How to Unclog a Drain
Kitchen and bathroom sinks are some of the highest trafficked parts of the office. Dozens of people are washing their hands, filling up their water bottles, pouring out lukewarm coffee, and washing their dishes in them every day. So no one should be surprised when the sink stops draining properly and it starts to smell a little less like coffee.
Because this happens more often than we’d like, it’s helpful to know how to unclog a sink yourself to get it up and running again quickly. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to do it yourself based on the severity of the clog:
- If your sink isn’t flooded, run hot water down the drain for a few minutes. If it is, skip this step.
- Pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by 1 cup of vinegar.
- Immediately cover the drain with a plug (or a cup or small tupperware container) to keep the reaction between the two ingredients in the drain. (You will see some bubbling at the surface.) Let it sit for a few hours.
- Run scalding hot water down the drain for a 5 minutes to flush away the mixture and debris that came loose.
Why the middle school science experiment? Baking soda and vinegar are an eco-friendly alternative to store-bought chemicals, are safer on drains, and actually work faster.
- Get a bucket and place it underneath your sink, directly beneath the drain pipe.
- Locate the “J” shaped pipe, called the P-trap, and open it by turning the joint nuts at either end of the pipe until they come loose. (If your P-trap is metal, you may need a wrench to loosen the joints.)
- Let any water trapped in the pipe or sitting in the drain empty into the bucket.
- With a wet cloth or an old sponge, clean the inside of the P-trap thoroughly to remove any build-up or debris.
- Reattach the P-trap and tighten the fittings.
- If the previous two solutions didn’t remove the clog, order a hand auger (more commonly referred to as a “snake”) online. These typically cost less than $50.
- Pull out several feet of cable from the auger. Open the P-trap again and insert the cable into the part of the drainpipe that is attached to the wall or floor.
- Using the hand crank, feed more cable into the pipe until you feel resistance.
- Once you sense the blockage, move the snake back and forth to break up and dislodge the clog.
- When you think you’ve made enough progress, remove the snake and reattach the cleaned out P-trap.
- Pour some hot water and baking soda (no vinegar this time) into the drain to flush out anything left in the pipe.
Still can’t get your sink running? If you’ve already tried these DIY options yourself, we recommend contacting a professional plumber who will know how to unclog a drain with a difficult blockage without any risk to your pipes. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, start by hiring a handyman (which starts at just $80 an hour), as this is a less expensive option than a plumber.