a metal coat-hanger right down to that level but it is still blocked. I have also tried caustic soda with no luck and had to bail it out of the sink basin after with all the boiling water that filled the sink and pipe with caustic soda solution.Before I tried all this I also tried the plunger method but that failed too!

Johnny Parker from Birkenhead, Wirral, North West England on September 01, 2011:

Excellent hub, very comprehensive.

Mrs. Menagerie from The Zoo on August 30, 2011:

This is an awesome helpful guide! And I have to admit that it is not anyone but myself that clogs drains with my long hair.

Simon (author) from NJ, USA on August 30, 2011:

Thank you everyone for all the kind comments. NIce to have a hub be 'Hub of the Day!

Rajaletchumannan on August 30, 2011:

Great.This will be handy when my girl turn to be teenager!I have experience cleaning up clogged sink and bathroom drainage pipe, meshing up....this will be handy.

Kenna McHugh from Northern California on August 29, 2011:

Nice piece, I stick with baking soda and vinegar. I also use boiling water down the drain. It works!

TexBiz from Bastrop, Texas on August 29, 2011:

I meant to say Drano Snake in the previous comment.

TexBiz from Bastrop, Texas on August 29, 2011:

Nice hub. As a father of six daughters, I have cleared my drains a lot, too. I have always used the plunger, whether it be right or wrong, it works! But I forgot that I bought a drano plunger and stuck it under the sink, this article reminds me that it is there, geez I could've used it a few weeks ago if I would have remembered, and I wouldn't have to get out the plunger!

JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on August 29, 2011:

Congrats on being selected for the Hub of the Day!

This is a great article where you share your experiences and help the reader with great ideas for solving this problem. Voting Up and Sharing!


nassy24 from South Carolina -- USA on August 29, 2011:

Awesome job! Very useful and interesting, keep up the great work

Sandyjunep from Australia on August 29, 2011:

Since my daughters have grown up and left home, we have not had a blocked basin. All that long hair is definitely the problem. You have some great ideas though and i will definitely pass them onto my girls.

Chris Montgomery from Irvine, CA on August 29, 2011:

Wicked hub! That's going to be tough to compete with!

ershruti304 from Shimla on August 29, 2011:

really a nice and useful hub you have touched an important issue.

FloraBreenRobison on August 29, 2011:

scratch that-have just read that you do have power. Congratulations.

FloraBreenRobison on August 29, 2011:

Oh, Simey, here you are with hub of the day and you probably won't have power for several days. Ironic timing.

sophiahyes on August 29, 2011:

Congrats for this beautiful hub. A good humor in shaded block....ha ha ha. Made me charmed with everything.

Danette Watt from Illinois on August 29, 2011:

Nicely done and good humor. I liked the graphic you used to define your capsules - clever. I'm the only female in the house and I have short hair so we don't have too many problems with hair clogging the bathroom drain. I do use Drano occasionally just to keep things flowing.

Diane Ziomek from Alberta, Canada on August 29, 2011:

Congratulations on Hub of the Day! This is well deserved! Not only is it very informative, it was entertaining as well. Some basic information very well presented! This one will be bookmarked, shared and has been voted up.

Christopher Rago from Riverside, NJ on August 29, 2011:

Nice Hub. Congrats on it being the Hub of the Day!Up/Awesome.

chamilj from Sri Lanka on August 29, 2011:

Great Hub! Very useful.

Carrie Smith from Dallas, Texas on August 29, 2011:

Congratulations on being featured as the Hub of the Day. This is a very informational and descriptive article, and will come in handy next time I need to unclog my sink. Thanks for sharing - voted up.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 29, 2011:

Congratulations! Very good research and presentation.

Elissa Joyce from US on August 29, 2011:

Great Hub, Congratulations!

Paradise7 from Upstate New York on August 29, 2011:

Pretty decent hub, if I don't say so, myself! I liked all the cool little facts you loaded into the end of the hub.

alvinalex on August 29, 2011:

Congratulation SimeyC, to get hub of the day by this interesting Hub! Keep it Up, Thanks to share.



Trsmd from India on August 27, 2011:

Clearing a p-trap is easy, but a pain if it's common. I had all my pvc p-traps replaced with metal ones. I haven't had to clean them out in over 2 yrs.

Eaglekiwi from New Zealand on August 27, 2011:

Good ,useful hub!! the first suggestion vinegar and baking soda is a good one too,and less expensive!

Drano is sold in New Zealand and Australia too,but maybe be known under a different tradename-any major hardware outlet,or local store will have it.

Les Trois Chenes from Videix, Limousin, South West France on August 24, 2011:

Treating the sinks, basins and baths regularly is far easier than dealing with a blockage later on. Congrats on win.

Jill Spencer from United States on August 23, 2011:

Hey, how'd you manage to make unclogging a drain sound fun? Good job!

GreenMathDr on August 22, 2011:

Oh well, according to my wife I'm in the 30% category. But in my defense I swear I only do it 1% of the time. Its funny how only the 1% is remembered.

Cindy D Whipany on August 22, 2011:

Now wondering about the 11% of the women who don't leave the seat down ...

"Weebles wobble, but they don't flush!"

Verlie Burroughs from Canada on August 22, 2011:

great work...congratulations!

India Arnold from Northern, California on August 22, 2011:

Nice hub! Congrats on the win!

I think your tips for avoiding a plumbing bill are priceless!


Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on August 22, 2011:

Daaaaang SimeyC! This is INCREDIBLE!! Sometimes I've got wee clog in my sink and don't want to pull out the big guns... and in this case, a paper clip is a super smart way to go! All of your advice is fabulous though. I'm going to have to bookmark this for future reference.

breakfastpop on August 22, 2011:

Thanks for the information. I have to print this so I can avoid having to call the plumber!

Simon (author) from NJ, USA on August 22, 2011:

Robin: LOL my advice is to shave their heads - that takes hair and hair bands out of the equation!

Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on August 21, 2011:

We have three girls and our plumbing system is going to be in a world of hurt when they get older! I'll use your tips for sure! Did you know that the first indoor toilets ordered in Seattle were called crappers because they were invented by a British bloke named Thomas Crapper. Unfortunately, they let the sewage drain into the sound which didn't do so well with the tides! Yuck!!

Simon (author) from NJ, USA on August 21, 2011:

Tom Vogler: thanks for the tip! That solution also cleans silver too! Baking Soda is an amazing substance!

Tom Vogler from The Shenandoah Valley on August 21, 2011:

One drano like method I use to keep drains flowing freely is, if I notice a slow drain, I will pour 1 cup of baking soda in the drain followed by 1 or 2 cups white vinegar, a little at a time. The baking soda will start to fizz, often clearing the gunk.