Unclogging a Sink for Cheap

Updated on April 11, 2019
K9keystrokes profile image

I have lots of experience unclogging sinks. Here are the best techniques I've found.

Home Plumbing Made Easy
Home Plumbing Made Easy | Source

How to Unclog a Bathroom Sink

Every sink has a drain trap, and that means every sink will probably get clogged at some point in time. Just like eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away, knowing a couple of techniques can keep the plumber away! In most cases, a clogged sink is due to soap build-up or hair build-up that has been caught in the sink's plumbing trap or fixture drain line.

How to Unclog a Bathroom Sink Drain

Removing sink clogs can be simple if you learn how to deal with them by

  • properly using a plunger,
  • cleaning and adjusting a pop-up drain stopper,
  • removing and cleaning a sink trap,
  • or by regularly conducting a "liquid drain cleaner" maintenance plan.

No matter what method for clearing sink clogs works best for you, regular drain maintenance is the ounce of prevention that can bring your plumbing a pound of cure!

The "Under Sink Assembly Guide"  will be helpful to you if you don't know what a part is actually called.
The "Under Sink Assembly Guide" will be helpful to you if you don't know what a part is actually called. | Source

Getting to Know Your Under-Sink Assembly Parts

The drain trap holds water for a very specific reason, it seals the drain line and keeps sewer gases from coming into the home. Every time a drain is used, the standing water in the drain elbow gets flushed away and fresh water replaces it. The shape of the trap and fixture have been said to resemble the letter "P," because of this, sink traps sometimes are also called "P-traps."

If you struggle with any of the labeling and or names of the sink's component parts, simply refer to the under-sink assembly pictured here during your plumbing clog repair and maintenance.

What Is a Liquid Drain Maintenance Plan?

Regular drain maintenance helps to keep all of your sink and drain plumbing running smooth and working properly. You can count on reduced (or no) clogs and stopped drains if you do a little preventative maintenance. It's simple and takes only minutes to do. The two important sink clog prevention techniques are; hot water, and liquid drain cleaner.

Hot Water Method:

Simply flush drains with boiling hot water each week to keep them free of soap, grease, debris, and hair.

Liquid Drain Cleaner:

Treat drains every six months with a non-caustic (copper sulfide-based or sodium hydroxide-based) drain cleaner. Using a non-caustic product is important because these will not harm your pipes.

Want to keep nasty stuff (hair and other clogging elements) out of the drain before it can cause a sink pipe to get all clogged-up? Consider putting small screens over the sink drains. They are cheap and you can always find small screen materials at your local Home Center or Hardware Store.

Is Drano considered a pollutant?

"According to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, the substance used in Drano (sodium hydroxide) is NOT considered a pollutant. The substance separates into relatively harmless component elements once released into the water or moist soil."

Clear Clogged Sinks Using a Plunger

Step #1 remove drain stopper
Step #1 remove drain stopper | Source
Step #2 stuff a rag, and plunge sink drain
Step #2 stuff a rag, and plunge sink drain | Source

How to Properly Clear Pop-Up Sink Drains With a Plunger

Two easy, yet important steps are needed for properly using a plunger to clear a sink drain of a clog: remove the stopper, and stuff a rag.

  • Step 1: Remove the drain stopper. Some pop-up stoppers lift out easily with no trouble; while others you must turn counterclockwise to remove. On older models, there is a pivot rod (see assembly diagram) that has to be removed in order to free the stopper.
  • Step 2: Stuff a wet rag in the sink overflow opening (this is the hole located on the upper-side of the sink wall). The rag will keep the air from breaking the suction created by the plunger. Using petroleum jelly, spread a coating along the plunger cup bottom lip (where it will make contact with the sink, this helps make a super-tight water seal). Place the plunger cup over the drain and run enough water to completely cover the rubber cup. Rapidly thrust the plunger handle up and down, while maintaining contact with the sink, and break up the clog.

Cleaning and Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains

Step #1 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains
Step #1 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains | Source
Step #2 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains
Step #2 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains | Source

How Much Does a Leaky Pipe Cost You?

