Introduction: Clear Sink Clog - FAST, NO BUCKETS, NO CHEMICALS

Picture of Clear Sink Clog - FAST, NO BUCKETS, NO CHEMICALS

So, the bathroom sink is clogged again. I hate it when that happens. Here is the fastest, simplest, tidiest way to get rid of this little inconvenience.

The web is FULL of references and guidance on clog-removal methods that involve disassembly of pipes, or evil liquids of one sort or another. We are going to AVOID all that yuck and mess, and get right to the heart of the matter.

Most of the time, the clog is a combination of hair and slime, and it is NOT at the bottom of the trap. (That's the plumbing term for that removable U-shaped pipe at the bottom.) Slime and hair collect in the drainpipe right where the stopper-lift lever intrudes into the drainpipe. We are simply going to pull out the stopper-lift lever, scrape the clog loose, and flush it on down the drain. No muss, no fuss, no wrenches, no Nasty Potions. You don't even have to SEE the foreign life form.

(BY THE WAY, since you are an insightful and proactive person, you will perform this procedure BEFORE the drain is TOTALLY clogged. Letting the water seep out, even if it takes a while, allows you to do the job without a bucket.)

All you need is a short length of 1" PVC pipe to use as a scraper. This handy tool will work EVERY time, for the rest of your house-keeping life.

If you are the Do-it-Yourself type of person, you may already have some 1" plastic pipe left over from some other project. You can certainly get it at most hardware stores or home centers. If you prefer the online-commerce approach, as many do, a modest $5 PayPal transaction to your author will bring one to your door.

Step 1: The Region of Goo

Picture of The Region of Goo

OK, kids, this is where it's happening - the spot where the stopper-lifting rod intrudes into the drainpipe. In my experience, there's usually some hair hanging over the rod, in combination with some gooey bio-slime. All we need to do here is pull out the stopper and the lifter rod, give the glop a shove in the right direction, and flush it away.

Step 2: Remove the Lifting Rod

Picture of Remove the Lifting Rod

Undo the lifting rod nut by turning it CLOCKWISE. It seems counter-intuitive, but the standard "righty-tighty, lefty loosie" would only apply if you were facing this assembly from the back side.

After the nut's off, simply pull out the lifting rod. If you were proactive enough to take care of this job before the sink was TOTALLY clogged, nothing will come out except a wee ball of slime. If you ARE in deep water, better have a bucket handy.

After the lifting rod is out, you can pull the stopper out of the drain pipe. Yes, the bottom leg of the stopper is likely to be covered in slime, which you can remove with your finger or an old toothbrush. (Not your housemate's.)

Step 3: Scrape That Clog Right Out of Your Life!

Picture of Scrape That Clog Right Out of Your Life!

Ok, even though we've removed the hardware that passes through the Region of Goo, that ol' slime ball is probably still hanging in there. This is where our PVC* push-pipe comes in handy. Introduce the pipe into the drain, and push down. You will possibly feel some resistance at first. The Goo will resist a wee bit, but you are far mightier.

It's a good idea to scrape multiple times, getting all sides of the drainpipe.

*If you don't have a length of plastic pipe handy, some other solid item with a small-enough curved edge will do. In a pinch, I have been known to use a length of wooden quarter round trim.

Step 4: Ready, Set, FLOOSH!

Picture of Ready, Set, FLOOSH!

OK, almost done. Now that the clog is scraped loose, all you have to do is open the faucet and let the water flush it down the drain.

Oh, yes, it is VERY smart to seal the opening where the lift rod was located. Perhaps your finger or thumb is large enough to cover it. (If not, improvise with a wad of bath tissue.)

VICTORY! Goo-Be-Gone! Well done. Nothing left to do but reassemble.

Step 5: Reassembly

Picture of Reassembly

If you've gotten this far, reassembly should be easy.

