How to Unclog Your Sink Drain – Five Methods to Try Before Calling a Plumber
Success with each method will depend on the severity of the clog. Some methods have their caveats, which are important to note.
1. Use boiling water
Hot water dissolves and loosens blockages, particularly the grease and fats in the clog. Hence the rationale for pouring boiling water down your kitchen drain. It isn’t advised for PVC or plastic pipes which can degrade due to the heat and are at a greater risk of thermal damage compared to other pipe materials.  Generally, if your pipes are not rated for a minimum of 212°F, try something else.
- Boil water in a kettle
- Pour the hot water slowly down the kitchen drain
- Wait a few seconds between successive pours to let the boiling water work on the grease, soap scum, and grime.
- Repeat till the water begins to drain properly
2. Use baking soda and vinegar
Both have a lot of esteem as natural cleaning agents and they can loosen some of the simpler build-ups but not those caused by grease. Vinegar reacts with baking soda to form carbon dioxide, and the resulting fizz creates pressure to dislodge clogs. However, once the bubbles dissipate, the clog may form again.
For this method to work, there should be no standing water in the sink. If present, first remove it with a cup or bowl and follow the steps below.
- Sprinkle 1/2 cup of baking soda down the drain
- Pour 1 cup of white vinegar and let it fizz for 5-10 minutes
- Pour four cups of boiling water down the drain. Be careful not to burn your hand with the steam.
- Repeat as required
Due to the abrasive nature of baking soda, using this method time and again can possibly corrode your kitchen drain. If you’re experiencing frequent clogging, have a plumber investigate the possibility of a different issue, such as something in pipes beneath the drain.
3. Use a plunger
A plunger uses suction to remove blockages and allow the water to flow freely again. The flange plunger you use for your toilet may not do as nearly a good job in your sink, for which a cup plunger is better suited. If you do want to proceed anyway, make sure you clean your toilet plunger with bleach before switching from your toilet bowl to kitchen sink.
1. If your garbage disposal is connected to your dishwater, you need to block off the dishwasher drain using a conical rubber plug. You just have to push the plug into the drain hole.
2. Fill your sink with 3-4 inches of water. This will help create a suctioning effect and press water against the clog.
3. Plunge up and down vigorously for about 30 seconds. The clog will begin to dissolve and water will start to drain.
4. Run water down the drain to check if it flows freely.
4. Use a drain snake
A drain snake is a useful plumber’s tool to unclog a kitchen sink. It works like a charm on smaller clogs and stoppages located closer to the mouth of the drain. For deeper clogs, use a metal snake with a crank.
1. Push the end of the snake into the opening of the drain. Turn the handle on the drum that has the coiled-up snake. This will feed the snake into the pipe. When you feel resistance, you’ve made contact with the clog.
2. Continue twisting the snake against the clog. If it doesn’t fight back, it has snagged and will flow through the pipe. Or, you can pull it up and discard it.
3. Run water down the drain for a few minutes to confirm that the clog has cleared.
5. No success? Remove the sink trap
If your kitchen sink is still clogged, a different and more technical fix will become necessary. What you can do is remove the sink trap (P-trap) located below the drain. Follow the drain pipe from the bottom of the drain to the wall. The bend or curved length of pipe you see somewhere in the middle, below the sink, is the P-trap.
1. To prevent things from getting messy, place an old newspaper and a bucket under the sink trap.
2. Unscrew the slip joints.
3. Take the sink trap to a separate sink or a hose outside to remove all the gunk that has accumulated in it.
4. Put the sink trap back together.
What shouldn’t go into your kitchen sink
Your kitchen drain and garbage disposal are not meant for certain foods and debris. You can avoid clogs by simply remembering not to put these items into your sink or garbage disposal:
- Fats, oils or grease
- Coffee grounds
- Egg shells
- Starchy foods like bread, pasta, rice, and oatmeal
- Meat remnants
- Non-food items like wrappers or stickers
It’s also a bad idea to pour corrosive products like bleach or chemical drain cleaners down a kitchen sink as they can corrode pipes and cause bigger problems in the future.
Why a Plumber is Best
According to the EPA, plumbing problems in America waste approximately 900 billion gallons of water annually nationwide.  Letting them fester or frequently using DIY methods that involve water usage prove expensive and inefficient.
If your kitchen drain issue isn’t a one-off, it’s best to have a plumber perform an inspection and implement a technique that gives lasting results. For example, if the blockage is further along the drain line, the plumber will use a motorized drain snake that can go 150 feet down the drain. The machine will rotate continuously and generate enough torque to remove dense blockages caused by grease, tree roots and food waste.
The plumber may also decide to use high-definition snake cameras to see the interior of the pipe structure and know what kind of clog has formed and where it is. To clean a home’s sewer lines more comprehensively and eliminate years of build-up, hydro-jetting can be used. It is a safe method that uses only water at a very high pressure to aggressively flush the system.
O’Grady Plumbing carries out spot-on assessments for difficult drainage issues. Our extensive sewer and drain service knowledge allows us to fix issues quickly and reliably. If your kitchen drain keeps backing up or smells like sewage, contact us to understand what’s going on and how to restore your kitchen’s sanitary environment.