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How to Unclog a Bathroom Sink (5 DIY Fixes)

bathroom sink

If you’re anything like most homeowners, you probably use your bathroom sink at least once per day. It’s there for hand washing, face washing, teeth brushing, and more. To prevent problems of the most inconvenient and pleasant sorts, you'll need to keep an eye out for seasonal plumbing problems. Your sinks can get a lot of extra use thanks to hot, sweaty family members and houseguests, and this heavy-duty workload can open the door for some genuinely unpleasant situations. You might walk in any time and notice: my bathroom sink is clogged.

How to Unclog a Bathroom Sink

Your bathroom sink is clogged and keeps reclogging, over and over again. You dump some Drano, the clog goes away and a week later, it's back. Why? Or maybe you're familiar with this scenario: you're running late. You hit the bathroom before you run out the front door. You’re running the water to rinse the toothpaste out of the sink but it doesn’t drain. It only keeps filling and filling and filling. 

Learning how to fix a clogged bathroom sink can save you a lot of trouble. Sometimes, a quick jiggle of the plug does the trick and allows the collecting water to drain, but other times this does nothing. It depends on the kind of clog you’re dealing with.

 

Fixing a clogged bathroom sink

What Causes a Bathroom Sink to Clog?

Typically, a clogged bathroom sink is the result of accumulated dirt, skin flakes, and hair. This nasty trio bonds to soap scum inside of your bathroom plumbing. Over time, this accumulation reduces water flow -- or dams it altogether. If you walk into your bathroom and notice, “Hmm.. my bathroom sink is clogged,” then here’s what you could be dealing with:

Hair

Whether or not you personally have long, luscious locks of hair to brush out every morning, someone in your household might. Even short hair or beard shavings can collect enough to cause a clog in your drain. Over the course of time, this hair glues together with other waste sent down the drain like toothpaste, face wash, makeup, and more to cause a blockage in the drain and prevent the water from going down the sewage pipes.

Clogged P-Trap

If your P-Trap is clogged, a backflow of water and other grime can occur. The very first sign you’ll see indicating that you may have a clogged P-Trap is when the water takes much longer than usual to drain. The P-Trap might even leak. If this is the case, you’ll need to shut off the water, place a bucket under your P-Trap, and use a large wrench to loosen the nut on the base of the trap to disassemble the P-Trap and unclog any blockage. Dirt, grime, jewelry, and anything else that’s been dropped down the drain could cause a P-Trap clog.

Soap Scum

Have you ever left a bar of soap on the counter for too long? It can glue itself there, leaving behind a line of soapy gunk when you remove it. Additionally, soap can leave a thick scum after it’s used, resulting in a hard build-up. This can occur inside your drain, causing a clog and preventing water and other waste from draining.

If you find yourself dealing with a clogged drain, here’s how to tackle these problems: 

How to Remove Sink Drain Stopper

If your bathroom sink isn't draining, pull up and remove the pop-up stopper (if you have one). You may have to do this from beneath your sink. Hold the body of the stopper with one hand to keep it from moving. Unscrew the knob of the stopper counter-clockwise with the other hand, loosening it. If the knob won’t unscrew, try using a rag to hold the knob, or even use pliers to remove the knob. 

Once you’re removing the stopper, you’ll need to tug slowly just in case a glob of hair and soap is stuck to it. Oftentimes, you'll be able to clear the obstruction that's been trapped here, solving your problem without any additional work. If that’s not the case, then here are ways to proceed:

How to Fix a Clogged Bathroom Sink

Boiling Water

Boiling a pot of water and pouring it slowly down your drain can help clear out some clogs, especially if they’re caused by built-up soap scum, grease, or other oils. The hot water can cut through some of these types of clogs and clear your drains, but if your bathroom sink is clogged due to larger objects, it may not help.

Baking Soda or Vinegar

Drano or even sulphuric acid can eat through a clog fairly well, but regular use of caustic products can be expensive, time-consuming, and even dangerous. Probably not the best idea to regularly torch your plumbing, either! There are several home remedies for clearing a clogged bathroom sink, including pouring baking soda or vinegar down the drain along with some hot water.

Snake Your Pipes

Snaking a drain is another way to clear a clogged bathroom sink. There are a couple of inexpensive options that homeowners can try: a drum auger, which is a plumbing snake that you attach to a drill. The drill spins the snake slowly but surely down the pipe and, hopefully, through your clog.

Some homeowners swear by a drain-cleaning tool called the Zip-It to force through and break up bathroom clogs.

Clean the Elbow Joint

If the first steps don't work, you may start feeling adventurous. You can remove the drain’s elbow joint and clean it out. This could be a good thing to add to your regularly spring cleaning list to help your plumbing last longer. Our own team wrote about this plumbing solution a while ago, and offer some important advice:

Be prepared for some unfamiliar smells when you actually go about untwisting the trap, as the main function of this piece is to literally "trap" water in a way that will block unpleasant plumbing odors.

Use a Plunger

While you’re likely used to using a plunger on a toilet, you can actually use it to clear some sink clogs. If you’re dealing with a clogged bathroom sink, try filling it with water and using the plunger to create a seal around the drain. Plunge up and down vigorously, rolling the head of the plunger into the water so you’re forcing water and not air down into the drain. Do this for a good 20 seconds and then test the drain.

How to Keep Your Sink Clear

One of the best things you can do for your plumbing and your bathroom ease is to simply prevent clogs from happening before they become inconvenient. You can manage this by implementing only a few good habits.

  • Run hot water down the sink after every use. This helps keep oils, soaps, toothpaste, and more from building up and developing into a clog. 
  • Throw a handful of baking soda into the drain weekly, followed by hot water. Baking soda is an amazing cleaner and will help keep any bad odors from developing in your drains. The hot water following it will help it from clogging up.
  • Wipe out any hairs/large objects and keep them from going down the drain. Hair and other large objects have a tendency to cause clogs, so preventing as much as possible from going down your drain will help keep it clear.
  • Baking soda, salt, and vinegar. Usually, baking soda and vinegar don’t mix very well, but if you typically have stubborn clogs in your drains, try tossing in some baking soda and salt, then add a generous dose of vinegar to your drain. Let the concoction foam for a minute or two and then follow with boiling water. 

Contact a Plumber

Sometimes, DIY solutions don't work. You may feel uncomfortable doing the work yourself because you're worried about breaking something. Maybe you just don't want to deal with gross, sticky hairballs or tinker with the guts of your sink — fair enough! 

In those situations, call the plumbing experts. You can schedule service with us online at your convenience.