(click column header to sort results)
TOTAL COST AT $1.42 (per 1,000 Gal)  
TOTAL COST AT $1.91 (per 1,000 Gal)  
1/16" (1.6mm) 
1/8" (3.2mm) 
1/4" (6.5mm)
1/2" (13mm)
As per Best Plumbing Specialies (bestplumbing@att.net)
Step #3 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains
Step #3 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains | Source

How to Clean and Adjust a Pop-up Sink Drain Stopper

It takes three simple steps to clean and clear, and also adjust a Pop-up sink drain stopper; raise stopper, remove stopper, and finally adjust clevis.

  1. You need to raise the stopper lever to its full up-right (closed) position. Unscrew the retaining nut (see diagram) that holds the pivot rod in place. By pulling the pivot rod out of the drain pipe, you will be releasing the stopper.
  2. Now you remove the stopper. After you have removed the stopper, clean the debris, using a small wire brush. Make sure you look carefully at the gasket to see if there is any wear or damage. If you can see anything that looks like trouble, replace the gasket. Now just simply reinstall the stopper.
  3. The last step is to adjust the clevis. If the sink isn't draining properly, you will need to adjust the clevis (see diagram). Simply loosen the clevis screw. This allows you to slide the actual clevis plate up or down along the stopper rod to adjust the position of the stopper. Once the stopper is in a spot that completely seals the sink drain, as well as opens it enough so the sink can drain sufficiently, tighten clevis screw in place. You're all done!

Remove and Clean a Sink Trap

Step #1 Cleaning a SInk Trap, put a bucket under the trap.
Step #1 Cleaning a SInk Trap, put a bucket under the trap. | Source
Step #2 Cleaning a Sink Trap, clean out the trap elbow of debris and dirt.
Step #2 Cleaning a Sink Trap, clean out the trap elbow of debris and dirt. | Source

How to Remove and Clean a Sink Drain Trap

If you are thinking that only a plumber should mess around with those sink drain traps, you should think again! This is a very easy plumbing project that can save you a couple hundred dollars by doing it yourself. It only takes minutes and two very simple steps; place a bucket, and dump debris.

Note: Slip rings and slip nuts are the same part, just called a slightly different name depending on the plumber you talk to.

  • Step 1: Place a bucket under the plumbing trap to catch any water and junk that may be lurking in the trap elbow. Using channel-style pliers, loosen the slip nuts (see diagram) while holding the trap elbow in place. Finish unscrewing the slip nuts by hand and when possible, slide them away from the pipe connections at both ends of the elbow. Carefully wiggle the elbow free to remove it.
  • Step 2: Dump out the debris. Poke a small wire brush into the trap elbow to clean it out. Take a look at the trap slip nuts, if you see any wear or damage to them, replace them with new nuts. Once the trap is clear of debris and dirt, reinstall it, and tighten the slip nuts in place. See, now wasn't that a lot less painful than dishing out a couple hundred bucks for a few minutes of a plumber's time?

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 India Arnold


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    6 years ago

    Hi K9 your post really admires me since I'm also doing such a stuff that women would never do. And aside from the If you don't mind k9 I also have site about home improvements http://www.muffyblogs.wordpress.com If you don't mind visiting my site would be such a pleasure for me.

    Looking forward for it :)

  • funmontrealgirl profile image


    8 years ago from Montreal

    I can't say I would take actions clogged sink above and beyond the use of draino, but this is a very well laid out and informative hub with excellent pictures. Great job!on a clo

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    BardofEly~ I am no expert on landlord issues, but it would surprise me if your landlord wasn't still liable to keep your plumbing functional even if you are late on rent. You may want to check into the health and safety laws/regulations for your area to see what she MUST keep in good repair. Your plumbing issues can possibly cause your neighbors problems with water and/or health stuff(especially if you live in an apartment complex). After all, who would want to pay rent when the plumbing is not functional?

    You remain in my thoughts~

  • Bard of Ely profile image

    Steve Andrews 

    8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    Thank you for your kind thoughts, K9! I have almost got used to the problem because I can use the kitchen sink and the bath and the tap works. It is just that if I use it then it is only for filling something but not the sink. I am pretty much ashamed of my bathroom though but not a lot I can do. My rent is going to be late or in arrears again for September and I can't expect my landlady to be very keen to spend her money to sort out plumbing problems when I am not paying her what I owe on time. It seems like another of the 'why me' situations in life!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    BardofEly~ Wow. It does sound like you have an extremely vicious plumbing problem, so sorry! I would seem that only a pro will be able to mange such a deep set issue. I really wish you well with the situation. This truly sounds like a miserable encounter for you.

