Introduction: Unclog Bathroom Sink Without Chemicals

Picture of Unclog Bathroom Sink Without Chemicals

My sink has been draining slowly, and finally, people are coming over and we need to clean. It's all backed up, yuck.

The steps of this instructable show you how to remove biological mysteries from your sink's drainage without using caustic chemicals that cost money, are bad to breathe, less fun and whose success as an unclogging strategy has a lot of uncertainty.

My bathroom sink is simple enough that the pipes and pop-up assembly do not require any special tools to take apart and put together. The only tool I employed besides my hands was an old tooth brush.

This job takes me about 15 minutes; less time than it takes to go to the store and back to buy those old chemicals.

I read that you can keep pipes from bioaccumulating by putting down 1/2 cup baking soda, then 2 cups very hot white vinegar, wait 1 minute, bubble bubble, then follow with 2 cups very hot water.

Step 1: Prepare for Cascading Water and Biofilms

Picture of Prepare for Cascading Water and Biofilms


Take all your cleaners, electronics, Make magazines and paper supplies out from under the sink. 


Install nice large plastic tub. I prefer a tub to a bucket so I can get my hands in there and so I can see the wonderful microbial masses that come sliding out.

Step 2: Detach and Clean U-bend Pipe

Picture of Detach and Clean U-bend Pipe

Unscrew ends of the u-pipe, remove, empty water and clean out hair and bio-critters.

Step 3: Remove and Clean Tail Piece

Picture of Remove and Clean Tail Piece


Slide tailpiece pipe from sink drain pipe. Yours may need to be unscrewed.

See culprit biofilm on inside of the pipe.

Push microbial communities out, screaming and crying, with your toothbrush.

Step 4: Clean Sink Drain Pipe

Picture of Clean Sink Drain Pipe

Get tooth brush up into the sink drain pipe.

The horrors that come out!  Kind of thrilling, isn't it?

Thank goodness there are no instructables for a kefir-kombucha-pipebiomass hybrid fermented health drink.

Step 5: The Stopper

Picture of The Stopper

The stopper won't come up because it is still hooked into the pop-up assembly.  It is connected underneath to a horizontal rod that links it the lift rod (the pull-up knob you use when you want to engage the stopper and fill your sink with water).

Step 6: Decouple Stopper and Lift Rod

Picture of Decouple Stopper and Lift Rod

Unscrew the pivot nut that holds the horizontal (pivot) arm onto the popup assembly.

In my sink, the horizontal pivot arm can come out of that hole, is not attached. I just disengage the connection and rest the end in the hole for a bit.  The pivot nut stays on the horizontal arm so you don't lose it.

I found tips and vocabulary from the Natural Handyman website on bathroom sinks.

Step 7: Clean Stopper and Drain

Picture of Clean Stopper and Drain

Now you can pull the stopper our and find all those wonders to clean!

Then push your toothbrush down into the drain and force the refugee masses down into your tub.

Step 8: Reattach Popup Assembly

Picture of Reattach Popup Assembly

After scrubbing your stopper and drain hole clean, place stopper back into drain hole with flat area and connection hole toward the back of the sink, so that side is closer to the lift rod.

Hold up the stopper by a cm or so with one hand, while reaching under the sink with the other hand adjusting the horizontal rod to get that plastic shaft into the hole at the bottom of the stopper so they are connected.

Step 9: Test Connection!

Picture of Test Connection!

Test to see if the lift rod and stopper are attached. Move end of the horizontal rod by end of the lift rod up and down. The two should move in opposite directions together, like pop goes the weasel.

Step 10: Reconnect Things

Picture of Reconnect Things

Natural handyman recommends to slather some plumbers grease on the ball. I don't.

Screw on the pivot nut locking the horizontal pivot arm in place. Not too tightly, and not too loosely. If the lift rod doesn't stay up, you might need to tighten the pivot nut a bit. 

Slide the tailpipe back onto the drain pipe (mine fits without tightening).

Reconnect the u-pipe by tightening each end a little in turn.

Step 11: Test, Compost, Maintain

Picture of Test, Compost, Maintain
Run the water; see the clean water go down the clean uninhabited pipes!

