How to unblock a sink – unclog a sink drain naturally, with or without a plunger

How to unblock a sink: With or without a plunger, using natural vinegar, baking soda or your favourite commercial products for plumber-worthy results, fast!

rinsing off a stainless steel sink
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Every household should know how to unblock a sink properly. Be it your kitchen sink, blocked and full of water, or your bathroom sink blocked with lovely hair and soap scrum, you can unclog a sink naturally, without a plunger, or of course, using a plunger if you'd like! 

Tackle a blocked sink yourself rather than shelling out hundreds for an emergency plumber call-out and you will not regret it. From using vinegar and baking soda, to turning to good old elbow grease (and a very good pair of rubber gloves) these are our failsafe, successful methods to unblock a sink drain, fast!

How to unblock a sink without a plunger

There are a variety of ways to successfully unblock a sink drain without using a plunger at all. From natural methods, to strong products and using pure elbow grease, these are a few failsafe ways to try out at home.

How to unblock a sink with soda crystals

Soda crystals are great for all kinds of cleaning jobs – from smelly washing machines to drains. But they can also be used for unblocking a sink. Simply dissolve half a pack in boiling water, pour down the drain and wait for the blockage to clear. Mix with vinegar instead of water if you need a stronger solution. Repeat if necessary.

How to unblock a bathroom sink full of hair

By far the biggest culprit when it comes to bathroom sink blockages is hair. Of course, if you physically see hair clogging the plug hole, then physically removing it will help of a coat hanger or other tool. If you can't see it, though, it's stuck somewhere further down, which calls for a sink unblocking product like Mr Muscle that will chemically dissolve the hair. It's not the most environmentally-friendly option, but sometimes it is the only solution that will work. 

Unscrew the U-bend and clean the pipe manually

This is most time-consuming and labour-intensive option, but it may be the only thing that will work. Unless you've done this before, take pictures along the way, so that you don't forget how to put it back together. Have a bucket ready and old towels on the floor, too. We'd also open a window as the U-bend can whiff a bit. Give the pipe a thorough clean, using rags and a bottle brush or old toothbrush to really get at any stubborn bits. Reconnect the U-bend, ensuring the seals are tight. 

How to unblock a sink with a plumber's snake

If water isn't going down at all, you may be dealing with a really stubborn blockage that will need some elbow power to dislodge (and, of course, you can't use any of the liquid solutions recommended above in this case). A plumber's snake is basically a long, flexible wire that will travel down the pipe, allowing you to identify where the blockage is located. Try twisting it regularly to make sure you're not missing any bits inside the pipe. Then you can dislodge it and push it down. We advise against using hangers or any non-plumbing wires, as they might get stuck inside the pipe, making your problem even worse.

How to unblock a sink naturally 

Cheap, safe and effective ways to tackle clogged sink drains with nothing but the power of nature.

How to unblock a sink with vinegar and baking soda

This is a stronger solution than simple salt and water, and some find it work on light blockages. Use two teaspoons of baking soda to a cup of white vinegar; pour the mixture down the plug hole. Wait until you hear the soda and vinegar mix fizzing then follow it up with a kettle full of boiling water.

Unclog the sink with a saline solution

Now if you don't have a plunger, or it's not working, you may be dealing with a more stubborn, compressed blockage that will consist of grease and food (your own little fat berg, if you like). What you need in this case is a solution that will break down the fat, forcing your blockage down the pipeline. To start, try dissolving a couple of tablespoons of salt in water, and pouring it down the plughole. Let it work for a good half hour to 40 minutes; then pour boiling water down the sink to wash down the solution.

How to unblock a slow draining sink naturally 

A slow draining sink is a smelly one at that. But, you can fix it naturally. Melissa Maker of Clean My Space recommends 'If your sink drains slowly—or if you have noticed a little funk wafting up from it—you may have some buildup that you need to flush out. Take about a cup of baking soda and dump it in the drain, and let it sit for an hour. Boil about 3 cups of vinegar in a kettle (you actually descale your kettle at the same time!), then pour it down your sink. And your sink won’t stink no mo’. On it!

How to unblock a sink with a plunger

If you like the old fashioned way then using a plunger is a sound move and this method works best when the problem is to do with bits of food or gunk stuck in the pipe.

  1. Remove debris: Take out the plug and clean the plughole by pulling out any obvious debris.
  2. Seal the plughole and overflow: With the plug still out, fill the sink with enough water to cover the plughole. Block up the sink's overflow with an old cloth.
  3. Prepping the plunger: Ensure the water you've run into the sink covers the plunger once you've placed it over the drain hole: this will ensure that the plunger is properly sealed in. 
  4. Using the plunger: Next, use a gentle pumping action to physically dislodge the blockage. 

orange toilet plunger

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to stop your kitchen or bathroom sinks getting blocked in the first place!

Prevention is always better than cure, and sink blockages can be avoided:

  • Get a sink strainer; this is a cheap and simple solution to stop small bits of food going down your sink. Just make sure you clean it too.
  • Avoid pouring oil or fat down the sink: Oil and fat don't mix with water, so if you pour cooking oils down your sink regularly, they will begin to build up over time. Take note even in a bathroom as some soaps and any products that contain oil can leave built up gunk.
  • Clean your sink regularly; use the saline solution and boiling water method about once a month. It's good for keeping your pipes clean, and for hygiene. 

How to unclog a garbage disposal

(Image credit: Kitchenaid)

Don't fancy mucking about with plumber's snakes and plungers? There are lots of products that will resolve most blockages within minutes, and if that doesn't work, then you know you have to call the plumber. Always look at the back of the product to make sure it is designed to tackle blockages and not simply deodorise/maintenance clean drains.

Drain = sorted.

Anna is Consumer Editor across Future's home brands. She moved to the world of interiors from academic research in the field of English Literature and photography. She is the author of London Writing of the 1930s and has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening.