How to unblock a sink by yourself

Sink blockages are a hugely common household problem, largely due to the amount of fat, oil, hair and solid food waste that ends up getting washed down plugholes and congealing into stubborn obstructions. If your dirty dishwater is sitting stagnant in your sink even after pulling the plug, it’s likely that you may be facing a similar issue.


Generally, it’s easy enough to notice early signs of potential blockages – for example, water might be draining unusually slowly, while some blocked drains can also give out a funny smell. If your sink is demonstrating obvious signs of being clogged up, then you may wish to call in the professionals, but in some cases, homeowners might want to try to fix the problem themselves before turning to outside help.

Here are a few simple steps to help you identify the cause of your drainage problem and find out whether it’s something that can be solved independently, or if it’s best left to the specialists.

Step 1: Set up a safety net

As with any kind of cleaning work, it’s crucial to make sure you protect yourself and your home from spillages, splashes or any dirt that you’re sure to uncover while you work. It’s also a good idea to have a bucket close by just in case you need to drain any water, or catch any that spills over.

Step 2: Clear out the plughole

If your sink is full of used water and you can’t actually see the plughole, it may be best to first delve into the water and feel for anything obstructing it. Rubber gloves can certainly help here, and you may just find the blockage is something that can be easily cleared, like rogue food fragments or a cleaning cloth that has fallen into the sink by accident.

Most commonly, kitchen sink drains get blocked when old bits of food and grease get carried down the drain. Bathroom sinks and bathtub drains, on the other hand, will most likely gather hair and soap scum in their drains, both of which can be a little more tricky to clean out.

Hair is usually the main cause of bathroom plughole problems, and is one of the most unpleasant types of blockage to deal with. If you can’t reach it with your hands, find some sort of implement to pull it out with – for example, a wire coat hanger that’s been bent into a long hook can be extremely helpful in this context.


Step 3: Deploy the plunger

If the problem persists after clearing away the visible plughole debris, then it’s time to turn to the trusty plunger.

This plumber’s favourite is a simple but reliable tool that breaks up blockages by forcing air in and out of the pipe. For best results, place the head of the plunger carefully over the plughole and press down to create an airtight seal, then gently work the plunger up and down to get the water and solids inside the pipe moving enough to restore normal flow. Plungers are designed so the air pressure will do the work for you, so there’s no need to be too forceful.

Step 4: Try different cleaning solutions

If the water still isn’t flowing properly, then the next step is to experiment with a few different cleaning solutions to try and flush the problem out.

In some cases, hot water is enough to unseat a non-serious blockage, but when that isn’t enough, there are a few other options you can try. For a more natural solution, you might be able to make some progress by pouring a little bit of baking soda, white vinegar or soda crystals down the plughole, followed up by hot water. This has been proven to help break down oil and grime, and can be done using products you might already have around the house.

For a more heavy-duty option, you could instead invest in some store-bought drain-cleaning chemicals; however, it’s worth bearing in mind that if these fail to work, they can accumulate inside the pipe and create a danger for those performing subsequent maintenance work, so proceed with caution.

Step 5: Check the U-bend

When all other methods fail, then it’s time to consider the U-bend underneath the sink as your most likely culprit. If your sink is full of water, make sure you drain this into a bucket before removing any part of the U-bend to avoid flooding the area.

Regardless of how careful you are, you might find that removing this component creates a little bit of mess. If no water was able to drain through it before, the water that’s been sat in the pipe will more than likely come out as you take it off, so be aware of this as you work.

Once it’s safely removed, you can give it a good clean. Once the pipe has had all of the debris removed, it can be refitted, allowing water to flow freely through the system once again.


Step 6: Look after your sink to keep the pipes clear

Once the sink has been restored to full functionality, it’s vital that you take steps to keep it that way. Putting cooking fats and grease down your kitchen sink can cause blockages on their own, as well as clumping together with other solid items to form even more sizable obstructions. Not only will this cause problems for you, but if it reaches the sewers it can lead to bigger drainage issues for the entire local area.

As such, members of your household should be vigilant about not putting anything down your drains that doesn’t belong there, including any of the most common “Big Offenders”:

  • Food waste

  • Fat, oil and grease

  • Plastic bags

  • Nappies

  • Sanitary towels, including tampons, applicators and wrappers

  • Cotton buds

  • Condoms

  • Bandages and plasters

  • Baby wipes

  • Medicines, needles and syringes

  • Cleaning wipes

  • Razor blades

Meanwhile, when it comes to the bathroom, try and dedicate a little time to the plug hole each time you do a regular clean, whether that means pulling out any visible hair, or investing in a chemical cleaning agent designed for regularly putting down the drain.

These tasks may create more work than usual during your regular cleaning routine, but will save you a lot of time and stress dealing with blockages in the future!

Find out more about our domestic drain unblocking services, or give us a call on 0800 526 488.

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