How to Fix Your Own Sink Clogs and Save Money Doing It

How to Fix Your Own Sink Clogs and Save Money Doing It
  • Opening Intro -

    Except for the occasional need to double flush or plunge the toilet, sink clogs are at the top of the list for being a homeowner's plumbing headache.


Depending on what you send down the drains of your sinks, the clogs can be recurring headache even if you get a plumber to resolve the immediate problem. Save money by learning how to fix your own sink drain clogs.

Stop the Gunk

The things that clog sinks include sticky stuff and fiber. The sticky stuff can be anything from fats that solidify at room temperature to soap and other personal hygiene products, including denture adhesive residue. The fibrous material can be anything from vegetable matter stuck in a garbage disposal to hair building up in a shower drain.

Lint can become a drain clogging mess if you have a washtub that your clothes washer drains into. Lint traps are available for washer drains; there are also drain traps for kitchen sinks and showers. If your garbage disposal is constantly clogging, the disposal’s impeller may be wearing out.

Cleaning the P-Trap

Under your sink is a water trap the looks to be in the shape of the letter "U," but it is called a P-trap. This little section of pipe is connected by two nuts and compression washers that stop it from leaking. This is where the majority of clogs form.

A small flexible drain snake about 20-inches long can usually dislodge the clog to open the drain. If you really want to clean out the P-trap, you need a bucket to catch the water, a few old towels to catch splashes, and channel-lock pliers or a pipe wrench to loosen the nuts.

Metal pipes can be a little more tricky due to corrosion. Plastic pipes often can be loosened and then re-tightened by hand. Be careful to not dislodge the rest of the drain assembly when disassembling and reassembling the P-trap, and do not attempt this if there is a chemical drain cleaner in the water due to the risk of chemical burns.

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Popup Drains and Shower Drain Covers

These are the places where hair and soapy gunk can build up. Some showers have a drain cover that can be lifted and cleaned. Otherwise, use a stiff scrub brush to dislodge trapped hair and rinse with hot water.

Pop-up drains used in the majority of bathroom sinks are the type you lift or press a plunger against them to close and open them. The kind that you control with a rod that lift or lower can easily be removed by loosening the nut underneath the sink where the lever rod attaches to the drain. There is a ball on the rod that connects to a socket in the drain that keeps water from leaking out and lets the lever move up and down. If you loosen the nut and pull the rod out, you can lift the popup drain out to clean. Do not over-tighten on reassembly; and double check for leaks.

Chemical Drain Openers

You may want to use chemical drain cleaners at the first sign of a slowing drain instead of waiting for the drain to stop flowing. This lets the chemical get to the P-trap under the sink in its full concentration. It works on slow-draining showers too.

The bleach variety of drain openers is usually highly concentrated and may be a gel-to-stick where it is poured. However, you can simply pour some household bleach down a slow drain, and let it sit for a couple of hours to help improve the flow.

Some companies, like Young Plumbing Corporation, know that most chemical drain openers are made of sodium hydroxide (lye) or sodium hypochlorite (bleach).

Be sure to warn everyone in the house as bleach fumes can cause respiratory distress.

Easy Plumbing Fixes

Sink clogs are easy to fix once you know that most clogs form in the P-trap. Vegetable debris in large quantities can easily plug up a P-trap. If you take anything apart, take pictures so that you can put it back like it was. Do not over-tighten drain connections as there is no pressure in drain lines that require it.

Image credit: Any Plumbing Charlotte Plumber NC, on Flickr

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