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a photo of how to unclog a kitchen sink

How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink

A kitchen sink clog can be a frustrating problem. Water backup can become an issue that renders the sink unusable until the clog is removed. The good news is that homeowners can sometimes fix a clogged kitchen sink on their own with a few simple tools and techniques.

Of course, if the clog is serious or you don’t have the proper equipment, you should consult a professional plumbing company.

How Your Kitchen Drain Works

Homeowners sometimes don’t understand how the drain system works in their kitchen sink. The first step in fixing a drain issue is to know the main components of a kitchen sink drain system and their purpose:

Strainer

The strainer is located in the sink basin and catches food particles and other debris before they can go down the drain.

Tailpiece

The tailpiece is the pipe that connects the strainer to the trap.

Trap

The trap is a U-shaped pipe that traps water and prevents sewer gases from backing up into the sink.

P-trap

The P-trap is a type of trap that is shaped like the letter “P”. It is the most common type of trap used in kitchen sinks.

Waste Arm

The waste arm is the pipe that connects the trap to the main sewer line.

Cleanout

The cleanout is a plug or valve that allows access to the trap for cleaning or repairs.

The drain system for a kitchen sink is designed to prevent sewer gases from backing up into the sink. The trap traps water in the U-shaped pipe, which creates a seal that prevents the gases from escaping. The water in the trap is replaced every time the sink is used.

What Causes a Kitchen Sink to Clog

a man unclogging a kitchen sink

A kitchen sink clog can be caused by a variety of things, including:

  • Grease and oil can solidify and build up in the pipes.
  • Food particles can build up in the pipes.
  • Hair can wrap around the garbage disposal blades or get caught in the drain pipes.
  • Soap scum can build up on the inside of the pipes and restrict the flow of water.
  • Paper towels can swell up in the pipes.
  • Garbage disposals are a common cause of clogs according to most plumbers.

If your kitchen sink is clogged, you should try to unclog it as soon as possible. A clog can restrict the flow of water, which can lead to flooding and other problems.

Tools and Materials to Fix a Blocked Drain

The following tools and materials will be needed to unclog a kitchen sink:

  • Plunger
  • Baking soda
  • White vinegar
  • Plumber’s snake
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses

Steps for Unclogging a Kitchen Sink

Step 1: Remove Any Standing Water

The first step is to remove any standing water from the sink. You can use a cup or bowl to do this.

Step 2: Try Using a Kitchen Plunger

A kitchen plunger is a good place to start when trying to unclog sinks. A kitchen plunger, also known as a sink or cup plunger, is a tool specially designed for unclogging sinks, tubs, and showers.

It has a distinct appearance, featuring a flat rubber cup-like shape at the end of a long stick handle. Unlike toilet plungers, which have a flanged bottom to fit into toilet drains, a kitchen plunger’s bottom is flat, making it perfect for creating a seal on flat surfaces like sinks. This tool is highly effective in applying direct pressure to clogs, thereby loosening them and allowing for normal water flow.

Place the plunger over the drain opening and make sure it creates a tight seal. Push and pull the plunger vigorously for several minutes.

Step 3: Use a Baking Soda and Vinegar Solution

If the plunger does not work, you can try using a baking soda and vinegar solution.

Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by one cup of white vinegar. The mixture will fizz and bubble, which will help to break up the clog. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, then flush with hot water.

If this does not clear the clog completely, you can repeat the process until the water drains.

Note that plumbers generally are hesitant to recommend using chemical drain openers on kitchen sinks. Commercially available drain openers are typically made with harsh chemicals that can damage the pipes and the environment. They can also create fumes that are harmful to breathe in.

Step 4: Use a Plumber’s Snake

A plumber’s snake, also known as a drain snake or drain auger, is a flexible coil of wire that can reach deep into a drain to dislodge clogs.

This tool comes in various lengths and thicknesses, but all have a handle on one end and a coiled “snake” on the other that can bend through the curves of a drain pipe. Some plumber’s snakes are hand-cranked, while others are mechanically operated.

