How to Clear Clogged Sink Drains
Kitchen drains can get clogged very easily and sometimes at the most inopportune times like at Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. Emergency Plumbing, LLC is at your service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to solve your drain problem quickly. If however, you are the do it yourself type, here are some tips to try.
Step 1: Get the right tools to start
A clogged kitchen sink can wreck a perfectly good evening in front of the tube. Instead of settling in to watch the Series, you’ll find yourself staring at a sink full of dirty, backed-up water and wondering whether to call in a plumber. However, with two tools, you may be able to fix this mess in less than an hour.
In this article, we’ll show you how to use a plunger and snake to clear up all but the most stubborn drain clogs. Plungers are sold at any hardware store or home center. Those with larger rubber bells deliver more thrust, but most will work for kitchen drains. Be sure it has a stout handle so you can apply plenty of force.
A snake (sometimes called a hand auger) ranges in price depending on the size. In addition, keep several other items handy—a bucket or a plastic bin that fits under your drain, rubber gloves and a good flashlight.
You can avoid most clogs by not abusing your kitchen drain line. Don’t overload your disposal with meat; foods high in starch, like pasta, potatoes and rice; or foods high in fiber, like celery and corn husks. Also, run plenty of cold water down the drain and let the disposer catch up after every cup of food you push into it. Never dump bacon grease or coffee grounds into the drain. If allowed to settle and cool, they solidify in the drain.
If you follow the steps of this article and still can’t clear the blockage, don’t hesitate to call the professionals at Emergency Plumbing. You may have a clog far down the drain line beyond your reach, or stuck objects in the pipes.
Check the disposal before you plunge
One of the most common causes of a clogged drain is a clogged garbage disposal. If the side of the sink that has the disposal doesn’t drain, plunge it first to remove the clog or force it down the drain. And if you flip the switch to turn on your garbage disposal and all you hear is a low humming sound, your disposal is probably jammed. Switch it off and unplug the unit. You can usually free it by turning the blades manually by inserting an allen wrench into the hole on the bottom of the disposal. If the disposal doesn’t make any sound when you turn it on, an internal breaker on the motor probably has tripped. Give it a minute to cool off. Then press the reset button located on the bottom of the unit, and turn it on again.
If you have a dishwasher, tighten a clamp over the flexible part of the drain line before plunging the drain. This prevents dirty water from flowing back into the dishwasher cabinet.
Step 2: Clear the blockage with a plunger
Hold a wet cloth tightly over one sink drain to seal it and set the plunger over the other drain. Plunge up and down vigorously for about 20 seconds.
If the problem isn’t in the disposer, plunge the drain. If you have a dishwasher, remember to first clamp the drain hose. Then fill the sink with 3 to 4 in. of water to ensure that the plunger seals around the drain. Hold a wet rag tightly over the other drain opening in double sinks or use the basket strainer to seal it.
Then plunge away. Roll the head of the plunger into the water so you force water, not air, into the drain. Pump vigorously. On your last upstroke, pop the plunger off the mouth of the drain for extra pressure. If the water doesn’t swirl straight down the drain, continue plunging for several minutes. Plunging can be quick and easy or it could be a wet mess. Keep towels handy to soak up spills.
Step 3: Clean the P-trap
Clogs that occur in the P-trap and trap arm of the drain most often occur when grease or coffee grounds stick. If intensive plunging doesn’t remove it, disassemble and clean out the P-trap
Begin by sponging the water from the sink to reduce the flow under the sink when you pull off the trap. Keep your pan or bucket underneath; dirty water will flow out. Many older kitchen sinks have metal traps and pipes. Metal slip nuts are usually more difficult to loosen than plastic, but either will probably require the use of slip-joint pliers to break them free. Loosen them gently to avoid cracking or bending the trap assembly.
Unscrew the slip nut between the P-trap and the trap arm first, then the nut at the bottom of the waste tee. If the trap is clogged, clean it, reinstall it and test the line with warm water. Don’t over-tighten the slip nuts. Hand tighten plus a quarter turn with pliers should be enough.
If the P-trap isn’t clogged, move on and remove the trap arm and clean it. Run a screwdriver around the inside of the pipe stub-out and pull out any debris that may have collected in the opening. If you still haven’t found the clog, reach for the snake or call in to Emergency Plumbing, LLC to take care of it for you. We are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week for all your plumbing needs.
Step 4: Snake the line
Thread the tip of the snake into the drain stub-out. Tighten the setscrew and turn the crank clockwise to feed it into the drainpipe.
Begin by loosening the setscrew at the tip of the snake and pulling out 6 to 10 in. of cable. Then tighten the setscrew and spin the snake down into the drain line. Initially you may feel an obstruction, but it’s likely that the tip of the snake is just turning a corner. Loosen the setscrew, pull out another 6 to 10 in. of cable and continue to feed the snake into the line.
If you feel the cable hit an obstruction, continue cranking and pushing the cable through the clog until you feel the tip bite through. This should be obvious because the tension in the cable will drop. When you are through the clog, turn the crank counterclockwise and pull out the cable. Clean the cable as you pull; it’ll probably be covered with incredibly dirty gunk. You may get a large plug of material at the end of the snake, so keep that bucket handy. Repeat the process until you no longer feel blockage, then reassemble the trap and run plenty of warm water to flush the line.
After the drain is open, pour 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup of white vinegar into the drain. Cover both openings and let it sit for a few minutes. Then run another gallon or so of warm water behind it to flush out the mixture. The combination of baking soda and vinegar can break down any leftover fat deposits and will leave your drain smelling fresh.