“Oh, no, not again.” That’s the typical response when a homeowner realizes they have a clogged sink drain. Whether it’s affecting a bathroom, kitchen, or utility sink, dealing with a blocked drain can be frustrating and inconvenient. But don’t despair because we have a few tips for unclogging a drain yourself.
For minor sink drains, simple DIY fixes include a plunger, drain snake, Zip-It tool, vet vacuum, and a baking soda/vinegar mixture. If these methods don’t do the trick, the next step is to bring in a plumber to take a look.
A plunger isn’t just good for unclogging toilets. For most clogs, if you can push the blockage through the trap, it will pass through the rest of the drain pipes and fix the issue. Remove the stopper from the drain, make sure there’s some water in the sink, position the plunger over the drain, then give it a few forceful pushes.
Pro tip: there are a few varieties of plungers for different applications. A regular cup plunger is best for sinks, while a toilet plunger has a small flap inside the cup.
The drain snake is another classic plumber’s tool. Basically, it’s a long, thin cable that is inserted into the drain. The goal with a drain snake is to break up the blockage so it becomes dislodged and passes through the pipes. If you don’t want to buy a drain snake, a wire hanger or pipe cleaner is a good homemade option.
If you suspect there’s a clump of hair stuck in the drain, then a Zip-It is a great first solution to try. This thin tool is usually less than two feet long, which is enough to reach down into the trap. What makes the Zip-It effective are the small teeth or barbs that can grab on to hair. Just insert the tool into the drain, wiggle it around, then pull up. Just be ready for a soapy, gunky hairball to come back up – but that’s a good sign that your drain will flow properly.
If you have a wet/dry vacuum (commonly called a Shop Vac), you can use it to suck up whatever blockage in the drain. Just make sure you have the vacuum set to liquid, you cover the vet, and you have towels down to prevent any mess. The trick is creating a tight seal around the drain and plugging the overflow tub to avoid losing suction.
Baka soda and vinegar drain cleaner
Instead of using commercial drain cleaners that are expensive, hazardous, and can damage your pipes, try this natural, homemade alternative. Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by one cup of vinegar. Immediately cover the drain hole so the fizzy mixture expands down into the pipe, hopefully loosing up the clog in the process. Let the solution work for about 15 minutes, then flush the drain with boiling water.
Call a plumber to unclog your sink
All of these are worthwhile methods for attempting to unclog a sink drain on your own. If one approach is successful – fantastic! If not, then your best course of action is to bring in a plumber. Some clogs can be especially tricky, or you may have a larger plumbing issue on your hands.