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How To Clear a Plugged Kitchen Sink

Clogged drains are the bane of most every homeowner’s existence but it need not be so. The key to clearing clogged drains is understanding how your home’s plumbing system is designed to function. The kitchen sink drain in modern homes is designed to be self-scouring. In other words, it uses a large volume of water draining down its length to scour the interior pipe walls and wash away accumulated sludge and grime. Merely allowing water from the faucet to flow directly down the drain is usually insufficient to keep the drain running free and clear. The best and most efficient use of the kitchen sink is to fill the basin with water and then wash dishes, fruits, vegetables, etc. Then pull the plug or crumb basket and allow that full discharge of water to do its work, cleaning the drain and keeping it flushed clear of debris. If, however, your sink does become plugged, follow these simple steps to unclog the drain.


Clearing a plugged drain involves understanding how the plumbing works and using the proper tools

Clearing a plugged drain involves understanding how the plumbing works and using the proper tools

  1. Gather long rubber or plastic gloves, a bucket, a sponge, a sink plunger, a garden hose with a  spray nozzle, a pair of water pump pliers (also called “Channellocks” after the most prolific manufacturer), and plenty of rags.
  2. If water is standing in the sink basin, bail it out with a bucket or other small container.
  3. Remove any debris that remains in the sink basin.
  4. Remove the crumb cup or basket strainer.
  5. If you have a screw-in type basket strainer in the other basin, install it and screw it down firmly.
  6. A sink plunger is different than a toilet plunger in that the sink plunger is flat across the bottom and is cup shaped. It is also called a force cup in some locations.

Clearing the drain

  1. Run about two inches of hot water in the plugged side of the sink.
  2. Lower the plunger in the sink at an angle. You want the cup to fill with water.
  3. Set the plunger centered over the drain.
  4. Using both hands, push the plunger down and then pull up on it sharply. Do this several times and then remove the plunger by tipping it sideways. The resulting suction should pull up a nasty mass of whatever was plugging the drain.
  5. Quickly scoop out the offending detritus from the basin before it can return down the drain. If the standing water rushes down the drain in a spiral you have cleared the drain successfully. If not, re-plunge the drain again. For stubborn drains, you may have to repeat the plunging several times.

Using a drain cable

  1. If plunging the drain does not clear it, you will have to use an auger to auger out the drain pipe.
  2. Sewer cables are popularly called ‘snakes’ but technically speaking they are augers or drain cleaning cables.
  3. Remove the standing water from the basin.
  4. Place a bucket under the trap below the sink and remove the p-trap, catching the water in the bucket.
  5. Remove the wall bend ( the curved piece of pipe that goes from the p-trap to the wall) and insert the end of the cable. You may have to turn the cable slightly to make the end pass through the drain fitting in the wall and go down the pipe.
  6. Turn the cable while feeding it down the pipe. If you hit an obstruction, stop feeding the cable and focus on turning it. The turning cable will cut the stoppage away.
  7. Insert the garden hose in the drain pipe. Tightly plug the pipe opening with rags and turn on the water. The high pressure water flow will rinse the stoppage debris on down the pipe.


Do not use drain cleaner to unplug the sink. If you do use drain cleaner and then opt to call a plumber, by all means alert the plumber that you put drain cleaner in the pipes. It is an acid that can injure someone.

Remember when using the plunger that you are not trying to force the stoppage down the pipe, you are trying to suck it up and out.

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