To use a plumber’s snake, start by feeding the end of the snake into the drain, turning the handle of the snake as you push it further. This turning action helps the snake break up the clog as it moves through the pipe. Continue feeding the snake into the drain until you feel resistance – this is likely the clog.

Once you hit the clog, rotate the snake against the blockage until you feel it feed freely into the pipe again. This means you’ve broken up the clog.

Finally, slowly withdraw the snake from the pipe, ensuring that you do not accidentally bring the clog back up with it. After you’ve removed the snake, run hot water down the drain to ensure the clog is completely cleared.

Remember to wear gloves and safety glasses while using a plumber’s snake to protect yourself from any debris or backsplash.

Step 5: Call a Plumber

a plumber checking kitchen sink

If you’re unable to do it yourself, a professional plumber has the tools and experience needed to fix virtually any clog. If you don’t have a relationship with a plumber, you can search online for plumber near me or emergency plumber (if the situation warrants an emergency call).

Be sure to hire an experienced, licensed plumbing contractor who has good reviews online. Even a seemingly small job like clearing a kitchen drain can be more complex than anticipated, and shoddy workmanship can result in even more problems.

Steps for Unclogging a Kitchen Sink If You Have a Garbage Disposal

If your kitchen sink has a garbage disposal, the first step is to try turning it on and see if it unclogs the drain. If this doesn’t work, follow the steps for unclogging a kitchen sink above.

Additionally, you may need to remove the garbage disposal in order to access the clog. Be sure to turn off the power before doing this, and then unplug the disposal. Once you have access to the clog, use a plumber’s snake or baking soda and vinegar solution (as described above) to remove it.

Once you’ve cleared the clog, carefully reattach the garbage disposal and turn on the power. You should now be able to run water down your kitchen sink and enjoy a fully functioning kitchen drain!

This is obviously a more complicated project, and many homeowners would be well-served to leave it to a professional.

Prevent Clogs in Kitchen Sinks

The best way to prevent a kitchen sink clog is to practice regular sink maintenance. Here are a few tips:

  • Regularly clean the pipes and drains with baking soda, vinegar, or other non-toxic cleaners.
  • Avoid pouring grease, oil, and other food scraps down the drain.
  • Use a strainer to catch food particles before they go down the drain.
  • Clean your garbage disposal regularly.

Following these simple tips will go a long way toward preventing kitchen sink clogs in your home.

Stronghold Plumbing In & Near Lakeland

For drain cleaning or unclogging, contact the professional team at Stronghold Plumbing.

As a licensed and insured Florida plumbing company, we offer a full line of plumbing services, from water heater services to maintenance and repairs. 

We offer free plumbing estimates, so when you need plumbers in and near Lakeland, contact Stronghold Plumbing.

FAQs – Unclogging Kitchen Sinks

Should I use a chemical drain opener to unclog my kitchen sink?

Chemical drain openers are typically made with harsh chemicals that can damage the pipes and the environment, and create fumes that are harmful to breathe in. Instead, we recommend using a plunger or baking soda and vinegar solution to unclog your kitchen sink.

How can I prevent kitchen sink clogs?

The best way to prevent kitchen sink clogs is to practice regular sink maintenance. Clean the pipes and drains with baking soda, vinegar, or other non-toxic cleaners regularly. Avoid pouring grease, oil, and other food scraps down the drain. Use a strainer to catch food particles before they go down the drain. Finally, clean your garbage disposal regularly.

What should I do if my kitchen sink clog is too difficult to unclog on my own?

If your kitchen sink clog is too difficult to unclog on your own, it’s best to call a professional plumber. Search online for a local plumbing contractor who has good reviews and experience with kitchen sinks. Hiring an experienced, licensed plumbing contractor is the best way to ensure that your kitchen sink clog is cleared properly and won’t come back.

How often should I clean my kitchen sink?

It’s a good idea to give your kitchen sink a thorough cleaning at least once every few months. Cleaning out pipes, drains, and garbage disposals regularly will help prevent clogs and keep your sink looking good. 

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