person in glove using sponge and detergent for washing bathroom sink

How To Unclog A Sink At Home

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Get Smarter On Architecture and Design

Get the 3-minute weekly newsletter keeping 5K+ designers in the loop.

Enter your Email to Sign up


We all know the frustration of a long delay, while merely waiting for water to clear from a sink even when the sink stopper is unblocked. This inconvenience often happens with the kitchen sink. The primary reasons for a blocked kitchen or bathroom sinks are accumulated food waste and soap scum.

Sometimes, a clogged sink will require more than rolling up your sleeves and going in with your old school plunger or a dose of chemical-based drain cleaners like Drano. Note that a drain cleaner can at times cause more damage to your drain line system plus, the backsplash from severe blockages could harm your eyes and skin.

Don't you worry, a smooth drain is not a distant dream. With things you can find at home, a DIY fix should save you the money and need to call a plumber.

Note that the process to unclog a kitchen sink and a bathroom sink are similar but vary in some ways slightly. The end goal in each case is to help the drain line freely let water out by clearing out the drain clogs. Here are simple ways to do it.

Ways to Unclog A Sink Drain

1. Check the Garbage Disposal

If the garbage disposal is attached to your sink, you should first check this. If a functional garbage disposal is causing the clog, this should be an easy problem to fix. Turning your disposal on is all you need to do.

However, if your garbage disposal is dysfunctional or overheated, you can use the reset button at the bottom or the side to reboot it. After reset, the disposal should be able to run and clear the drain clog.

If you turn it on and hear a low hum, this could mean that the unit is either broken or just jammed. Remember, never try to fix your garbage disposal while the power is still on.

By inserting an Allen wrench into the hole of the disposal, you can tun the blades manually. Try to twist it until you feel little to no resistance. This will be a great sign to mean that the blockage is breaking.

If you realise there's no blockage in the garbage disposal, then go to the next method.

2. Use Boiling Water

Blockage in your sink is commonly due to hair, soap residue, grease or food debris, which get stuck in your drain line. Boiling water and pouring it through your pipes will help the blockage. It's a straightforward fix, which means you should consider it as your step 1 when trying to unclog a sink.

Steps for this method are:

  • On your stove or electric water kettle, heat half a gallon of water to boiling point
  • Pour the hot water down the drain
  • Check through the faucet to see whether the water drains smoothly
  • If the sink is still clogged or draining slowly, repeat this process

If your sink drain pipe is made of PVC pipes, don't use the boiling water method since the hot water could either melt or damage the drain.

3. Use Baking Soda and Vinegar

A natural alternative to using chemicals like drain cleaners to unclog a sink, you can use everyday household items in your kitchen such as baking soda and vinegar. To let the mixture work its magic, follow these steps:

  • Step 1 is to pour a cup of baking soda down the sink drain. Using a spoon, push the baking soda down the drain
  • Pour a cup of white vinegar through the drain opening
  • Place a sink stopper on the drain to seal the sink opening
  • Let this mixture sit for around 15 minutes
  • Remove the sink stopper and then let the hot tap water down the drain
  • For more intense clogs, use boiling water

4. Use A Plumber’s Snake

For sink clogs that put up a fight, use a plumber's snake for the battle. The snake has a coiled spiral tip that goes down through the drain.

When the drain snake hits debris, dislodge the debris by cranking the handle to help you pull it out of the sink drain. Use the snake down the sink drain a few feet at a time. And don't push roughly since you might push the drain clogs further down the pipe. Keep at it until you are sure that the blockage is gone. After this, run hot water down the drain to check.

As well, you have the option of using an electric drain snake to tackle a clogged drain. Where you don't have either, you can make a make-shift drain snake from a wire coat hanger.

To make this drain snake, you'll need a pair of pliers to unwind the coat hanger into one long wire. Then adjust the angle of the hook carefully enough not to unwind the hooked end. You'll use the hooked end to grab onto the debris.

When you're dealing with these types of plumbing problems, it's important to have a set of pliers that can handle bending wire and dealing with tough bolts and pipe connections. Maun pliers are designed for this task, with strong parallel-action jaws to help keep a solid grip on hard wire, as well as other fixtures and fittings. Some of their pliers have a v-slot down the jaws to help with bending wire, which is ideal for creating a plumber's snake as mentioned above.

5. Clean the P-trap

If the methods above don't work, then it might mean that there's debris clogged up in your p-trap, and you will need to clean it up to unclog a sink drain. The elbow-shaped part of your sink pipe is known as the p-trap.

Tip: This method is a little messy because you'll need to disassemble your sink pipe to clean the p-trap. For this task, you'll need rubber gloves, goggles and towels.

Steps to cleaning the p-trap include:

  • Place a bucket under your kitchen or bathroom sink to catch any water or debris that may fall out
  • Unhinge the connectors on the pipe that hold the curved piece to the vertical and the horizontal pipe
  • Remove the P-trap and clean out the soap scum, food debris or, grime
  • Once clean, connect it back to the pipe
  • Run tap water down the drain to check whether it's smoothly draining
  • If the water still doesn't drain smoothly, then the clog is further up, disconnect the rest of the pipe and clean them

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Unclog a Sink

- How do I prevent future clogs in my kitchen sink/ bathroom sink?

a) Make sure you don't pour certain items that clog up your drain. These items include:

  • Grease, oils and fats
  • Eggshells
  • Ground coffee
  • Meat
  • Starchy foods
  • Fruit peels
  • Gum
  • Paint
  • Paper products
  • Food wrappers

b) Don't overload your garbage disposal. Never grind more than a cup of waste at a time. As well, avoid putting in any of the items above

c) Mix a solution of vinegar and water equally. Put the mixture in an ice tray. Once every month, grind a few of these cubes down your disposal to scrape away any residue buildup

d) Run hot water regularly

e) Use a sink stopper to collect any food waste before it goes down the drain

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
Related Articles
A professional cleaning a leather sofa.

How to Clean a Leather Sofa to Restore Its Shine

A stained sofa’s appearance dulls over time, even if it is classy. So, learn how to clean a leather sofa ...

Best Steam Cleaner for Couch Cleaning and Disinfection

Best Steam Cleaner for Couch Cleaning and Disinfection

According to this UNICEF study, a sofa or couch is one of the dirtiest items in your house, even harboring more ...

Best Dry Cleaning Solvent for Upholstery

Best Dry Cleaning Solvent for Upholstery and Carpets

Since upholstered furniture is used regularly, it's bound to become dirty through stains and odors. Some might think maintaining and ...