Learning how to unblock a sink isn’t pretty, but it will save you time and money in the long run. Maintaining our home is something we should all do, even if it’s not particularly exciting. And one place that needs fairly regular maintenance is our sink.
While many of us know how to clean a stainless steel sink, we may not feel too sure about how to unblock it. If your sink is draining much slower than usual, it may be blocked under the drain spout. Needless to say, finding out that you have a sink blockage, whether in the kitchen or bathroom, is always an unwanted surprise. It’s frustrating when something you use all the time isn’t working properly, especially when the only solution seems to be to call a plumber, wait for an appointment, and then pay the inevitable – and expensive – bill.
But luckily, there are a few easy DIY fixes you can try that will help you fix the clogging problem on your own. To find out where to start, we spoke with Plumber Stephany Smith My plumber, part of Fantastic services. “The clogging is usually due to your habit of dumping oil, fats, and cooked food by-products down your sink,” advises Stephany. It can also build up through hair, especially long hair. “But this is a completely do-it-yourself solution, even if you don’t have specialized tools to hand.”
How often should a sink be unblocked?
If you’re cleaning your kitchen or bathroom and wondering how to unblock a sink, you might be curious about how often you really should do that. But the reality is, it will differ from house to house. Some sinks and plumbing systems will be newer and therefore less likely to become clogged – these may only need to be unclogged once every six months. However, if you have an older plumbing system, the unblocking may need to be more regular – sometimes every two months.
But there is no set time frame – you will find when your sink needs to be unblocked, as the water drains slowly, or it could spill back into the sink and bring bits of dirt or hair with it.
Why you should be careful when using commercial cleaners
However, Stephany cautions that learning how to unblock a sink is a do-it-yourself job that you should handle with caution – especially when it comes to using commercial sink unblocking solutions that promise quick results. “A clogged sink may be a frustrating and emergency problem, but often chemical cleaners are the worst enemies of your drainage system,” explains Stephany. “They can damage the finish of your sink and fittings, or push the blockage further into the pipeline, creating a more persistent blockage. You also run the risk of corroding your pipes. ”
With this advice in mind, we’ve focused on the most environmentally friendly, natural methods of unclogging a sink. As a bonus, many of these solutions rely on using simple ingredients, including a few kitchen supplies that you probably already have at home.
How to unblock a sink – five natural methods to try
1. Pour in hot water
It may sound too simple, but sometimes the best solution for blocked or slow running pipes is to flush the drain with warm water. This action should melt and wash away any residues of oils or fats, likely from grease-laden pots and induction pans, that can clog the pipes.
You can use water from the hot tap or kettle for this, but with the latter, it’s important to let the water cool a bit after you reach boiling point when figuring out how to unblock a sink. “Boiling water can warp your PVC water pipes,” Stephany warns. “Pipe distortions can lead to small holes and limited water flow, leading to more frequent opportunities for pipe blockages and failures.” This is one of the fastest solutions for unblocking a sink, but it’s worth noting that it won’t work for larger clogs.
2. Use salt or a baking soda solution
While most plumbing experts advise against using commercially available drain plumbing solutions – or at least save them for last resort – there are ways to unclog your sink that use less abrasive and more natural ingredients.
For more difficult blockages, your first port of call can be as easy as using table salt. If you have water in the sink, clean it first using a bowl. Next, Stephany recommends pouring half a cup of table salt down the drain. Leave it on for 5-10 minutes before flushing it with hot (not boiling) water.
If you still have a blockage after trying the salt method, you can also try baking soda – another useful ingredient when learning how to clean an oven or know how to clean copper – and vinegar. Simply pour two cups of baking soda down the drain, followed by two cups of white distilled vinegar. When the ingredients are combined, they should fizz and bubble – a chemical reaction that dissolves sticky residue and gunk. Insert the plug into the drain for a few minutes, then remove and flush with hot (again not boiling) water.
3. Try a plunger
For more difficult sink blockages, you may need to tackle the blockage with a plunger. However, keep in mind that this technique should never be used after using chemical drain cleaners, as it can cause toxic chemicals to spray around, posing a health and safety risk. While a flat bottom plunger is best, a clean toilet plunger will do. Just make a tight seal around the clogged drain and gently dip until the sink starts to clear – this may take a few tries.
4. Clean the P-trap if you can access it
When it comes to methods of unblocking a sink, this one might not be a method for the faint of heart. The P-trap (also known as the U-bend tube that sits under the sink) is particularly prone to clogging as it is the main place for things like soap scum, rogue hairs, grease and food scraps to collect. Unsurprisingly, cleaning up is a messy job that requires rubber gloves, a bucket, and some tools, but it can be a great way to eliminate blockages.
To tackle the job, Stephany recommends turning off the water first, then unscrewing the P-trap fitting and taking it outside for a deep clean before reinstalling. This normally only works with kitchen sinks, where you can usually access the P-trap in the cupboard under your sink. It may not be that easy in your bathroom where you may not be able to get to the bottom of the sink so easily.
5. Try a drain hose
Perhaps one of the most popular methods of unblocking a sink. For a lump deeper than the P-trap, you may need to buy a simple tool called a drain hose (aka a cable drill). To use this tool, gently push it down the drain or tube until you feel the obstruction, then push it slightly further into the blockage. This should allow the clogged materials to wrap around the hose (which normally has ridges to catch the debris) and then pull the entire batch out of the drain with a little gentle pressure. Once the drain is clear, rinse it with hot water to sanitize. But be warned, this method is a bit gross.