Every homeowner will inevitably be confronted with a clogged sink at some point. This common issue can cause quite a bit of frustration, so this detailed, step-by-step guide will show you exactly how to unclog your sink quickly and efficiently without stress. 

Five Signs Your Sink is Clogged

A clogged sink drain is a common household problem that can lead to serious plumbing issues if not addressed early. Watch for these five signs to catch a blocked sink before it escalates. 

  1. Slow Draining: If your sink drains much longer than usual, this could be one of the earliest signs of a clog. It is often caused by a blockage in your pipes, which inhibits the free flow of water.
  2. Unpleasant Odours: One of the clear indicators of a blocked sink is the presence of a foul, rotting smell. This usually originates from the buildup of food scraps or other organic matter in your pipes.
  3. Noisy Pipes: Pipes that gurgle or produce unusual noises can imply a blockage, causing the water to flow unevenly, forming air bubbles and generating the gurgling sound.
  4. Standing Water: If water remains in your sink long after you’ve stopped the tap, and you can’t empty the sink drain naturally, this is a serious sign of a clog. A substantial obstruction inside the pipes often causes it.
  5. Recurrent Clogs: Regular, repetitive clogging is a clear sign that a major, persistent issue is in your drainage system and needs attention.

Observing these signs can help you identify blocked drains early enough to get them sorted before they become a significant domestic complication.

Did you know approximately 50% of homeowners in Australia don’t know how to unclog a sink properly? Let’s solve that.

The Common Culprits Behind Sink Clogs

Understanding the common causes behind sink clogs is the first step to rectifying the problem. Different types of clogs arise for different reasons, whether in your kitchen or bathroom sink. 

A clogged kitchen sink is often caused by a buildup of hardened grease, food residue, and sometimes even large items that have accidentally fallen into the drain. These elements combine over time, creating a persistent blockage that obstructs the free flow of water. 

On the other hand, bathroom sinks face a different set of challenges. They typically get clogged due to the accumulation of hair, soap scum, toothpaste, and other personal hygiene products. These substances can create a sticky, dense clog.

Regardless of the type of sink, clogs in kitchens and bathrooms can be stubborn and challenging to remove. However, with the right approach, tools, and techniques—many of which will be discussed in this guide—you’ll be well-equipped to unclog your sink like a pro.

Tip: Use a proper garbage disposal to prevent clogs caused by food scraps.

The Essential Tools for Sink Unclogging

Having the appropriate tools ready can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major plumbing issue. If you’re prepared for a clog, you stand a higher chance of resolving it quickly and efficiently. Here are the essential tools you should have in your home to handle sink unclogging: 

  • Plunger: A basic plunger is often the first line of defence when dealing with a sink clog. A regular cup-shaped plunger is best suited for sink drains.
  • Drain Snake or Plumber’s Auger: These tools are more effective than a plunger when dealing with stubborn clogs. They can reach deeper into your drain, breaking up clogs and allowing water to flow freely again.
  • Rubber Gloves: Unclogging a sink can be a messy job. Protect your hands and keep them clean by wearing rubber gloves.
  • Flashlight: It’s easier to tackle the problem when you see it. A flashlight will illuminate the dark depths of your drain, making it easier to locate and dislodge clogs.
  • Bucket: Useful for catching water or debris that may emerge during unclogging.
  • Natural Supplies: Items like baking soda and vinegar are handy for creating a natural unclogging solution ideal for minor clogs and regular drain maintenance.
  • Boiling water: An effective method for dislodging minor blockages and dissolving grease or soap buildup in your pipes. Pouring boiling water directly down the drain can clear small clogs without using other tools.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Unclog Your Sink Using a Plunger

If your bathroom or kitchen sink refuses to drain effectively, the following steps will let you unclog your sink using a plunger:

  1. Preparation: Clear out any items from around your sink and put on a pair of rubber gloves for hygiene. Proceed by filling the sink with water just enough to cover the base of the plunger. This will enhance the effectiveness of the plunging action.
  2. Position the Plunger: Place the plunger cup directly over the sink’s drain opening to form a tight seal. Ensuring this seal is crucial to effectively transmitting your plunges’ force to the blockage.
  3. Start Plunging: With the plunger securely in place, apply vertical pressure using even, forceful strokes. The objective is to dislodge the obstruction using the water’s displacement.
  4. Check: After a dozen or so plunges, quickly lift the plunger from the drain to create a rush of water that can dislodge the block. Inspect the drainage. If it remains slow or stagnant, you may need to repeat the process several times.
  5. Post-Procedure Clean-Up: Once you’ve successfully unclogged the sink, pour hot water into the drain to ensure a clear path. Finally, clean and dry your plunger before storing it away.

