How To: Unclog a Sink Drain

Put the phone down! There's no need to call the plumber. In only six simple steps, you can unclog a drain that no longer flows as freely as it once did.

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  1. Check the "P-Trap"

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    My first line of defense for unclogging a stopped-up drain is to check the "p-trap"—the elbow-shaped pipe under the sink. Be sure to put a bucket under the pipe before removing it. Unscrew the connectors securing the pipe to the sink drain and the wall, and check for obstructions. If the p-trap isn’t clogged, there’s probably GUNK inside the drain. Brace yourself!

    Pete Fazio

  2. Unscrew the Pivot Nut

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    Before you can unclog the drain, you need to remove the stopper. To do that, look in the cabinet under the sink for something that looks like this. Unscrew the pivot nut connected to the drain pipe (the thing in the photo that is connected to the metal strip with holes) and pull the rod out of the pop-up assembly (be careful not to lose any parts).

    Pete Fazio

  3. Remove the Stopper

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    Once you've unscrewed the pivot nut, you should be able to lift the stopper out of the drain. It will most likely look disgusting, like this. When you finish dry-heaving, it's time to use a "hand snake" to clean out the inside of the pipe. What's a hand snake? Click ahead to find out.

    Pete Fazio

  4. The Hand Snake

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    This is a "hand snake", a handy little item you can get at any hardware store. To utilize, you push it into the drain while cranking the handle. The cranking causes the snake to spin around in your pipe, grabbing onto obstructions or scraping gunk out of the pipe.

    Pete Fazio

  5. The Gunk

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    After using the snake, the sink will pretty much look like this, but you will have discovered the culprit responsible for the problem. Give it a few more hits with the "snake" and the pipe will be clean, the smell will be gone, and the drain problem—something of the past.

    Pete Fazio

  6. Clean the Stopper

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    The final step is to clean and re-install the stopper. That means going back under the sink and re-connecting the metal strip with holes with the pivot nut. Make sure the drain stop is functioning again. You're back in business.

    Pete Fazio