A slow or clogged kitchen sink drain can be quite a headache, but it is something that shouldn’t surprise you, as kitchen sinks put up with plenty of abuse, from organic debris being thrown down the drain to hot greasy liquids that tend to build up on drainpipes and therefore reduce their volume.
However, before calling a plumber or that handyman friend of yours, know that there are ways to unclog a kitchen sink without professional help. What’s more, many of the methods described below don’t require fancy tools or materials.
We have broken down the course of action you should take into five easy steps we prefer to call methods, and a bonus one which we do not recommend but we’ve added it to our list since, for some people, it might work.
How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink
Ensure that you’ve done anything in your power to follow each step before moving on to the next one. All steps should be taken in the order established here.
Step 1. The Plunger
For mild, kitchen drain clogs you’ll only need a plunger. This method consists of forcefully keep plunging the sink until it gets unclogged. If you have a double sink, plug the sink you’re not using the plunger on to maintain enough air pressure inside the sink to move any small objects that might have clogged the sink. This method requires force and patience and in many of the cases it gets the job done. If you don’t have a plunger, we recommend getting one, as all homes should have a relaible duty plunger.
G.T. Water Products, Inc. MPS4 Master Plunger
- Patented design for greater suction power
- 13″ plastic handle – 5″ black rubber force cup
- Compact size, easy to store
- Made in the U.S.A.
However, there are times when a plunger just won’t do.
Step 2. Baking Soda and Vinegar
A stubborn but mild clog should be fixed with a DIY solution of baking soda and vinegar. When mixed together, the alkaline powdery substance and acidic liquid lead to an explosive reaction worthy of a science class. Just ensure that you give the solution enough time to set in, and cover the plug hole in between.
- 2 tablespoons of baking soda
- 1.69 fl oz (50 ml) white vinegar
- 1.69 fl oz (50 ml) hot water
Pour the baking soda down in the drain. Immediately pour the white vinegar and add just as much hot water. Let it sit for one hour or longer. We recommend longer for the chemical reactions between the baking soda and vinegar to properly loosen and dislocate any organic sludge that might have clogged the kitchen sink drain.
After the time is up, flush again with hot water and see if the water gets drained properly. If it does, congratulations! You’ve just unclogged your kitchen sink with a mild, all natural, and eco-friendly solution. If it does not, it means that the drain is still clogged or partially blocked.
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
- Standard of purity
- 5 lbs bag
- Resealable, water-resistant bag
- Over 100 uses
- Made in the U.S.A.
Use the plunger again and if all fails, don’t panic and get to the next step – it is not the time to call a plumber, yet.
Step 3. Get a Good Drain Cleaner
An effective drain cleaner is more aggressive than a vinegar and baking soda solution, but it is also less friendly on your pipes and the environment. We recommend using drain cleaners only in emergencies or on a regular schedule to keep kitchen drain clean.
Professional, super-strong drain cleaners should work with most kitchen sinks and pipes, even if they have a garbage disposal. However, if your garbage disposal or drainpipes are made of copper, galvanized steel, or cast iron, DO NOT use drain cleaner, as the harsh chemicals in these products might corrode the metal in time.
Liquid Plumr Clog Remover, Professional
- 80 oz
- Fixes both slow-running and clogged drains
- Safe on drains, garbage disposals and septic tanks
- Fast action on hair, grease, food soils, and any other organic waste
Step 4. Check the Disposer/ P-Trap
Check whether the clog is not located in the garbage disposal or the P trap underneath the sink. In the most fortunate cases, you will only have to clean the garbage disposal and/or the said pipe and you’re set. We have covered extensively how to unclog a garbage disposal in our guide here.
If the P trap is likely the culprit, things are a bit more complicated, but a pair of handy hands can pull it through. The P-trap is a U-shaped pipe portion usually located under the sink and which traps tiny debris and prevents it from turning into a nasty build-up or major clog deeper down the plumbing system. The P-trap also prevents nasty sewer smells from entering your home through your sink drain. It is one modest piece of genius engineering.
Here’s a straightforward tutorial on how to clear a P-trap:
Step 5. Get a Drain Snake
If cleaners have failed to unclog your kitchen sink, it is time to get a drain snake, either by buying it or renting it at your local hardware shop.
The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional to handle a drain snake. But if the clog is very persistent or you don’t feel very confident in using the snake, we recommend calling a professional.
Ridgid GIDDS-813340 41408 Maxcore Drain Auger
- For 1-1/2 inch (40 mm) lines
- Fixes both slow-running and clogged drains
- Up to 500 Rotations per minute
- 25-foot (7.6M) Maxcore cable
- Full lifetime warranty
Fortunately, there are tons of YouTube tutorials on how to unclog a kitchen sink with a snake. With minor variations, the main steps are pretty straightforward. Here’s a live plumber drain snake in action:
If you have a garbage disposal, here’s a tutorial on how to safely remove the disposer and clean it before using a snake.
Bonus Step. The ‘Wire Hanger’ Method (Not Recommended)
If you don’t want to invest in a drain snake, there’s a popular but unconventional DIY method to unclog a kitchen sink. You’ll only need a wire hanger that you no longer use and tons of patience.
We cannot guarantee any positive results, as amateur plumbers’ feelings are mixed over the method. The worst it could happen is damaging your pipes or getting the makeshift snake stuck inside the drain. If you’re curious about it, here’s the best tutorial we could find:
When all Else Fails, Call a Plumber
If all fails or just got worse, call a professional. A licensed plumber will get the problem fixed and might even give you some great tips on kitchen sink drain maintenance depending on the type of pipes in your home. It might cost you something, but it is the safest method there is. Plumbers need to earn a living too.
There are several tried-and-true fixes for a clogged or slowed-down kitchen sink drain that you can try before asking the help of a licensed professional. However, prevention is many times better than trying to unclog a kitchen sink on your own.
A seamlessly easy way to prevent you kitchen sink or garbage disposal from getting clogged, is routinely using drain cleaners to keep your pipes in optimal shape. You can also try no longer pouring grease or oil down the drain, as liquid fat, when cooled, tends to stick on to pipes’ walls and create unsightly and dangerous buildups that can affect your home’s entire plumbing system. If that happens, you’ll have to call a plumber to hydrojet the waste (and your hard-earned cash) away.
What do you think about our tips on how to unclog a kitchen sink? Have you tried any of them with success? If so, share your experience in the comments section below. We’re eager to hear from our readers.
Featured image source: Aqua Mechanical via Flickr.