Alternative Method: Clearing Sink Blockages with a Plumber’s Snake

When faced with a stubbornly clogged sink, a plumber’s snake—also known as a drain auger—may be your best bet. This tool, which looks like a coiled spiral snake—has a crank that rotates the snake through the pipe to dislodge the blockage. Let’s look at an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide on how to use this nifty tool effectively. 

  1. First and foremost, start by removing any drain covers or stoppers from the sink and clean around the drain’s opening.
  2. Next, insert the end of the plumber’s snake into the drain. You should feel some resistance when you start to reach the clog.
  3. Once you’ve located the blockage, it’s time to start turning the handle on the snake. As you turn the drummer, the coil will augur through the blockage, breaking it up or grabbing hold of it.
  4. You may need to apply extra force to get through severe blockages, but be careful not to damage your pipes.
  5. Finally, pull the snake out of the drain. If the clog material was caught on the snake, it should come out with it. This might be unpleasant, but clearing it is important for the drain’s operation.
  6. Rinse your sink with warm water to wash away any leftover particles. If you’re still encountering problems, you may need to repeat the process.

Natural Solutions: Baking Soda and Vinegar Method

If your sink drain is light to moderate clogged, our advocated remedy exploits a fantastic natural reaction using simple ingredients that are likely already present in your pantry.

 This includes mixing one cup of baking soda with one cup of distilled white vinegar and pouring the solution down the clogged drain. 

As the baking soda reacts with the vinegar, it should work to dislodge the blockages and clear the drain. Give it time to work its magic, then follow up with hot water to ensure everything is flushed down. Bear in mind that this natural method may not sufficiently clear more stubborn clogs, for which we recommend resorting to chemical drain cleaners.

When to Call a Professional Plumber

It is important to recognise when home remedies have reached their limit and when it’s time to use a professional plumber’s expertise. There are a few clear signs that suggest the gravity of the situation has escalated beyond the realm of do-it-yourself solutions: 

  • Persistent blockages: If your sink continues to drain slowly or remains clogged even after applying all the suggested methods, this is a clear sign that a professional is required. The blockage may be further down the pipe, where only professional-grade tools can reach.
  • Multiple clogged drains: A clogged sink could indicate a larger issue. If several drains in your home are clogged or draining slowly, this might indicate a problem with your main sewer line. In this case, a professional is essential.
  • Water backup: If water starts backing up from your sink or other drains, it should raise immediate concern. This signs severe clogging and may even indicate a sewage backup.
  • Unpleasant odours: If you notice persistent foul smells emanating from your drains, a significant blockage could be the cause. This calls for professional intervention.
  • Suspected tree root intrusion: If trees are close to your sewer line, their roots can intrude and cause a clog. A professional should be contacted in such a situation as this requires specialised equipment and knowledge to address.

If you spot any of the above signs, it’s time to call in the experts. A professional plumber will resolve your immediate issue and advise you on preventative measures to reduce the chances of future blockages. While it may be tempting to persist with home solutions, a delayed call to a professional could result in more costly repairs due to exacerbated plumbing damage.

Key takeaways

  • Understand your sink drainage system’s inner workings to diagnose and fix issues.
  • Watch for the five key signs of a clogged sink – slow draining, unusual noises, foul odours, frequent need for resettle water and a complete stoppage.
  • Strands of hair, food debris, and hardened grease are common culprits behind sink clogs.
  • Have essential tools, such as a plunger and plumber’s snake, for dealing with sink blockages.
  • A step-by-step guide for using a plunger can get your sink unclogged with minimal use of chemicals.
  • Consider using a plumber’s snake for a more comprehensive and aggressive approach to stubborn blockages.
  • Combining baking soda and vinegar creates an effective natural solution for sink blockage.
  • Preventive measures, such as using strainer baskets, avoiding pouring oil or grease down the drain, and flushing the sink monthly with hot water, dishwashing liquid, baking soda, and vinegar, can maintain a clog-free sink.
  • While washing your kitchen sink pipes with soap and hot water, use a small bucket to catch the dirty water, ensuring all areas, including inside the bend underneath, are cleaned.
  • Try using a flat, thin strip of plastic with teeth to clear bathroom sink clogs—it’s an effective tool for catching hair and debris.