Blocked bathroom sinks is a common household issue. You likely know that a poorly functioning sink is an inconvenience and a nuisance, especially if the clog has an unpleasant stench.
What Causes a Bathroom to Clog?
The main causes of this clog are hair and soap. The soap residue creates a greasy medium in which hair easily get tangled. Other small particles then stick with the ball of hair creating a larger clog that reduces the draining speed, and if the clog is particularly bad, the sink may not drain at all.
If you look under the sink, you would see a curved U-shaped pipe. This is where most of the clog occurs due to the slow upward movement of water in the curve. There is a reason the U-shape is always there. Although it allows a small amount of water to get stagnated inside the pipe that will pull in a lot of clog and create the blockage, it’s very essential since it blocks the sewer gas from entering the house through the bathroom sink.
Three Signs That Your Sink Is Clogged
Let us now look at the three major indicators that your bathroom sink is clogged.
- When Your Sink Is Draining Very Slowly
If your sink is draining very slowly, this is a sign that you have a clogged sink. Sometimes the slow speed is caused by a clog that forms on the U-shape. You may be tempted to ignore the problem arguing that at least the drain is moving but ignoring or simply procrastinating fixing this problem may lead to more damage in your pipes, so it’s important you do something about it right away. Note that even seemingly minor clogs can cause serious problems and even damage your entire system.
- Odd Odors
Do you notice unpleasant odors coming from your drain? Foul smells often occur well before any other obvious signs, so this is not something to ignore. Bad odor in bathroom sinks is caused by a mixture of clogged wastes like toothpaste, shaving cream, dead skin cells and soapy water. The warm, wet pipes beneath the sink provide a perfect environment for smelly bacterial to flourish.
- When Your Sink Is Making Sounds
If you notice any gurgling noises coming from your drains or from the pipes, this could very well mean that your sink is clogged. When a bathroom sink drain is clogged, the air bubbles are blocked from going through the pipes as expected and get expelled at the nearest vent. This results in gurgling noise that is audible to the user.
As I take you through various ways to unclog your bathroom sink, it is also good to remember that the clog is not the only reason for blocked sink drain. Improper installation of the pipes, damage in pipes or cracks in pipes can reduce the pressure leading to blockage so always remember to contact a professional plumber in case the following methods seems not to work.
8 Ways to Unclog a Bathroom Sink
Although I am focusing on bathroom sinks, many of the following drain unclogging techniques can be applied to other drains as well. These methods are tried and found to be true and applicable and none of them contains abrasive or poisonous chemicals.
Cleaning the Trap and Pipe
The U-shaped pipe underneath the sink is called the trap. This is a good place to start if you are having trouble with a difficult clog. From the physical look of it, this method may sound a bit complicated but it’s pretty simple and merely requires a bucket and a plumber’s wrench.
Put the bucket underneath the u-shaped pipe to catch the water and then loosen the slip nut at both ends of the pipe. Remove the pipe and, if possible, empty whatever is inside into the bucket. After you have thoroughly cleaned out the trap, run some water through it and then reattach.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
This old method of unclogging drains has proven to be very effective in bathroom sinks. Simply mix 1/3 cup of baking soda with 1/3 cup of vinegar in a measuring cup. This mixture will start to fizz immediately and you should promptly pour down the drain before fizzing stops. The fizzing action is what helps remove the hair and grime. Let it sit for about an hour then flush it out with hot water.
Baking Soda and Salt
This is another effective combination you can use to unclog your bathroom sink. Mix ½ cup of each and pour the mixture into the drain.
Wait for about 15 minutes then pour boiling water down the drain as well. All the three components create a pretty aggressive chemical reaction effective to unblock even the toughest bathroom sink stoppages.
Sodium hydroxide is also known as caustic soda. You need to protect yourself when working with this because it can burn your skin. Use rubber gloves and eye protectors. Instead hot water you will be using cold water with caustic soda and mix together preferably with a wooden spoon. Just like baking soda, it will create a fizz. This time however, heat is generated. When you leave it for about 30 minutes in the drain, it cuts through the entire blockage. Flush it out with boiling water and repeat the process if normal flow is not restored.
This is also an old and non-complex method to unclog your bathroom sink. The plunger gives an additional pressure to push the clog in by creating a vacuum. A plunger is a locally available tool in many stores and supermarkets, so you don’t have to go through a lot of trouble getting it.
This is how to use a plunger. Remove the sink stopper and place the plunger over the drain. You can apply petroleum jelly on the sides of the plunger for a good grip and for better output; you should have some stagnated water around the plunger. Decompress and press down repeatedly in a fast movement. Once the stagnated water moves into the drain faster, the job is done. Sometimes the clog may rise up to the sink and you need to manually remove it and not flush it into the bathroom sink drain again.
This works surprisingly well to blockages caused by soap scum. Boiling water is most effective when there is a slow drain and not a lot of tepid water already sitting in the sink. Pour boiled water into the drain in three or four different stages and wait for the results. If this method is going to work, the results should be fairly quick.
Wet and Dry Vacuum
A wet and dry vacuum is an ideal appliance to help with particularly stubborn clogs. You might need to create a seal for the horse to effectively suction out the blockage. Use the top of a plastic soda bottle or a plunger head to create a seal. Set your vacuum to the highest liquids setting and let the shop vacuum do the rest. The powerful suction is usually strong enough to dislodge whatever clog there is in your drain.
This method is a bit tedious and most involving and it’s therefore saved for the last. If you can unclog your drain using the other methods, you can avoid this method. If not, using a wire hanger should clear up the most stubborn of clogs. You need a wire and pliers to help bend the wire, rubber gloves and container to catch excess water.
Turn off the water, clean out everything underneath the sink, position the bucket for excess water and close the stopper completely. Get underneath the sink and release the stopper by squeezing the spring clip to remove the pivot rod from the clevis strap. Once the pivot rod is removed from the clevis strap, the stopper should pop right up and out of your sink. Put on your rubber gloves and pull out the loosened rubber stopper. Clean all dirt, hair and other particles using your hands (do not turn on your bathroom sink to do this). If you need water, use a different sink to clean the stopper. You can use bleach and rubbing alcohol.
After cleaning the stop-up mechanism, bend your wire hanger into a shape that will help you hook globs of hair and gunk. Once you have the right shape, lower the hook into the drain and once you feel a blockage, start twisting and moving the hanger to catch as much gunk as you can. Use a toothbrush to clean the interior sides of the pipe. If you think there is a big clog in the p-bend of the pipe where you can’t get to with the hanger, then you may need to unscrew the p-bend section of the pipe. This may or may not be necessary depending on the seriousness of the clog.
After cleaning then you can put everything together again and run some hot water down the drain to test the results. After reassembling all the pieces, remember to inspect everything for leaks and corrosion.
Some clogs are too thick or may be too far from the drain line. It is not easy to unclog this one, and therefore you need a professional help. Also remember that the effectiveness of each method depends on the type of clog, location of the clog and many other factors. You can try one method after another and if you think it’s too complex, you can always hire a professional to do the job. Also remember that any damage to the pipes would cause a bigger problem leading to an expensive repair.