  • Remove any improvised item used to block the lift-rod opening.
  • Push the lifting rod back into its opening.
  • Reattach the lift-nut by turning it counter-clockwise.
  • Wash your hands, and treat yourself to a fine beverage.


rsgrillo (author)2017-03-16

I cut "barbs" into both sides of a large tie-wrap to create a tool that pulls the hair up and out without removing anything!

MacMarty (author)rsgrillo2017-03-26

Thanks for the pointer to the Zip-It. I posted this 'ible in my neighborhood's FB page, and a friend down the block came back a week later with a recommendation for that device. Here's the yuck-snake HE pulled out. Bleh.

ShareeD2 (author)rsgrillo2017-03-26

great idea! There is actually a tool I bought that sounds similar - I found it at home depot in the plumbing section.

RandyPerson (author)2017-03-20

Just had a bath sink that needed maintenance, so thought I'd try it. Pushed the stuff down, and plugged up the pipe completely. Pulled the P-trap (easy with today's plastic fittings) and began pulling the hair rope. About 12" long, after it broke. Cleaned out more with a stiff wire hook, and it may go down the pipe, too. Just shows that you should be prepared to go further when you try this technique. If you don't have a bucket and some large pliers to break the trap, you may trade a slow sink for one that's totally stopped. Or force a big wad down the line to meet up with it's buddies at a really inconvenient place. What's your crawl space like?

MacMarty (author)RandyPerson2017-03-20

Ouch. That sounds... like not fun. Happily for me, our sink drains into ever-larger diameters of PVC (installed by me) until it gets to the 100-year-old cast iron stack, 2 stories high. Bombs Away!

maybe we do need a disclaimer here. Your Drainage May Vary?

BuhlMan (author)2017-03-18

Not a bad hack but there are a couple of things that can prevent this so you do not have to keep cleaning out the drain. One is that you can use a strainer over the drain. the hair and gunk will be caught in the screen and you can just clean it out in a minute without having to take apart the lifting rod. Second, I notice that in the pictures, the lifting rod rod that you have is rusted and has a wearable area which will break off at any time. You can either replace that or get one that is made of plastic or you can get a new assembly. This is where the gunk and junk will collect and will not dry out resulting in the rust on the lifting rod. I had that happened before and replaced the lifting rod.with plastic one. It helps but the strainer does its job keeping out the junk before it all goes in the drain.I think that they may also have stoppers with strainers as well.

bwelkin (author)2017-03-18


Nice ible... The symptom that brings you to this point is slow draining of water in the bowl. However, a clogged P-trap is not the only possibility. If, as another commenter posted, this doesn't fix your slow-drain situation you may have a plugged vent. The reason for the P-trap is to prevent the awful odors of your septic/wastewater system coming back up the pipe. A vent pipe - usually well hidden in the walls - prevents a vacuum from forming as the water moves past the trap. To clear a vent (which can be clogged by bird nests and other airborne debris) you have to go up on the roof where you'll see several of them - one for various sections of your household plumbing system. Use a snake (you can rent) or try flushing with a garden hose or poking with a (very) long stick. Good Luck!

lbrewer42 (author)2017-03-18

I don't have a picture or a reference number, but one time I was in Harbor Freight and bought a drain brush for 2.00. Its a brush with a long, springy handle that, when inserted, is just the right size of the drain hole, and has a long, springy stem between the brush and handle. It is about 18-20 inches long and bends around and through the trap. It coils up for storage.

If the stopper is removable, then you don't even need to remove the stem from the back of the pipe. The brush moves right around it.

Its so convenient and inexpensive that I wish I had bought one for each sink. But my HF does not have them anymore.

tallwood2000 (author)2017-03-16

Shouldn't you explain how you have to get the lifting rod back through the hole in the stopper when reassembling?

jfherring (author)tallwood20002017-03-17

I just cut the bottom of the loop off of the stopper. Now it rests on the lift rod. Still works fine, easily removable next time.

MacMarty (author)tallwood20002017-03-16

Very good point, Tallwood. I consider that step to be optional. ;) My family prefers to have the stopper be removable.

bmayhew (author)tallwood20002017-03-16

Or you could just remove it entirely and replace it with It will help keep the mess from ever happening again.

