Introduction: How to Unclog Sink Pipes

Picture of How to Unclog Sink Pipes

My sink took 15 minutes to fully drain. This, needless to say, was getting ridiculous. So I cleaned it out. This instructable will show you how to remove all that gunk that's keeping your sink from draining properly, without pouring nasty chemicals down the drain that cost monies and kill all the good bugs in the septic tank.

This isn't for the faint of heart, however. I have a strong stomach, but this one made me gag. So this might be a job you sweettalk/bribe/force someone else to do for you. ;-)

Step 1: Gather Tools

Picture of Gather Tools
You will need:

  • Pliers or other pinchy thing

    • Long screwdriver or other poky thing
    • Bucket O' Happiness
    • Towels or other absorbant things
    • A strong stomach
    • An air freshener
    • Music/podcasts to take your mind off things

If you are a (Wo)Man, you will not need any of the last three items. If you are a Wuss, you will need all of them. If you are a Muss, you could turn on the bathroom fan and hum to yourself.

Step 2: Disconnect the Pipes

Picture of Disconnect the Pipes

Unscrew the pipes under the sink and set aside the ones that can come completely out. They will have water in them, so set the bucket on some towels and hold underneath to catch the water.

Step 3: The Fun Bit

Picture of The Fun Bit

Now take the pliers and screwdriver and poke, pull, push and scrape alll the disgusting goo and hair out of the sink, and dump it right in that Bucket O' Happiness. Be sure to get the bottom pipe leading from the sink as well as all the stuff out of the top.

Step 4: Cleaning Out the Other Pipes

Picture of Cleaning Out the Other Pipes

Remember those pipes we laid aside in the first step?

Oh. No, that's okay. I'll wait here. I should have told you we weren't throwing them away forever. It sure looked like we were.

Got 'em?

Alrighty then, take them outside (so you don't start a horrible game of musical pus by dumping the goo from one sink down another so you have to clean up that sink) and spray them out with a hose.

Step 5: Putting It All Back Together

Picture of Putting It All Back Together

Put all the pipes back the way they were and screw all fittings nice and tight. Run the water to make sure the pipes are clear and there are no leaks.

That's it, you're done! Go reward yourself with something awesome. You deserve it. You totally do. This was not a fun job.


harryclark (author)2017-08-07

Thanks for sharing this.

UPVC Pipes do not corrode and are totally unaffected by
Acids, Alkalies and electrolytic corrosion from any source. In this respect
they out class any other pipes material including stainless steel and can be
used anywhere.

Chris (author)2012-09-03

A way I've found to reduce this type of clean-up job is to pour hot water down the drain. We don't use much hot water itself in the bathroom sink (energy savers we are) and the slime tends to really like that.

Every once in a while after I've finished boiling something for a meal, I'll just take the pot up to the bathroom and dump it down the sink there instead. Since I've started doing that, I haven't had to clean it out since.

I think my photo beats out the ick of your photos :-P

Javin007 (author)Chris Nolan.ca2013-06-26

I just threw up in my mouth a little. :D

jeff-o (author)2009-03-16

My wife has long hair, and I have to do this all the time. I use a straightened coat hanger with a hook bent into one end. When it got really bad, I used my air compressor to blast it out...

PKM (author)jeff-o2009-03-17

The air compressor idea is... ingenious, but I'd be a little tiny bit worried that the blockage would resist pressure better than the pipes above it. Gunk in your pipes isn't as bad as high-pressure gunk being blasted under your floorboards >_< I used to live in a house with three girls, all with mid-back-length hair, and one shower. Clearing out that drain after a few months was like making contact with an alien civilisation. Initially fascinating, quickly degenerating into "Oh god the smell kill it kill it now"

jeff-o (author)PKM2009-03-17

I admit, I was worried about whether the compressor would blow out the pipes the first time I pushed that button. But, the pipes in my house are all thick copper or iron and they held up just fine. I'm not sure if plastic pipes would hold up as well. Of course, you don't have to hit the pipes with a full 100+ psi, either. Using the regulator on the compressor you could start at 50 psi and work your way up.

Derek9Three (author)jeff-o2009-03-26

I use the wet/dry vac to suck all the crud out but once I had a bad one in the tub and had to use the blower. Worked great. I don't know how much pressure a standard vacuum can generate but it's got to be less than the air compressor, no?

Goodhart (author)Derek9Three2011-05-18

I've done that too, even a standard vac can do it, if you are careful or use a strainer to such through

jeff-o (author)Derek9Three2009-03-27

Yeah, it'll be much less. I'd just be afraid of sucking "swamp gas" into my house along with all the crud...

crickle321 (author)jeff-o2009-03-29

Did you ever have any problems with water blow out of the other drains around the house?

jeff-o (author)crickle3212009-03-29

Well, you have to block the other drains that are attached to the same branch, but not the whole house in most cases. When I went to unclog the bathtub drain, I had to block off the overflow, and the drain and overflow on the sink.

garth66 (author)jeff-o2009-03-26

I do the same about once every other month.

endolith (author)jeff-o2009-03-26

Seems like the coat hanger alone would be a pretty good alternative to taking the pipes apart

jeff-o (author)endolith2009-03-26

The coat hanger can pull out the clogs, but it doesn't clean out the slime (which eventually attracts more hairs to clog).

endolith (author)jeff-o2009-03-26

I mean a straightened coat hanger for scraping the sides of the pipe while water is running.

carress (author)endolith2009-03-26

Then it just clogs farther down in the pipe.. that's a great temporary patch, but methinks getting that nasty crap out is the only real solution.

Lithium Rain (author)jeff-o2009-03-16

Haha! Ya'll have really awesome ideas! I wouldn't have thought of an air compressor, either.

jeff-o (author)Lithium Rain2009-03-16

I ran out of "One Second Plumber," and all the stores were closed because it was a holiday. Necessity is the mother of all invention!

zchampine (author)2009-07-29

Ever heard of a pipe snake?

Goodhart (author)zchampine2011-05-18

My bathroom sink, the stopper can not be removed....ergo, no snake is usable.

Chromatica (author)2010-02-22

 I gaged like 10 times.

Megawatt (author)2009-11-18

I discovered a handy device at the hardware store (Westlake in my area) for dealing with these issues.  It's a white slender plastic strip with a finger hole/tab on one end and it quickly narrows to about a 2 foot long barbed flexible strip.  You turn your water on and slip this down the drain and ream it back and forth both punching through any obstructions and also hanging the hair on the barbs and pulling it back out for disposal.  Beats coat hangers, disassembly, wet vac, air compressors, etc.  Cost about 3 or 4 bucks, I think.

knexsuperbuilderfreak (author)2009-07-28

sweet with this earned 5 bucks! 5*

All right! Glad it helped!

Blacksmith Spader (author)2009-06-22

Yep, I have done this one before... I find its much easier to replace stiff piping with a really wide garden hose and just flush it out every now and again

TehLonelyOne (author)2009-03-17

I had to unclog the shower drain hole once, it was nasty since no one had done it in a while, I had to get in there with a pair of long tweezers since our shower drain pipe is in concrete. I swear I pulled out about 400mls of hair, soap scum and whatever else was down there...luckily it didn't smell too bad, ah it's a thankless job.

Ew! Aw, I will thank you! Thank you, TehLonelyOne, for doing a Dirty Job! Mike Rowe would be proud of us. :-D

Derin (author)Lithium Rain2009-05-05

I take it you like Dirty Jobs?
I like it too,we should start a group

Lithium Rain (author)Derin2009-05-05

I do! We should!

Derin (author)Lithium Rain2009-05-31

İts ready

Punkguyta (author)Lithium Rain2009-03-17

Oh, I suppose I never mentioned to anyone, I am Mike Rowe.

Sandisk1duo (author)Punkguyta2009-03-17

well then are you proud?

mike rowe isn't from Canadia

Lithium Rain (author)Sandisk1duo2009-03-18

Nor from Canada. ;)

Punkguyta (author)Lithium Rain2009-03-19

Again, never said I was born in canada :P

Sandisk1duo (author)Punkguyta2009-03-19

you may have not been born in canada, but you definitely live there

Punkguyta (author)Sandisk1duo2009-03-19

Ah, but I film most of my shows on Canadian land

ryanyoung1768 (author)2009-05-28

I used a Zip-It to clear my long-haired girlfriend's shower drain - pulled up what look like a dead rat, pushing toward guinea pig, of hair and product and gunk. Smelled like death, but the shower drained like a champ first time in years. Prepare for some truly nasty aromas!

