Picture of Fix a Sink Stopper
A sink stopper with a push/pull rod control at the faucet is a great modern convenience. But, sink stoppers fail. When they do, they are often unsightly and an irritation. This is a repair you can do yourself.  
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Step 1: Materials and tools

Picture of Materials and tools
The photo shows a typical array of tools and supplies that may be needed to replace a stopper.

When you go to the store to buy a replacement stopper, you want to look for a pop-up assembly. Most are 1 1/4 x 12 inches. They come with a lift rod and linkage. Often you can buy the linkage rod with ball and a stopper without buying the whole pop-up assembly. I chose to replace the whole pop-up assembly. The cost is very little more and I am beginning with all new parts.

A slip joint pliers is a good tool to have nearby. An adjustable wrench and a screwdriver may be needed, but it happened that I did not use them on this project. A sealant of some type will also be required. Shown is a container of plumber's putty. As I was in the middle of replacing the pop-up assembly I discovered that my plumber's putty has a warning label that says it is not to be used with marble or plastic. I ran to a store to get some silicone sealant formulated for use in the bathroom, including with plastics.

Step 2: What goes wrong

Picture of What goes wrong
It is tempting to think something merely separated from another part and you can restore the function of the stopper by manipulating the operating rod while holding the stopper in place or twisting it somehow. See the photo. In reality parts have either broken or badly deteriorated from rust and will need to be replaced. 
cleanin the sink earlier, I might have screwed up my sink. now the stopper doesn't work I.e. permanently closed position. I double.checked under the sink after reading phillmd' comment but no luck there. seems I have to buy a new set. now I fear I might not get able to put things back after taking it apart. help.
Phil B (author)  serene.leesng26 days ago
I expect parts are rusted and the rod that acts like a pivot has probably broken off, and will need replacement. Yu can try to replace only that rod. Screw the parts together loosely and check the action. If something is not right, you can take it apart and try again. Most of us have to do things a couple of times before we get it right.
Phillmd5 months ago

My sink stopper (which looks the same as in the first illustration) stopped working; it was permanently in the closed position. I pried the stopper out with my fingers and pointed a flashlight down into the drain, and I could see that the operating rod was not corroded or broken off at all; however, only about 1/4" was protruding into the drain. From under the sink I simply pushed it in. Works fine now. My suggestion: before you buy a new stopper assembly, check out that it's really broken.

chetstetsman6 months ago

I am having issues at this step: 'Screw the linkage retainer nut onto its place on the body of the pop-up assembly.' The issue is that the new nut will not catch on the existing threaded piece. It looks the same as the original one, but it just won't screw on. The original nut will screw on, but there is a crack on the end, so I can't use it.

Phil B (author)  chetstetsman6 months ago
is there anything that keeps the ball on the rod from going all of the way into its socket? Can you thread the nut onto the threads when the ball and rood ar not in place? I assume you are replacing only the rod with ball and the nut.

Just replaced mine on Saturday and went to test it out today. There was a leak where the retainer nut threads on. I tighten it up to stop the leak but then the stopper won't move up or down. The point of the stopper rod seems to rub on the opposite side of the drain tube as well. I noticed in your pictures that there seems to be a white plastic seal on the inside of the nut which mine did not have. My replacement kit may have been missing this part if they all are supposed to come with it.

Phil B (author)  joe.spagnola.56 months ago

I apologize for the delay in writing a response to your comment. By "retaining nut" I take it you are referring to the nut that covers the ball on the stopper rod. (Perhaps you made your comment in regard to one step of the Instructable in particular, but I cannot discern that from what I am able to see.) There is a formed plastic socket or seal on both sides of the ball. If the nut is too tight, the stopper rod will be difficult to raise and lower. If the inner end of the rod scrapes the inside drain wall, the inner socket or seal may be missing, too. It is odd that the white plastic socket or seal between the nut and the ball would be missing, but anything is possible. Perhaps the store where you bought it will make a replacement for you.

What kind of sealant do you use?
Phil B (author)  controlsgirl1 year ago
I believe it was a clear silicone sealant. If you are using any plastic parts, it should be safe for plastic. I wish I could give you a brand, but I cannot.
Tucker!2 years ago
Great instructions. Great photography. This is very helpful. Thank you for taking the time to do it.
Phil B (author)  Tucker!2 years ago
Thank you. Instructables like this are a way to document something I did for my future reference. While there are many who have done this more times than I ever will, there are also others who would be glad for any help. Hopefully, this Instructable and others will give someone the confidence to solve a problem himself without paying someone money that is needed elsewhere in the home budget.
adel antado2 years ago
Replacing the stopper is probably better, cheaper and easier than repairing one. Thanks for the clear step by step instruction,
Phil B (author)  adel antado2 years ago
Thank you for looking and for commenting. Instructables is a place where there are some people who do these things professionally. Meanwhile, they were a mystery to me and to others. It always seemed to me that someone ought do a detailed description for the benefit of those who do not understand them, yet. I also like to document things I have done, especially if I had to work to learn how to do them. Too many times in the past I have had to do something later a second or a third time, but did not make enough notes.
mrcantfixit3 years ago
How do you keep the clip from sliding off the rod? i can never get the proper tension. Is there something that goes over the end of the rod to cure this problem?
I used a stop collar I picked up from the hardware store for a couple of bucks. It works much better than the cheap piece of bent springy steel that comes with the sink.

