Friday, July 22, 2011

How to Unclog a Clogged Bathroom Sink

Wait! Don't call the plumber!  You can do this on your own!

Trust me. If I can unclog a sink, you can too.

Plumber's Snake

The first thing you need to do is buy a plumber's snake. The one I have looks like this:

Note the thumbscrew, which is the silver thing located near the end of the black tip. You'll need this later.
This is the top view, with the label, so you know exactly what to ask for when you go to the hardware store.

The handle is the black thing sticking out of the top. You'll need this later, too.
Once you've got your plumber's snake, it's time to get to work. Be sure to have a bucket or wastebasket with you to catch any water as it comes out of the pipe. Having a rag handy is a good idea, too.

Open up the doors under the sink to expose the pipe. The elbow pipe or "trap" is visible.
The Trap Under the Bathroom Sink May Hold the Clog
Remove the Trap

Loosen the two collars holding the trap in place. You shouldn't need any tools to do this. Remove the pipe. At this point, water may rush out, especially if there was standing water in the sink basin. Stick your bucket under the open pipe to catch it.

Look inside the curved pipe. You may see the clog. If so, remove it. Replace the pipe and run water down the drain to rinse away any residue and make sure you got it all. Lucky you!

Using the Plumber's Snake

If the clog isn't here, you'll need to use the plumber's snake.

You can replace the trap and insert the snake from the drain, but since the pipe is removed, you may as well insert the snake from here.

Loosen the thumb screw and pull out about a foot or two of the metal snake. Insert it into the pipe, pushing it along until you meet resistance. With any luck, you'll hit the clog without too much effort. If the snake hits resistance, don't assume it's the clog. You may have just come to a bend in the pipe.

Tighten the thumb screw and turn the handle quickly. The snake will turn and make it's way through whatever is there. If it's the clog, it should break it up, push it along or grab it. Pushing the clog along is okay. You can usually push it to a wider pipe where it will flow out of the house without a problem.

It may take a few minutes to push the snake past the obstruction, but keep at it. Once you get past it, keep going. Push the snake in further, until it stops, turn it until it's free, then push it along again. Once it moves freely for several minutes, you can start pulling it back out.

As you remove the snake, wipe it with the rag to remove moisture and anything gross that it picked up along the way.

Replace the trap. For me, this is the hardest part. It's a challenge to line the pipe up right and get the collars screwed on evenly. If it's not just so, it'll leak. Even a small leak can mean you have to do it again.

Run water down the drain to be sure the clog is gone. If not, snake it again. This time, you can put the snake directly in the drain. It's tricky to get it past the trap, but it's doable.

When to Use Liquid Drain Cleaner

If you've snaked it several times and the drain is still clogged, you may want to get some Liquid Plumber. That should break up tough clogs, if a clog is what you are dealing with. I think this is a last resort. Why use chemicals if you don't have to?

Always be careful with bottles of drain cleaner in the house, especially if you have small children. Buy it only when you need it, store it on a high shelf and use it as soon as possible. Dispose of the empty bottle right away.

When to Call a Plumber

If you've snaked the drain several times, used Liquid Plumber and the drain is still clogged, it's time to call a professional plumber. You may have a bigger problem than a clog. The best thing to do is get it taken care of as soon as possible before it becomes an even bigger problem. 

A Word of Caution

It really is best to use a snake before you use a liquid drain cleaner. Not only will you likely avoid having a nasty chemical in your house, but snaking a drain that's got drain cleaner in it can be hazardous. You'll need to wear gloves and approach it with caution.

Anyone can learn how to snake a bathroom sink drain pipe. A plumber's snake is a  basic tool that any home owner should have. Learn how to use it and you'll save hundreds of dollars in plumber's fees.


  1. Clogging in pipes is one of most common problems in Industry as well as homes. Use of some anti-clogging chemicals is better in such cases.However chemical should be carefully selected so that it doesn't react with the other components of system being used.Help of a Handyman will be better

  2. Thanks for the great tip. My wife clogs the sink all the time...LOL. Really I didnt even think about buying a plumbers snake.

  3. This is very good information for homeowners. I can't tell you how many times our handyman has been called for something like this. Any homeowner really can do it themselves by following the advice in this post.

  4. That is a cool tool for the times when chemicals won't do.

  5. By learning more about topics such as this, we get to better understand what we can do in order to prevent further damages and expenditure in the future. While most of have the time during spring to check on various parts of the house, we need to come up with a system wherein regular maintenance is done every month to prevent having more serious problems.

  6. If just this sink seems clogged and you're not having trouble with other slow draining sinks or toilets, then the problem is probably local with this sink drain and not with the main sewer drainage line in your home.

  7. Make use of traps on your drainage to avoid clogging. Hair and other objects cause a clogged bathroom sink and this could ruin your daily routine. Avoid having objects enter your pipes to prevent leakage or clogging. Ask your plumber for tips as well.

  8. Your blog is very informative. If we clean our drain regularly then
    it would not get clog. I’ll definitely pin and bookmarked this post so I can easily refer back to it! Thanks so much for all the useful tips.

  9. Thanks author for your great sharing to Cleaning Up the Clutter

  10. In my case, I use a half cup of baking soda and vinegar to unclog the bathroom sink. That natural formula has never disappointed me, so far. It’s easy and cost-effective as well! =)