How to Unclog Your Bathroom Sink Quickly and Easily

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Standing water in your basin is one of the first signs that your slow draining sink needs to be de-clogged. Those odors aren’t pleasant either.

First things first, figuring out why the drain is clogged is the best way to determine how to unclog your bathroom sink.

Unfortunately, a clogged bathroom sink is a widespread problem, but it’s not that hard to fix. Most of the backups take place at the trap underneath the sink.

While the U-shaped pipe called ‘P-trap’ is necessary to stop sewer gasses from entering your home, that’s where it gets a bit tight. You’ll likely need to give it a visit but won’t take long at all.

Before you decide to call a plumber, here are a few tips to avoid costly mistakes and help you save time as you de-clog your sink.

Table of Contents

What’s Causing a Sink to Clog?

With all the yuck and guck buildup, sinks are prone to become clogged at some point, making this task a DIY essential. There are several hotspots for debris in the piping. Figuring out what’s causing the clog is the right place to start. Most common are the clogs in the siphon or lateral sections with the following culprits.

Cluster of Hair

Nothing beyond our imagination but a common buildup of hair clogging your drain. It can be disgusting and difficult to deal with a cluster of hair clumped together with soap scum and grease in the drain. When it comes to clogged bathroom sinks, showers, bathtubs, of no surprise, most stubborn clogs have hair involved.

It’s often an easy fix, but it needs to be addressed immediately, so it doesn’t cause many issues down the line. 

Plants and Dirt

The change of seasons can also bring a difference in your drains to become clogged! How so? Much natural debris accumulates like trees, dirt, and leaves can be an issue for water drains, especially if you tend to do your flower and indoor trees maintenance in the bathroom.

That’s a no-go as such debris quickly attaches to the drains obstructing the water flow and potentially causing damage.

Soap Scum

Soap residue combined with hair dirt can make clogs worse as the buildup grows over time. Because it’s a filmy substance, it can be challenging to clean as it catches other materials falling down the drain, increasing the clog’s diameter. It’s one of the typical culprits for slow drainage in the bathroom sink, shower, and bathroom drain.

Damaged Pipes

Plunging or snaking your drains can certainly help you clear a clog, but unfortunately, if your pipes are damaged, that’s not a long-term solution. With overtime corrosion, your pipes will begin to build up rust on the inner pipe walls leading to water flow restriction.

Worst case scenario, your water flow might be completely blocked if your pipes are significantly damaged. Damage is inevitable as time goes by, and lines get older. Eventually, they’ll start to rust or break down.

Few Things to Avoid

Before getting started, a few things are just as important before the clog as what you do after you end up with a clogged sink.

1. First and foremost, stop the faucet. If your sink is completely clogged, there’s no room for more water. You wouldn’t want to end up with water overflowing from the basin. 

2. You’ll be surprised how often the clog can be in the sink. How so? The stopper/strainer! One of those things which you can easily forget about, but shouldn’t. All the hair that goes down can wrap around the stainer and trap soap scum making the stoppers and strainers a trouble hotspot in the bathroom sink. Don’t forget to remove the stopper so you can start cleaning your sink drain to pull the blockage out.

3. Less is indeed more in certain instances, such as sink plunging efforts. It will help if you don’t plunge too aggressively, or else you’re risking to cause drain line connection damage, which can cause leaks or a ruined trap.

4. Plumbing is no joke! Your clog might be in your home drainage system. Hence you shouldn’t take further action on your own when uncertain. Removing a section from your pipes in an attempt to clear the clog isn’t the brightest idea, no matter how handy you are. 

1. Boiling Water Method

With hair, grime, and soap scum being the leading and most common culprit of clogged bathroom sinks, the simplest method is to address it with boiling water. Here’s the deal, you’ll need to use very hot water to loosen the clog if you have metal pipes. Otherwise, use a kettle or large pot to boil as much water as it holds.

Let the water work for a few seconds as you pour it in sequences down the drain into the trap.

Additionally, use a plunger to help clear the clog. If unpleasant odors are coming from the sink, add lemon juice before pouring boiling water down the drain. Always use a plunger if you have plastic pipes, and be sure to AVOID pouring boiling water into a porcelain sink or PVC pipes.

2. Vinegar and Baking Soda – Natural Method

Caustic chemicals can be hazardous and are not friendly to the environment or your drainage plumbing system. They can quickly damage an old metal pipe system and soften PVC pipes. If you’re looking to unclog a bathroom sink naturally, here’s an effective environment-friendly method you can try.

A good old mixture of baking soda and vinegar can easily be your bathroom’s sink unclogging solution. 

  • Mix equal parts ⅓ of baking soda and vinegar in a cup. 
  • As soon as the fizzling begins, start pouring the mixture down the clogged drain. It’ll work to remove all the gunk, hair, and grime built over time in the pipes. 
  • To get decent results, if possible, let the mixture sit in the drain overnight or at least an hour before rinsing it with hot water. 
  • To completely clear the blockage, push down the mixture with a pot of boiling water.
  • If you’re in a rush, alternatively pour baking soda down the drain and follow it up with vinegar on top of it.