Look below, are there leaks? Tighten nuts as needed. 

What to do with this big biological party in the tub?

Compost it!

Every 3-4 weeks you can put 1/2 cup baking soda followed by 2 cups hot vinegar, wait 1 minute, than add 2 cups super hot water to keep pipes colony-free.

Hydrogen ions from the vinegar react with the bicarbonate ions from the baking soda to form carbonic acid. The acid acts on the biofilm while decomposing into water and carbon dioxide!  So simple and clean!  See this instructable by

I don't bother with that, I just clean out the pipes about 3 times a year.


ManarK2 (author)2017-03-13

You can easily fix a clogged kitchen sink with the right tools and a little work. And, if you have to do it often enough, practice will make perfect even with the most stubborn clogs. So save yourself money and try a few home tips before calling the plumber .
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HimDownStairs (author)2009-11-18

So the million dollar question is this: Did you use the tooth brush afterwards?


katmckee (author)HimDownStairs2017-03-13

I just rewatched this and asked myself the same question... I did not clarify what to do with that toothbrush afterwards, did I!

SurferGeek (author)2009-11-22

Great job!  Plunging the sink would have removed the majority of the buildup especially when using lots of hot water.

Outstanding instructable with great photos.  Well done.

katmckee (author)SurferGeek2017-03-13

Thank you for the encouragement! I am thinking to start creating more 'ibles soon... :)

spylock (author)2009-12-05

I can do it without removing the trap,providing the trap is in good shape.

katmckee (author)spylock2017-03-13

Thanks! great!

jtsherwood (author)2014-04-20

Very helpful. My efforts looked pretty much exactly like this. Drain is all drain-y now!

katmckee (author)jtsherwood2017-03-13

Drainy drains rock!

KimmyO (author)2014-11-09

Thank you! I did this and it worked after hours of trying to figure out how to unclog my bathroom sink.

katmckee (author)KimmyO2017-03-13

It's so good we all have similar bathroom sinks. It's nice to have things that mechanically make sense, right? :)

matnook (author)2009-11-17


Have you ever tried wet and dry vacuum. I have done it many times. It is the fastest and the most effective.Close all holes except he sink hole.use a powerful vacuum.Small vacuum  would not work. It need power to suck out the uuuugh!!!. No mess to fix the plumbing again

katmckee (author)matnook2017-03-13

Interesting... does it really get it all out? I like this method of getting all of it out off the interior lining, removing the critters that would reproduce soon after... and the gratification of getting the tub of microbial assemblage to put outside...

reythewiz (author)matnook2014-11-14

I like your idea1

imer.xid (author)2014-11-16

Thanks for all your help! problem solve :)

katmckee (author)imer.xid2017-03-13

I am glad it helped!

lena.draine (author)2015-01-13

I just got done doing this. AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!! Works better then when I moved in!!!!!!!!!!!

katmckee (author)lena.draine2017-03-13

I love the gratification people get from cleaning ucky things and fixing things themselves!

edbro (author)2009-11-16

Step 12. Throw out toothbrush to avoid accidently using it.

katmckee (author)edbro2017-03-13

Yes, I thought of this later... a little warning would have been good... :)

lena.draine (author)edbro2015-01-13

I just got done doing this and IT WORKED AWESOME. My sink works better now then when I moved in.

wvanderoef (author)2015-02-24

This is a great article which worked fantastic to clean the pipe. Once cleaned I ordered a Bathroom sink filter. The company is just starting to sell the unit and I received what they called a early release.. Paid $15 instead of 20 for the unit. The filter is part of the stopper. You just twist the cap and the unit comes out and so does all the hair and even lost items like your diamond. Thought it was very cool and wanted to share the info as the company is just starting up.

katmckee (author)wvanderoef2017-03-13

Thanks for sharing the tip and your experience!

SeanC26 (author)2015-08-29

Thanks for the Instrucitons, You made declogging my drains a lot easier than I thought it was gonna be!

katmckee (author)SeanC262017-03-13

I am happy you did this and unclogged your drain!