dalecarlile (author)2009-03-26

You are doing it the hard way. For $3 you can buy a Zip It at the hardware store. All you do is unscrew the drain cap, slide th ezipit in and pull it out. All of the hair come with it and most of the gunk. To clean the Zip It just invert it over the trash can and slide the junk off. I raised 4 girls and have never dismantled the drains for hair and gunk. Best $3 I ever spent on a plumbing tool. Yes I have pliers and pipe wrenches, but see no reason to take apart a pipe that is not leaking when I can Zip IT clean. Also, dumping vinegar into a drain followed 15 minutes later by baking soda disolved in hot water removes a lot of the gunk and even helps keep a disposal from smelling.

Lithium Rain (author)dalecarlile2009-04-28

Sounds cool! Of course, this is only one method - not necessarily better or worse than others, just worked for me. :) One factor for me was wanting to keep all of that out of the septic tank.

noelix (author)dalecarlile2009-04-18

Thank you for this tip - you're right it was really easy and cost me less than $4. I am happy to do that a couple times a year as opposed to taking apart pipes and getting air compressors and stuff.

lucek (author)2009-04-28

or you could get a good snake.

madmartian (author)2009-04-02

Once you've cleaned the pipes, there's a fairly easy way to help keep them clean...water! Bathroom sinks clog because there's usually not a heavy, continuous flow of water to flush away the hair, toothpaste, etc. I got tired of unclogging mine weekly and hit upon a simple solution that's been working for about a year now. Before I take a shower, I close the drain on the sink and run the hot water until it becomes hot. Then I shut off the water and open the drain. I would have wasted that water in the shower waiting for it to warm up anyway, and the large volume of water has kept my pipes clean.

evil.genius.todd (author)2009-04-02

I've always just used a toilet plunger. They do require a bit of elbow grease and I usually end up making quite a stinky mess. But the results are incredible and don't require me to actually disassemble the pipework.

kleinschmidt (author)2009-03-28

Before I did so much work, I would try a Zip-It ( ). A few years ago Consumer Reports mentioned it and I decided to try one. I didn't think it would work, but now that's the first thing I try.

jwisnia (author)2009-03-26

I didn't see anything about how to disconnect the drain stopper from it's actuating lever. Did I miss it or did you?

Lithium Rain (author)jwisnia2009-03-26

Ah, so that's what those things are called! :D No, I just had a really hard time taking pictures of that because of the way the sink is configured with the wall. I don't think I had any useable ones for that step, and thus forgot to put it in. I'll add that in asap. :)

cdogjune (author)2009-03-26

Pipe snakes are work well and are pretty cheap.

lbrewer42 (author)2009-03-19

Easier method and less time consuming; Remove the sink stopper. Stuff a wet washrag into the overflow hole (opposite the spigot in the basin - hole prevents overflow by making sure water cannot flow over edges of basin) Stuff the end of your garden hose down the sink drain. Wet a towel and wrap it around the hose sticking out of the drain - tight u against the drain hole - hold it there with your hands and some pressure. Have a partner turn on the hose full force. Towel stops water from getting all over the bathroom. Clog is forced out of your pipes b/c "somthin's gotta give!" No smell - and the only mess is bringing the end of the hose into the house and squeezing water out of the towel and washrag.

zoneykid (author)lbrewer422009-03-26

I do the same thing with my brother except we have this rubber attachment that goes on the end, and we have someone on the roof clogging the air-hole. Works well, but if you have gunk that doesn't wanna go away using something like vinegar or acid works better.(we've tried draino, it doesn't help.)

Spokehedz (author)2009-03-26

Most of the clogs in sinks are from hair. Hair remover poured down the drain usually works good for me. When that fails, it's usually because of toothpaste and other 'fatty' things clogging up the drain. I pour boiling water down to melt them into a liquid so that it runs down the drain. When all that fails, it's using a gigantic spring that i snake down the sink and attach to the end of my drill. Spin a few times, and pull out. Hair + Gunk all over the spring. Do three more times, then turn on the hot water and let it run for a bit. Done.

About This Instructable




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