If you ever need to fill the sink, any rubber stopper would do. Or just pop the original stopper back in temporarily. The lift rod will usually move it enough to get your fingers on it to remove once again.

beer20 (author)2017-03-17

I like to pull it out and show it to my wife and daughters and say "This is why hair should never go down the drain!" After they gag a little they remember for about two weeks. The very next time, I showed my wife how to disassemble the pop up and made her clean it! Now I've just got to get my girls to learn and I can enjoy beverages sans gunky hands. Thanks for sharing!

mwitherspoon (author)beer202017-03-17

Funny how the ladies are exempt from certain household chores. I swear I'm going to start painting my fingernails so that I can claim "I can't do that - it'll ruin my nails"

doo da do (author)2017-03-17

Put hot water in the drain, put two or three Alka seltzer in the drain, use the stopper, then fill sink with hot water, in a few minutes open stopper and it will be good to go. Doodado worked for me many times

Drake88 (author)doo da do2017-03-17

Vinegar and baking soda works too. The vinegar is slightly acidic which can help cut through any soap goo. If you use Cider Vinegar, the room the sink is in will smell like Cider Vinegar for a day or so too, which isn't a bad smell(and it may also help cover any smell of the goo should it be stinky).

iamglennster (author)2017-03-17

My bathroom sink has this problem and I will try it! Perhaps in Step 5, mentioning reinstalling the stopper was omitted due to early treatment of a fine beverage? ;-)

pgjames (author)2017-03-16

So cool, and easy. Great idea with the PVC Pipe!

nvg1372 (author)2017-03-16

I'm going to try it! To be honest, I doubt anything will clear my drain, but it is worth a try!!!

MacMarty (author)nvg13722017-03-16

Please let us know how things turn out. :)

Bray58 (author)2017-03-16

Alternatively, once you have removed the stopper, pull the goo up out of the pipe. An improvised hook tool, e.g. made from one of those awful wire coat hangers we all have in our closets, will work just fine. Put the goo in your compost, not your garbage. It is full of protein from the hair and biofilm that will add nutrition and vitality to your compost - at least a little bit. There is not likely to be much soap residue present and any little bit that may be there will not cause any problem. I don't like pushing any clog down if I can pull it up, as you are risking it collecting somewhere deeper in your sewer and causing a bigger clog.

MacMarty (author)Bray582017-03-16

Here we have a case of "Your Mileage May Vary". I salute your goal of composting everything possible. I am informed that there are many folks who find this little exercise to be "yuck city", and are happy to have it be gone with a minimum of fuss, and no observation.

gcai_fwb (author)MacMarty2017-03-16

I vote with Bray58 - not so much the composting but keeping any gunk out of the downstream system - and let's face into every life a "yuck" must come :) - wear disposable gloves!

btw I find a retrieving tool (claw on end of wire) like this

to work very well - but at the dollar store much cheaper and you want the cheapest of the cheap for this job

lefty9 (author)2017-03-16

How many times have I trackled a clogged sink, with the firm belief that the problem was in the trap, only to discover it "clean"?

Thank you for this time saver! You forever changed one of my plumbing repair techniques!

caruncles (author)2017-03-16

I did this a couple weeks ago. However, I just pulled the stopper up from the top and all the gunk was there. I have a septic tank, so I didn't flush it. I dumped it in the flower bed on the back 40.

Yea, aligning that stopper up with that lever is the hard part. Until I "discovered" this is where the clog really is and not in the P-trap, I wanted to replace the built-in stopper with a free-moving strainer and plug. However, this is not that hard after you've done it once, AND mine caught a lot of gunk.

MarcJ281 (author)2017-03-16

Good post well explained and easy to perform. Thanks

JuanC335 (author)2017-03-16

excellent, thanks!

seamster (author)2017-03-15

Simple, easy solution. Thanks for sharing!

Now . . what about the shower drain?! ;)

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