Phil B (author)  mrcantfixit3 years ago
Yours is an interesting question. I have done only a couple of these. On both the clip was relatively thin and quite springy with slightly sharp edges that dug into the rod when the clip was arched and stayed in place without slipping on the rod at all. It sounds like something is wrong with your clip. I suppose you could always get or make something that slipped onto the rod and could be locked into place with a screw.
pfred23 years ago
I know you added all of that sealant and there is no way it could leak but I usually just go with the supplied gaskets and after I get everything together I fill the sink with water and check for leaks. If it holds I'm done.
Phil B (author)  pfred23 years ago
I had problems with the gaskets leaking and decided to use plenty of sealant. The gasket on this pop-up assembly seemed to be formed for filling the threads. I had not seen that before.
pfred2 Phil B3 years ago
It is bad when one has sealing problems. I've been there! When I relined my pool I had a real time with the skimmer box but I was just being stupid mounting it. I finally had to make a headless stud alignment set and that did the trick. Silicone wouldn't cut it so I went with some 3M through hull marine sealant. If you ever really really need a seal it is the stuff. Expensive but sometimes failure is not an option. Like when you're trying to get 4 grand of pool hardware to work.
Phil B (author)  pfred23 years ago
I am glad you were able to solve your leakage problem. I once had to get a water line at 175 lbs./sq. in. to seal. Teflon tape and a big wrench were not getting the job done. Right or wrong, I put some epoxy on the threads before closing the joint and let it cure before turning it on. That worked. As my father often said, "I do not want to be around when some poor fellow has to take that apart."
pfred2 Phil B3 years ago
I had the same problem when I redid my compressed air manifold with some brass fittings so I used the same solution myself. I only run my air at 125 PSI though. I found epoxy works great sealing problem threads. Some of those fittings have to be so tight some epoxy is not really going to make much of a difference I don't think. Least not to my Rigid 2 foot pipe wrench. I made my manifold out of all old scrap fittings I have lying around and taking them all apart to begin with was quite a workout!

I've destroyed some fittings at times trying to get them apart. Not sure if they were glued to begin with or it was just corrosion or what that was holding them together. That is just part of plumbing I guess. I know a lot of that PVC stuff gets glued and it doesn't come apart too well either. Well it does with a Sawsall.

That was the only time I ever really got nervous plumbing. A flange broke on a toilet and I had to replace it, and the chunk I had to cut out well lets just say I could have exhibited it in MOMA. So I was a little worried if I was going to be able to recreate it. I had to get back to enough clear straight pipe so I could glue on another fitting you know?

I think that funky piece of pipe fittings is still under my house someplace its a work of art I'm telling you! Or a trophy to me.
ehudwill3 years ago
Thanks for the instructable. I always need to refresh my memory when this problem pops up.
Phil B (author)  ehudwill3 years ago
My little secret is that I do Instructables like this so I can remember what to do the next time I have to do something like this, but have forgotten just how I did certain steps the last time. Thanks for looking and for commenting.
CaseyCase3 years ago
Don't glue your drain in with silicone caulk (aka-"sealant") use plumber's putty instead. Caulk makes your drain assembly very difficult to remove later. Plumber's putty is made for this purpose!
Phil B (author)  CaseyCase3 years ago
Again, my plumber's putty warned on the container label not to use it with plastic or with marble. I do not know why, but decided to follow its directives. The container for the silicone said it was OK to use with plastic.
I would use a "non-staining" version such as...
mikeasaurus3 years ago
Great job, Phil. I've done this same repair a few times and you've explained it perfectly.

Also, nice work on saving some of the components that weren't worn and didn't need replacing. I have a scrap bin somewhere of all kinds of awesome new components from old repairs.

Phil B (author)  mikeasaurus3 years ago
Thank you, Mike. The first time one of these failed for us, I was not sure what to do. The instructions with the replacement parts leave out a few details I had to learn the hard way. I know a lot of folks at Instructables probably have more experience with some of these things than I do. But, it seems good to give some help to those for whom it is all a mystery so they will have enough confidence to try it and save themselves some cash..