3. Drain Plunger Method

For this method, it’s best to use a cup plunger specifically made for sinks, which can be bought at any hardware store. Seal the sink overflow outlet, usually found under the rim. Stuff a damp rag on it. Unless you have excess energy to be plunging the sink stopper, make sure to remove it before getting started with de-clogging the blockage. 

  • First, pull up the sink stopper out of the drain as far as possible. 
  • Then you’ll want to turn it to the left and unscrew it until it ultimately comes out. 
  • Cover the drain with around an inch of water. 
  • Next, you’ll want to create a rubber suction seal by placing the plunger over the drain.
  • Once you feel the rubber bottom tighten into a seal, you’re ready for plunging. 
  • To force the blockage through, use quick, sharp plunges back and forth while maintaining a tight seal around the drain. 
  • Test the drain by letting the faucet run after the basin is clear. 

When finished, remove the overflow outlet seal. Don’t forget to replace the drain stopper as well! It’s worth pointing out that you should only attempt this method if chemicals haven’t been poured into the sink.

Otherwise, you can EASILY damage your skin from splashes of hazardous material.

4. Snaking Method for Stubborn Clogs

Obviously, you have a lot going on, and for this method, you’ll need a proper arsenal of tools to clear the clog successfully. Get yourself a bucket, screwdriver or wrench, and plumber’s snake.

  • In case you don’t possess a plumber’s snake, straighten a wire hanger as an alternative. You’ll need to bend one end over once the wire coat is straightened to create a hook which collects the blockage as you pull it. 
  • To keep things neat as you work, get a bucket, and position it underneath the P-trap. Depending on what’s holding the P-trap together, you’ll either need a screwdriver for screws or a pair of channel locks for slip nuts. 
  • Slowly start removing the P-trap, which will spill out some gunk along with standing water, so make sure to have the bucket in the right place.
  • Start with gentle counterclockwise rotation to loosen the parts. Once you get a feeling they’re loosened enough, take them off completely. Safely place the screws and nuts so you don’t lose them for the reverse process once the clog is cleared. 
  • Remove any reachable blockage from the P-trap with your gloved hands, coat hanger, or use the plumber’s snake to force it out. 
  • Clean the pipe’s interior with an old toothbrush and remove any oil or soap residue with boiling water so that no debris remains.
  • You’ll find that the P-trap accumulates quite some buildup due to the way it’s designed to stop fluids from coming back up into the sink.

If you don’t encounter a clog there, then the clog is probably beyond the trap. Usually found in the branch drain or in the pipe that goes into the wall is a bit more work but nothing too complicated.

  • Use a plumber’s snake to reach the clog by inserting it into the wall’s pipe until you feel resistance, likely the clog.
  • Then tighten the set screw on at the snake’s base, and with moderate pressure on the cable, begin twisting the snake.
  • To dislodge the clog, start turning the cable, which can also help get the cable past the bend. Once the resistance has disappeared, pull the snake out of the pipe.
  • Adequately tighten the screws or nuts with a screwdriver or wrench as you reattach the P-trap. Make sure that you don’t over tighten them, or else you can end up with a cracked plastic pipe. 
  • Check if the blockage has been cleared. Test it by turning the sink on to get an idea if the water is draining as it should.

5. Wet and Dry Vacuum Method

Using a wet and dry vacuum is another tool that can effectively clear a clog. It certainly is an investment, and if you don’t have one, you can either borrow one or lease from your local hardware store. 

  • Prepare yourself by positioning a bucket underneath the P-trap. Prevent causing a mess and cover its vent. Ensure that it is set to vacuum liquids.
  • Start removing the curved pipe held together with screws or slip nuts.
  • Place the vacuum’s nozzle from below to the horizontal pipe that runs up into the sink, known as a stopper. That will help create a tight seal with the vacuum turned to its highest setting for maximum power to pull up the blockage from your drain.
  • Block any other opening with rags to create the tightest seal possible, resulting in better suction.
  • If you’re struggling to create a proper seal, use an old plunger head to get a strong enough suction to de-clog the sink.
  • Release the sink stopper to allow air to come through if you don’t feel any movement. For severe clog, try loosening up the buildup with on and off vacuum pulsation to create a better suction.

You might need to repeat this process a few times until the clog comes out. The clog may end up directly into the vacuum bag if the suction is strong enough, or you’ll need to take life in your hands and pull out the clog if it’s reachable. Once our hard work has paid off, reverse the process, and put the sink back together.

Use a screwdriver or wrench to tighten the screws or bolts and inspect as you’re underneath the sink, inspect for any leakages.

Don’t Hesitate to Call the Pros

Hopefully, you’ve learned some skills and have successfully cleared your clogged sink. While it’s great to save some money and learn some new DIY skills, sometimes it’s not worth the risk. If the above methods didn’t result in your bathroom sink’s successful de-clogging, perhaps your clog is elsewhere in your drainage system, and it would be best to call a plumber.