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How to unclog sink pipes

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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. ;-)
 
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Step 1: 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

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 4: 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.
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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
slime.jpg
I just threw up in my mouth a little. :D
jeff-o5 years ago
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 jeff-o5 years ago
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 PKM5 years ago
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.
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?
I've done that too, even a standard vac can do it, if you are careful or use a strainer to such through
Yeah, it'll be much less. I'd just be afraid of sucking "swamp gas" into my house along with all the crud...
Did you ever have any problems with water blow out of the other drains around the house?
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 jeff-o5 years ago
I do the same about once every other month.
endolith jeff-o5 years ago
Seems like the coat hanger alone would be a pretty good alternative to taking the pipes apart
jeff-o endolith5 years ago
The coat hanger can pull out the clogs, but it doesn't clean out the slime (which eventually attracts more hairs to clog).
endolith jeff-o5 years ago
I mean a straightened coat hanger for scraping the sides of the pipe while water is running.
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-o5 years ago
Haha! Ya'll have really awesome ideas! I wouldn't have thought of an air compressor, either.
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!
zchampine5 years ago
Ever heard of a pipe snake?
My bathroom sink, the stopper can not be removed....ergo, no snake is usable.
Chromatica4 years ago
 I gaged like 10 times.
Megawatt4 years ago
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.
sweet with this earned 5 bucks! 5*
All right! Glad it helped!
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
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.
Lithium Rain (author)  TehLonelyOne5 years ago
Ew! Aw, I will thank you! Thank you, TehLonelyOne, for doing a Dirty Job! Mike Rowe would be proud of us. :-D
I take it you like Dirty Jobs?
I like it too,we should start a group
Lithium Rain (author)  Derin5 years ago
I do! We should!
İts ready
Oh, I suppose I never mentioned to anyone, I am Mike Rowe.
well then are you proud?

mike rowe isn't from Canadia
Lithium Rain (author)  Sandisk1duo5 years ago
Nor from Canada. ;)
Again, never said I was born in canada :P
you may have not been born in canada, but you definitely live there
Ah, but I film most of my shows on Canadian land
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!
dalecarlile5 years ago
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)  dalecarlile5 years ago
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.
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.
lucek5 years ago
or you could get a good snake.
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