How to unblock a sink

Need to unblock a sink? It's usually something you can easily tackle yourself, without needing to call out a plumber. Here are our top tips to unblock it fast

How to unblock a sink
(Image credit: Getty/AndreyPopov)

Need to know – and fast – how to unblock a sink? We've all had that sinking feeling (sorry). A blocked sink immediately makes using your bathroom or kitchen impossible, but more often than not, it's a problem that you can tackle yourself rather than shelling out hundreds for an emergency plumber call-out. Read on and we'll tell how to unblock a sink quickly. 

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1. Clean out the plughole

Remove 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. Use a plunger to unblock the sink

This method works when the problem is with bits of food stuck or gunk in the pipe. 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. Next, use a gentle pumping action to physically dislodge the blockage. 

4. Unclog the sink with a saline solution

Now you have a number of options, but 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. 

5. Use vinegar and baking soda to unblock the sink

This is a stronger solution than simple salt and water, and should work on tougher 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. 

6. 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. 

7. Use 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.

8. 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. 

9. How to unblock a bathroom sink 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. If you can't see it, though, it's stuck somewhere further down, which calls for a sink unblocking product that will chemically dissolve the hair. It's not the most environmentally-friendly option, but sometimes it is the only solution that will work. 

10. How to prevent your kitchen sink from getting blocked

Prevention is always better than cure, and kitchen 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;
  • 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;
  • Clean your sink as maintenance; use the saline solution and boiling water method about once a month. It's good for keeping your pipes clean, and for hygiene. 

Best products for unblocking sinks

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. For our money, Mr Muscle still make the most effective products for drain blockages. 

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