    Keeping you in my thoughts~


  • Bard of Ely profile image

    Steve Andrews 

    8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    K9, first of all, thank you for posting the link to my hub! Unfortunately there are no bolts at the base of the pedestal or if there are they are deep down inside it and I don't know how you can access them. All that you can get to by feeling is much further up where I can feel the pipe and the back of the fittings for the sink. I unscrewed this and screwed it back but that hasn't helped because it now leaks there because I can't see how to do this properly. The only other option appears to be to remove the sink basin but that is very tricky in itself as the nuts and bolts at the holders by the wall are all corroded with age. The drain-pipe itself I tried plunger, auger, bicarb, salt, Mr Muscle, and finally straight caustic soda and boiling water and none of that lot succeeded in unblocking it fully. It appears the clog is in the length of piping under the floor and impossible to get to. The bidet and toilet are further along and the pipes for them are not blocked! It is now an unusable bathroom sink!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    Bard of Ely~ I just remembered this great hub I read recently that deals with such a problem as yours in a very creative way for those of us who don't have spare cash laying around. You may be familiar with the link ;)----


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    Bard of Ely~ You are so right! The pedestal sinks have their very own practices for clog removal. They require the removal of the base if room has not been provided for maintenance. I also believe that these type sink do have a P trap, that may be placed within the body of base. It may be smaller but it should be there. If not, it is unfortunately an installation that did not take plumbing clogs into consideration.

    Try this:

    ~At the base of the pedestal there should be bolts attaching it to the floor. Remove them and the base.

    ~The sink should be held in place by the lag screws for the sink brace, but I would suggest a temporary sink support (a length of 2 X 4 works well) just to be safe.

    ~Now that you can see the pipes better, a P trap may be in place. If so, treat as directed above.

    ~If not, an auger will be your next option.

    I hope this helps BoE.

    Thanks for a great question! Might be worth making into a hub. ;)



  • Bard of Ely profile image

    Steve Andrews 

    8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

    I have voted up and tagged awesome for this hub but what about pedestal sinks? I have one here in the bathroom and there is no U-bend P-trap because the drainpipe goes straight down in the pedestal and it is very hard to get access to without removing the basin and pedestal.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    GORDON! My heart is all a flutter to see you have stopped by today. Glad you are back online and very flattered you approve of the home plumbing hubs.

    I have to snicker a bit when I imagine your quest from pub to pub for a friend of a friend who knows a guy who knows something about plumbing...whew! Makes me thirsty!

    Hope you are doing okay with all of the flooding my friend, you remain in my thoughts.

    Huge HubHugs~


  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    Simone~ Thanks so much for the nice comments. As a (retired) General Contractors Daughter I do have to admit to a measure of insider know-how. But honestly, my dad allowed me to ask him a myriad of questions and helped set up the projects. I am so happy you are garnering some home plumbing project techniques from the hubs!

    Thank you so much for stopping by!



  • Gordon Hamilton profile image

    Gordon Hamilton 

    8 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

    Hi, K9

    Catching up on some reading tonight after a horrendous couple of weeks of limited Internet access in my area due to the flooding we experienced - maybe the engineers working on the cables should have read some of your plumbing tips! :)

    Fantastic Hubs you are creating on this subject and I am awestruck. Usually, if I have any kind of plumbing problem, I check the local pub for any guys that know any guys, that know a plumber... That may no longer be necessary! :)

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    8 years ago from San Francisco

    If I didn't know better, K9keystrokes, I would think you were a professional plumber! Your plumbing guides are truly phenomenal!! I'm learning so much... I used to dread something going wrong with my plumbing, but now I'm feeling really prepared!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    8 years ago from Northern, California

    DzyMsLizzy~ Thanks so much for the added pointers for sink stoppers and slip nuts! Super good tips! I am so pleased that you feel this clogged drain guide will be useful. Thanks for the read!

    PS- Missed you at the SF HubCamp! Next time, right!?



  • DzyMsLizzy profile image

    Liz Elias 

    8 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Good job, K9! Especially useful illustrations for those pesky built-in stoppers. They really can give you fits.

    Replacing a "P" trap needs to be done carefully...it is easy to get it crooked, and it will then leak. And those doggoned slip nuts often like to try to cross-thread. This is an indication that the trap may be cockeyed.

    Voted up and useful.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)