How to Clean a Bathroom Sink Drain
Considering all the things that you might dump down a kitchen sink each day, such as food bits, it makes sense for that to get clogged easily.
But your bathroom sink? You’re not exactly scraping your leftovers into it.
Still, it’s possible and pretty standard for bathroom sinks to get clogged, thanks to an unsavory combination of soap, hair and mildew/mold buildup. Here’s how to unclog a bathroom sink the next time you notice yours is running a bit slowly.
How to Unclog a Bathroom Sink with Hot Water
Sometimes, the most straightforward solutions are the best ones. Depending on the state of your bathroom sink drain, it might be that all you need to clean and unclog it is a bit of hot water.
Hot water, and by hot we mean boiling, can help unclog a drain by breaking up any built-up grease (from soap and stuff) and mildew. It sounds gross, but it’s pretty satisfying when your drain runs cleanly again.
- Hot water
- A bucket or pitcher
What to do:
- Boil the water. A word of warning here — only use boiling water if you’ve got metal pipes, Lifehacker suggests. If you’ve got PVC pipes, the super-hot water might mess up the joints, so you’re better off sticking with warm (less than 170 degrees) water in that case.
- Let the drain and sink clear. If there’s backed up water in the sink, wait for it to empty.
- Pour the hot/boiling water down the drain. The combination of the heat and the fast pour should be enough to break up any small blockages that are slowing down your drain.
- Rinse the drain out with tap water. Run some tap water down the drain to confirm that the clog is cleared.
The hot/boiling water trick works best for small clogs. If you’ve got a more significant blockage, you might need to try something else.
How to Clean Bathroom Sink Drain with Vinegar and Baking Soda
Is there anything baking soda and vinegar can’t do? We’re not sure.
In this case, the power duo helps to clear clogged sink drains by essentially chewing through any grease or soap buildup in the pipes.
Here’s how to unclog a bathroom sink using vinegar and baking soda.
What you’ll need:
- Hot/boiling water
- Baking soda
- Distilled white vinegar
- Measuring cups (you can also just eyeball it)
What to do:
- Pour some hot water down the drain. The hot water helps to loosen up any soap buildup/grease/hair/whatever is stuck in your pipes.
- Pour about 1/2 cup of baking soda into the drain. Make sure the baking soda goes down the drain and doesn’t end up all over the sink.
- Pour 1 part distilled white vinegar and 1-part hot water down the drain, on top of the baking soda. The mixture will bubble up.
- Let the mixture sit in the drain for a few minutes. You’ll know it’s done once the vinegar and baking soda stop reacting together.
- Rinse with more hot water. Pour a bit more hot water down the drain to rinse away the baking soda and vinegar. Pouring the water into the drain will also flush away any buildup.
How to Unclog a Sink Drain by Taking Apart the P Trap
The hot water and vinegar and baking soda tricks work well if you’re dealing with a clog that’s near the top of the drain.
But what if you have kids who like to drop things down the sink drain? Or, what if you suspect that the clog is a little lower down in the pipes?
You might have to remove the P trap (sometimes called an S trap), the curvy bit of the pipe underneath the sink. The point of the P trap is to trap water inside it so that your drain doesn’t dry out and stink to the high heavens.
The P trap is also pretty good at catching any larger objects a kid (or hey, an adult, we’re not judging) might drop down the drain.
Although removing the P trap sounds like a big job, it’s not. Here’s how to unclog a bathroom sink drain by taking apart the P trap.
What you’ll need:
- Wrench (maybe)
What to do:
- Turn off the water to the sink. You’re not going to be running the sink, but it’s always a good idea to be safe.
- Put a bucket under the pipe. The bucket will catch any water that drips out of the pipe when you remove the trap.
- Disconnect the elbow shaped piece of pipe from the rest of the fittings. You might be able to use your hands to unscrew the nuts that connect the pipes. Or you might need to use a wrench.
- Check the inside of the P trap. That’s the elbow shaped piece you’ve removed. It might be full of junk, or it might be clear. If it’s full of junk, clean it out.
- Reattach the P trap. Make sure it’s on good and tight so that you don’t get stuck with a leaky bathroom sink.
How to Clean a Bathroom Sink Drain with a Snake
If your vinegar and baking soda trick didn’t work and the P trap isn’t to blame, the next thing to try is to clear the drain with a snake.
No, we aren’t talking about a squirmy reptile. We mean a specialized tool that helps to pull any blockages up out of a clogged drain. Here’s how to unclog a bathroom sink drain with a snake.
- A hand snake (you can find this at any hardware store)
What to do:
- Disconnect the stopper from the rest of the drain. According to Bob Vila, the stopper usually connects to the drain beneath the sink.
- Pull the stopper out of the drain. You’ll need an unobstructed passageway for the snake to get through.
- Push the snake through the drain. Usually, hand snakes have a handle that you turn that threads the device through the drain. It should be pretty easy to figure out how to use one.
- Pull the snake out of the drain. Turn the handle in reverse to pull the snake out from the drain. It will be covered in junk.
- Repeat the process a few times to get the drain clear.
- Wash the snake and the stopper for your drain off. Replace the stopper in the drain and reattach it beneath the sink.
How to Clean Clogged Bathroom Sink
Clogged or slow running bathroom sinks tend to get grosser faster. It’s up to you to keep up with cleaning it so that things don’t get too disgusting.
After you brush your teeth or use the sink, wipe it down with a clean cloth. If the sink is on the dirty side, spray with bathroom cleaner or all-purpose cleaner first, then wipe away any spots or stains with a clean cloth.
Should You Ever Use Commercial Drain Cleaners to Clean a Bathroom Sink Drain?
In short, the answer is no. While drain cleaners market themselves as super quick and easy ways to clear a clogged drain, the reality is that they can be a bit of a nightmare.
We’re not going to lie — a drain cleaner will clean your drains fast. But they also damage your pipes, according to Angie’s List, meaning they cause more harm than good in the long run.
Plus, drain cleaners produce strong, unpleasant fumes and are terrible for the environment.
When safe, natural options for clearing your drain quickly and easily exist, we don’t see any point in using a pricey, somewhat risky drain cleaner.
Keeping Your Bathroom Sink Drain Clean
Once you’ve unclogged a bathroom sink drain, you probably don’t want to repeat that experience for some time.
The good news is, you don’t have to. With some preventative maintenance, your drain should stay pretty clear.
Step one is to put some cover or catcher over the drain. A cover is especially handy if you have little kids who like to put things in the drain or if collected hair tends to lead to clogs.
It’s also a good idea to regularly flush the drain out, with either hot water or vinegar. A regular rinse from time to time will keep stuff from building up.
Final Thoughts on How to Unclog a Bathroom Sink
We’d probably rank unclogging a bathroom drain as among the bottom five or bottom 10 chores we like to do. It’s a bother, and it’s gross.
If you do find yourself in a situation where a drain needs unclogging, we recommend starting small and working your way up. Sometimes the quickest and simplest solution is the right one.
Now that you know how to unclog a bathroom sink, the trick is to take care of your sink, so clogs don’t happen often.