Here’s a handy tip sheet outling a few different methods for clearing out plugged kitchen sinks (stuck bathtubs can benefit from these too). Items are gentle, natural ingredients that pack a real punch and you should have them in your pantry already (Bonus: No trips to the store!).
Quick Tip: Do you notice a funky smell coming up from the drain but there’s no noticeable change in flow?
That’s a clue that a mass of gunk is beginning to accumulate so it’s a good idea to do a maintenance flush asap before buildup gets bad.
You’ll find a recipe at the bottom of this article for a monthly cleaning purge that will help keep things as trouble free as possible.
Caution Before Starting:
If you’ve used a commercial product before reviewing this list and it didn’t break apart the clog, call a plumber. You don’t want to add anything to the backed up liquid that might react badly to the chemicals in the cleaner.
Be careful when using chemical commercial products, wear eye goggles since debris can splash back up at you.
Also don’t try removing the trap since caustic fluids can splash into your eyes and face. A professional is better equipped to handle this situation.
Methods For Clearing Stuck Drains:
Remove as much of the liquid that’s backed up as you can. Toss 1 cup of baking soda into the drain then pour a large pot or kettle of boiling water over top. If it empties completely, pour down another kettle to give it a second hot flush and then let the tap run cool for a couple minutes.
Tried and true method and one my father taught me: Empty out the basin as much as you can. Toss in 1 cup of baking soda, then pour down a cup of household vinegar, plug with the stopper then let sit for half an hour. After about 30 minutes, unplug and pour a kettle full of boiling water on top. (See this page from thegoodhuman.com for more details).
This is the method I’ve grown up with and it works even if there’s still liquid backed up (although it works faster without accumulated fluid). Just double the bicarb & vinegar amount, give it about an hour and after things have fully emptied, dump more fresh batches of boiling water 2 or 3 times to completely clean out the gunk.
Use a small plunger to try forcing things to clear. You’ll need a few inches of liquid in the sink to help make a vacuum seal for the plunger and a few forceful plunges to make this work. You can buy a plunger that’s about a 1/3 of the size of a regular one for the toilet. These are only a couple bucks, need very little room and they’re great to keep on hand just in case trouble rears. You can use a full sized one if you can’t find a small one.
Poking & Taking Apart:
Remove the trap or clean-out plug underneath the sink to try clearing the blockage. Use a plumber’s snake or a wire coat hanger to poke down and break apart the mass. You’ll need a bucket on hand to catch all the gunk as well as eye goggles positioned firmly in place.
Desperate Situation & Fluids Won’t Release:
Chances are if you do a treatment with baking soda and vinegar, have the stopper removed, and leave the backed up mess overnight, you’ll find the liquid should have emptied by morning. The vinegar and bicarb should have worked some of the buildup free on its way down.
Do a hot water flush first thing and if things empty as quickly as it normally would, you should be ok–do a couple more dumps though just to make sure. However, if it’s slow draining, you might want to check the trap to make sure there’s no mass blocking it. If there isn’t, try a couple more treatments of the Flush throughout the day. You just might get away with not having to call in the plumber.
Sluggish or Slow:
If you notice that the flow is slower than usual but it’s not completely clogged or backed up yet, do the “Flush” technique right away to prevent a full blockage. Make sure to finish off with a few more hot water dumps.
If you’re dealing with a double kitchen sink, make sure to insert the stopper on one side, then work on the other side.
If it’s a bathroom sink that’s slow to empty or plugged with hair and ickies, here’s a good video showing you step-by-step how to fix that up…
Easy Maintenance Flush Recipe
Once a month clear things out with bicarb and hot water or the vinegar, bicarb and hot water flush. This method is also ideal for cleaning out garbage disposals.
Here’s a recipe you can mix up in big batches and use monthly to combat odors and grease residue:
1 part baking soda
1 part salt
1/4 part cream of tartar
- Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup of this mixture into the drain and dump a kettle full of boiling water. Run the tap hot for a couple minutes, then turn to cool and run for another couple minutes. Do this monthly to clean out any fat, grease and nasties buildup that may be beginning to form.