How To Unclog A Sink

gray faucet

Bathroom sinks get so much use, it’s no wonder they are one of the most common sources of clogs. If you have a clog in one of your bathroom sinks, a few different methods are available to unclog it. Some of the most common types of challenges that lead to a clogged sink include soap scum buildup and hair getting wrapped around the sink drain and getting stuck in drain pipes. Natural remedies including using vinegar and baking soda to break down the solids and using tweezers for heavy hair can be quick fixes for clogged drains. For large clogs that have built up over time, a toilet plunger or drain snake might be the only solution. While these methods can be help relieve a clogged sink when standing water starts accumulating around your drain opening, stubborn clogs may require professional equipment to release and the pros at Pulled can help!

Here we’ll discuss six methods that address how you can dislodge your sink clog and ensure your bathroom plumbing system is in good health. Though this article focuses on bathroom clogs, you can apply them to your kitchen sink to help and shower drains too. If you try all of these methods and your bathroom or kitchen sink is still clogged, our plumbing experts are on hand to help with more stubborn clogs.

What’s clogging my sink drain?

bathroom hair clogs

There are four common reasons why your bathroom sink accumulates standing water, stops draining properly or begins to drain slowly. Unlike a kitchen sink which has a garbage disposal connected to the kitchen sink drain that can break down food waste like coffee grounds and other debris to help avoid backed up water and help to unclog a kitchen sink, bathroom sinks require additional effort to clear the sink drain and relieve a clogged sink. Depending on the problem you have, we’ll discuss the options you have to solve them.

Clumps of hair

Perhaps the most common reason your bathroom sink begins to clog has to do with hair that enters your sink drains from shaving or cutting. In fact, most clogs in the bathroom involve clumps of hair forming together in the water drains and getting stuck on the walls of the plastic pipes, creating restrictions to the drain flow.

To best remove these hair clumps and relieve clogged drains, you can use long tweezers or a zip-it tool to remove a lot of the hair. If neither works, you can try disassembling the whole p-trap drain under the sink and remove any hair that has gotten stuck in the curved pipe section. Before doing so, you’ll want to place a large pot or bucket underneath to catch any excess water that escapes and use a damp wet rag to clean up any debris that drops on the floor.

Soap scum

Soap scum is the second biggest problem, especially if you have hard water. It can build up around the drain opening and the sink drain and accumulate in your pipes over time, fostering mold and mildew.

To clear soap residue from your drains, you can start with boiling water. A good method is to use a tea kettle to make boiling water and pour the boiling water down the drain.

You might be wondering if you can just use hot tap water. While hot water is beneficial it is best to use boiling water because when you pour boiling water into the sink, the water will cool slightly as it flows down the sink drain and you want the water to be as hot as possible to break up the soap.

You can also use the vinegar method by putting baking soda and vinegar down the drain. Take half a cup baking soda and one cup vinegar and pour each down the drain separately. Allow the mixture to work for a few minutes to loosen built up soap. If it still doesn’t budge, you can plunge vigorously with warm water to see if you can push water down the drain.

Something stuck in p-trap

The p-trap is the section of pipe beneath your bathroom sink that is curved and connects to the wall pipe. It works to prevent smelly sewer gasses and caustic chemicals from coming up through the sink drain, by restricting them in the curve of the pipe.

To clean the trap, disconnect your sink trap at the threaded rings that connect the pipes together and clean out the hair and any large items that may have gotten stuck.

Damaged pipes

Rust, corrosion, and damaged sections of pipe can also lead to a slow drain or a clog over time.

To get your drains working properly again, replace any old, rusted pipes before they become break down so much, they restrict the proper flow of water. You can try plunging or snaking them with a plumbing snake for temporary relief but ultimately you’ll want to replace any damaged pipes because they can lead to a clogged kitchen sink as well.

Step by step guide on how to unclog a sink

Once you’ve figured out what is causing your drains to clog, we’ll guide you through the steps in detail to unclog a sink. If you’re unsure what may be causing your drain clog, you can try each of these methods in the order below.

Note: We Never recommend using chemical drain cleaners. The high toxicity from chemicals like bleach, peroxide, lye, and others are not only really hazardous, but they can prove to be fatal if swallowed or inhaled and can even cause serious burns if they come in contact with the skin.

If you feel like the clog won’t budge from the methods we provide below or are worried about future clogs happening in other areas like your kitchen sink drain, it’s best to call the pros to assess. The can help unclog a sink and ensure a clog doesn’t get stuck somewhere else in your sewer system.

1. Baking soda and white vinegar

baking soda and vinegar to unclog a drain
  1. Unscrew the drain cover and remove the sink stopper.
  2. Take ½ cup of baking soda and put into the drain first.
  3. Then pour one cup of white vinegar down the drain.
  4. As the mixtures begins to fizz in the drain, let the mixture sit for several minutes in the drain until it stops fizzing.
  5. Release hot water down the drain. You can repeat this process up to 3 times.

2. Remove bathroom hair clog

  1. Remove your drain stopper.
  2. Use a flashlight and look down the drain to see if you can find hair after using baking soda and vinegar.
  3. If you can see hair, use long-nosed tweezers to retrieve it directly from the sink.
  4. If you can’t see hair, use a zip-it tool or bend and insert a wire coat hanger to retrieve it.
  5. Slide the tool up and down the drain as far as it will go naturally, but don’t try forcing it, if it provides resistance. This can lead to pipe damage.
  6. Push the tool in the drain at different angles and try moving it around the drain to catch more hair.
  7. Repeat this process, rinsing with hot water as necessary, until all the hair from the drain is removed.

3. Plunge

Plunging to unclog a bathroom sink
  1. Get a cup plunger and remove the stopper.
  2. Seal the sink overflow outlet (the small cap that has a slit in it down the center and sits next to your faucet) with tape or a rag.
  3. Place towels or rags on the floor around the sink to catch any water overflow.
  4. Fill the sink with warm water and use the plunger’s cup to create an airtight seal over the drain.
  5. Pump the plunger up and down several times with quick, sharp movements.
  6. If the water starts to go down, you’ve cleared the clog.
  7. Repeat this a few times as necessary, until the water begins to drain.

4. Clean the p-trap

  1. Using rubber gloves, remove any items under your sink and put a bucket under your p-trap to catch any debris and water.
  2. Loosen the circular plastic ring nuts by hand or with a pliers, if they’re really tight.
  3. Remove the curved p-trap by hand and dump the water into the bucket.
  4. Remove any objects and grime lodged in the trap and clean the inside of the trap with a bristle brush.
  5. Put the p-trap back together and test the drain.

5. Snake

Using a plumber's snake to unclog a bathroom sink drain
  1. Automated drain snakes (called plumber’s snakes or plumber’s augers) can be used to aggressively clear your drainage lines.
  2. Make sure to place towels or rags beneath the sink to catch any leaks.
  3. Remove the p-trap and the stopper.
  4. Thread the snake coil into the wall drain manually and uncoil using the handle.
  5. When you reach the clog, rotate the head up-and-down and back-and-forth.
  6. Once you’ve cleared the drain line, pull the snake out and reassemble the sink components.

Bathroom sink plumbing for Los Angeles’ worst clogs

We hope this information has proved helpful in getting your clog to release. If you’ve tried all of these methods and are still up to your ears in water, contact the pros at Pulled. Some clogs are created by other issues downstream from your bathroom sink and require professional equipment to release. Our pros can dislodge these tough clogs and get your drain flowing again.

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