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Unclogging a Sink for Cheap

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

Home Plumbing Made Easy

Home Plumbing Made Easy

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.

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 freshwater replaces it. The shape of the trap and fixture have been said to resemble the letter "P," and because of this, sink traps are also sometimes 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 image 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 smoothly 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. 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 it 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

Step #2 stuff a rag, and plunge sink drain

Step #2 stuff a rag, and plunge sink drain

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Dengarden

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

Step #2 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains

Step #2 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains

How Much Does a Leaky Pipe Cost You?

As per Best Plumbing Specialies (


1/16" (1.6mm) 





1/8" (3.2mm) 





1/4" (6.5mm)





1/2" (13mm)





Step #3 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains

Step #3 Adjusting Pop-up Sink Drains

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

It takes three simple steps to clean, clear, and adjust a pop-up sink drain stopper; raise the stopper, remove the stopper, and adjust the 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 drainpipe, 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 the 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.

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.

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


merlyn on October 02, 2013:

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 If you don't mind visiting my site would be such a pleasure for me.

Looking forward for it :)

funmontrealgirl from Montreal on September 08, 2011:

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

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 28, 2011:

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~

Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on August 28, 2011:

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!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 28, 2011:

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~


Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on August 28, 2011:

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!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 27, 2011:

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 ;)----

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 27, 2011:

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. ;)



Steve Andrews from Lisbon, Portugal on August 27, 2011:

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.

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 26, 2011:

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~


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 26, 2011:

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 from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on August 26, 2011:

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 Haruko Smith from San Francisco on August 26, 2011:

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!

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on August 26, 2011:

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!?



Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on August 26, 2011:

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 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.

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