6 Ways to Unclog a Sink Drain

Person trying to unclog a sink with a plunger

Clogged sinks can happen, and when they do, you want to be sure that you know exactly what to do. If your sink is draining slowly, giving off an odor, or just isn’t draining at all, you likely have a clogged sink drain. Kitchen sinks are notorious for clogging. With kitchen scraps, food debris, coffee grounds, and just about anything else that happens in a kitchen, the kitchen sink can definitely clog up. Clogged drains may seem like a simple inconvenience at first, but if left too long, they can build up and lead to burst pipes — which will mean an expensive visit from a professional plumber. Use these easy DIY techniques to save money in the long term by taking care of your clogged sink drain in the short term. Just remember: when unclogging your stuck drain, be sure to wear a pair of rubber gloves for safety.

1. Use Boiling Water

Boiling pot of water on a gas stove

When your sink starts to show signs of a clogged drain, the first way to try to unclog it is simply with boiling water. Boiling water is effective at dispersing solidified or stuck material and debris. Bring a half-gallon of water to a rolling boiling over high heat. Make sure that the sink is clear from any standing water so that you can pour the boiling water directly into the drain. Next, carefully pour the boiling water directly into the clogged drain in a steady stream. As the boiling water dislodges the clog, the water should begin to drain. If it doesn’t, then allow the water in the sink the cool completely before repeating the process. If you have PVC pipes in your kitchen, perhaps skip this technique as boiling water can soften plastic pipes.

2. Use a Plunger

A plunger in the sink next to the sink drain

Plungers aren’t just for the bathroom. They also work great to unclog the kitchen sink. If your plunger is typically used in the bathroom, be sure to sanitize it with bleach before using it in the kitchen or anywhere where food is prepared. Before using harsher or more intensive techniques for unclogging your sink, it’s always best to try plunging it with a simple household cup plunger. Ensure the sink contains enough water to submerge the plunger's head underwater and place the cup over the drain opening. Seal the plunger over the drain and plunge up and down rapidly. If this method doesn’t work, then you’ll need a more intense method.

3. Try Baking Soda and Vinegar

Person with baking soda on a spoon sprinkling into kitchen sink drain

This classic middle school science experiment makes a great method for unclogging any drain. Baking soda and vinegar are gentler on household pipes than harsh chemicals, which can cause damage or corrosion. This natural household alternative to chemical drain cleaners is easy to make, cheap, and non-toxic. Begin by pouring one cup of baking soda down the drain. Follow this with one cup of plain white vinegar. The chemical reaction should create an intense bubbling and fizzing. Wait 15 minutes to allow the baking soda and vinegar to dissolve the clog in your sink and unclog your drain. After the 15 minutes are up, run hot tap water down the drain to clear the rest of the debris out.

4. Use an Auger

Person snaked an auger down kitchen sink drain

An auger is a standard household item that’s designed for unclogging sinks. There are different kinds of augers that are either simple and manual or more expensive and electric. Regardless of the kind of auger (or plumbing snake) you have, the steps are going to be the same. If you have an electric auger, then be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions before beginning. Feed the cable from the auger into the drain opening until you meet resistance. Once the end of the cable reaches the clog, pull some extra cable out of the machine as slack and lock the length of the cable. Begin to turn the crank on the device, and the cable will push forward to drill into the clog. You should be able to feel a change in resistance once the auger has broken through the clog. Retract the auger and flush the sink with hot tap water to clear the rest of the debris.

5. Try a Wet Vacuum

A wet/dry vacuum with cabinets behind it

If you have a shop-vac or a vacuum that works for wet or dry material, then you can try to dislodge the clog in your sink with the vacuum. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions before beginning. Place the hose end of the vacuum over the entrance of the drain and create a tight seal. Turn the vacuum on to the highest setting, and the pressure of the vacuum should dislodge the clog. Be sure the vacuum and drain are sealed together so that the pressure of the vacuum is stronger in the pipe. Run hot tap water through the drain afterward to clear out the rest of the debris.

6. Prevention is Key

Person placing a sink stopper in kitchen sink drain to prevent clogs

Like most other issues in life, prevention is better than correction. For example, preventing drain clogs can save you the trouble of unclogging them in the future. Keep a drain cover over the drain to catch food pieces and coffee grounds, and be aware of the sorts of things you stick down your drain.

Learning how to unclog a clogged kitchen sink is important household knowledge. However, if none of these methods work, consider asking a plumber to come or rent more heavy-duty drain cleaners.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.