How to unclog a kitchen sink in 3 steps

How to unclog a kitchen sink in 3 steps



If your kitchen sink isn’t draining, or you find it draining at a snail’s pace, you’re likely dealing with a clogged drain. A clogged kitchen sink is a common household nuisance, and it usually happens when you need to use your sink the most. Sometimes it can be smelly, and all the stuff you want down the drain — such as coffee grounds and food particles or fruit peels — float in the standing water, all while a stack of dirty dishes needs to be washed. 

As inconvenient as drain clogs can be, there are some DIY tactics you can try to unclog your kitchen sink with some household items you likely have on hand. This article will discuss how you can unclog your kitchen sink in three easy steps and tackle that pile of dirty dishes. 


What is the best way to unclog a kitchen sink?

To begin, do some investigation to identify the cause of the clog. Check for any obstructions inside the kitchen sink drain. Things like leftover food scraps, residual buildup or gunk can create a blockage and prevent a steady flow down the drainpipe. Turning on the garbage disposal may be all you need for unclogging the drain. If this does the trick, breathe a sigh of relief. If not, the following three steps are highly effective ways you can unclog a kitchen sink.   


How to unclog a kitchen sink in 3 steps

Although pouring a chemical drain cleaner such as Drano down the drain may be the first thought that comes to mind, it might cause more harm than good. While cleaners can do the trick for the short term, these products can corrode the inside of pipes and lead to more serious problems over time. 

Fortunately, homeowners can unclog most kitchen sink drains without harsh chemical agents or calling a plumber. With some inexpensive household items, such as baking soda, vinegar, boiling water, a plunger and a little know-how, you can break down the blockage on your own. 

Step 1. Run baking soda, vinegar and boiling water down the drain

When combined, baking soda, vinegar and boiling water can work wonders on your clogged drain. 

  1. First, remove the standing water as much as you can with a cup or bowl. 
  2. Measure approximately 1 cup of baking soda and pour it down the drain. 
  3. Wearing rubber gloves, push down on the baking soda if needed, or you can use a spoon. 
  4. Next, pour 1 cup of white vinegar down the drain and cover with a stopper. 
  5. After 15 minutes, remove the stopper and run hot water from the faucet down the drain. 
  6. For stubborn clogs, use boiling water. 

If this appears to work, but the sink still drains on the slow side, repeat the steps. If the blockage persists, move on to the next step. 

Step 2. Plunge the clog

A plunger is a great tool for removing a blockage and an inexpensive way to unclog drains. Plungers come in various designs for different drains. For instance, a toilet plunger has an additional flange extension from the cup, or you can also find accordion-style toilet plungers. A bell-shaped flat plunger works best for sinks because the plunger’s cup can lie flat and create a tight seal and suction. 

  1. Begin by filling the sink with a few inches of water. This helps create better suction for plunging. 
  2. Next, completely cover the drain opening with the bell of the plunger and evenly move the plunger in an up-and-down motion. 
  3. Be sure to maintain the seal while plunging. 
  4. Remove the plunger, and see if water runs freely down the drain. 
  5. If still clogged, repeat the process. This may take several attempts. 
  6. If still clogged, try snaking the drain as described in the next step. 

Step 3. Use a plumber’s snake (if necessary)

Also known as a drain auger, the plumber’s snake is a DIY tool you can buy on Amazon or at your local home improvement store. This tool can uncoil to get to those hard-to-reach areas and dislodge debris blocking the drain. If in a pinch, you can unwind a wire coat hanger with pliers into a long wire, keeping the hooked end intact for dislodging and pulling out debris. 

Slowly and carefully feed the snake or wire coat hanger down the drain until you feel resistance from the obstruction at the tip of the plumber’s snake or wire hanger. Avoid pushing because this can force the clog farther down the drain. Hook the debris with the tool’s tip and pull it up and out the drain. Repeat until removed, and run hot water from the faucet. 

If you find the water is not draining, the blockage might be in the P-trap under the sink. A P-trap is the elbow-shaped pipe found under the sink. This job can get messy, so suit yourself with rubber gloves and a pair of eye goggles, and grab some paper towels or old rags. 

Before disconnecting the P-trap nuts, place a small bucket under it to catch any water or debris. Loosen the nuts connecting the curved piece of pipe and remove the P-trap. Look inside for any obstructions and remove them. If you don’t see any buildup of grime and debris, the blockage is likely farther down the pipe. Slowly feed the plumber’s snake or wire coat hanger and remove any debris blocking the pipe. When you no longer feel resistance against the tip of the tool, remove the snake and reassemble the P-trap. 

Afterward, flush the drain with hot water from the tap. With water running, check for any drips or leaks from the pipes and tighten any connectors if needed. 

If the water drains, pat yourself on the back. If it’s still not draining, you can try the plumber’s snake again. If it’s still not draining after your second attempt, it’s likely time to call a professional plumber. 


How to prevent kitchen sink clogs

Clogged drains are generally an easy fix, and there are some preventive measures you can take to lessen the risk of them happening again. The following provides some best practices that can help keep your drains clog-free. 

  • Even if you have a garbage disposal, avoid flushing food down the sink. Throw scraps and leftovers in the trash, and especially avoid eggshells, coffee grounds, grease, and starchy foods such as rice and pasta from going down the drain. You can even place a mesh strainer over the drain to catch debris. 
  • An easy way to prevent clogs is to run hot water after each use. This can help flush away small particles and keep the drain clear. 
  • Do a vinegar rinse each month to remove any accumulation inside the drain. Simply mix equal parts water and vinegar, and pour into the drain to keep your drains fresh and clean. 

Preventing kitchen sink clogs is inexpensive and takes little time. These small efforts can help save you from the frustration and hassle of a clogged kitchen sink. 


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When things break down, a Cinch Home Services Built-in Systems plan can keep you covered, including for your home’s plumbing system. Cinch Home Services provides affordable home protection plans for home appliances and built-in systems. 

A major home appliance or system breakdown can be frustrating and expensive. With home warranty protection, get peace of mind and avoid the added expense of footing the bill for costly repairs or replacements. 

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Avoid calling the plumber and learn how you can unclog your kitchen sink in 3 steps.

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