MaryS80 (author)2015-09-14

This method (with a few modifications) worked to unclog my bathroom sink. I thought this was gonna be a hassle and cost me $ and trips to Home Depot. It took about an hour to do, and now, the drain has this hollow flushing sound, which is so rewarding! Thanks for posting the pictures and instructions--I feel a great sense of pride that I can do this myself and not have to pay a plumber!

katmckee (author)MaryS802017-03-13

What a great comment and I also appreciate that hollow flushing sound! Glad you felt rewarded doing this on your own with now waste of driving and money. :)

Lm23 (author)2016-03-23

Thank you so much for sharing. That is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen. and im so excited to go do the same with my bathroom sink. I have a feeling i may be in for real treat and see something even worse. I am truly scared of whats going to come out of there! Now this may not apply to very many, if any one else but it happened to my house so im gonna throw it out there any ways. When my house was being built (in 1963) the original plumbing, was not done by a licensed plumber. I'm talking about the pipes that are inside the walls. All drains, no matter where they start:kitchen or bathroom(s) come together eventually after making several turns and connections to one big drain that goes out to the "street" and city water works. Where those inside pipes turn corners are called slopes because they should be a curved pipes that make a downward slope to allow gravity to work so the water drains out. They should not be made with perfectly horizontal pipies that have 90 degree angles which allow water to stand in them and make sharp turns that are easy to clog, like mine are. It makes for endless plumbing problems as well as issues with the drywall and sheet rock that must be cut into to reach the corners that need replacing with slopes. However i must say at least the guy knew how to be thrifty and save a few dollars by doing it himself. Thats as nice as i can be.

lemonie (author)2009-11-16

Baking soda and vinegar are chemicals you know...
How about just tipping carbonated water (or coke) down the sink if carbonic acid is the cleaning agent?
Hot vinegar fumes are irritating chemical-vapour, you should take precautions against exposure.


TeriR5 (author)lemonie2016-02-06

Water is a chemical. :)

katmckee (author)lemonie2009-11-16

Thanks Lemonie. People who have respiratory problems should do this with good ventilation.  Baking soda and vinegar are often used in grade school projects to demonstrate reactions so it's relatively safe. The by-products of the reaction are water and carbon dioxide, but the vinegar is strong smelling before the reaction is complete.

Note: Do not add vinegar/baking soda if you have already poured a commercial drain cleaner down your clogged drain. Commercial drain cleaners may contains chemicals that, when mixed with vinegar, can cause noxious fumes.  

lemonie (author)katmckee2009-11-16

You're right there, e.g. bleach.


Nirgal38 (author)lemonie2014-08-03

Most commercial drain cleaners contain sodium hydroxide (commonly known as lye). It is a powerful alkali and will react violently with the acetic acid in vinegar. Any time one uses commercial drain cleaners, the drains should be flushed thoroughly with lots and lots of cold water.

jacobisrael11 (author)2016-01-06

Shouldn't the hot water and vinegar burn your pipes

Karlenetoy (author)2015-11-29

This absolutely works but it took 3 tries and triple vinegar and tons of boiling water. It was still better than a chemical dangerous product or a very expensive plumber.

robertc391. (author)2015-09-30

I will try to comment again. I first poured baking soda down drain followed by vinegar which I did not boil, Drain remained clogged. Following morning, after I read this script, I boiled vinegar, poured into sink and it started to boil over and cleared drain. Followed this with hot water to clear.

reythewiz (author)2014-11-14

I am not sure why I didn't think of that. I just went under our sink and took the pipes off by hand. I then made a little hook from a metal hanger and pulled all the hair out of the drain. The pipes are clear to drain again....

Darcy777 (author)2010-07-19

Ok, how do you people get the spacing in your comments?! *quietly weeps*

Darcy777 (author)2010-07-19

Thank you for this instructable. My comment isn't directed at this instructable. This comment is for people searching and might want not want to try this instructable until they try the wimpier way first. * If it's a bathroom sink or tub, the most likely culprit is hair. Try getting as much hair out by using a wire hanger, straightened out. Someone already mentioned that, I just wanted all the notes in one comment. Bring some white vinegar or apple cider (I have always that as I cook with it) to a simmer. I never measure but I'd suggest 1 to 1 1/2 cups of vinegar. Pour some baking soda (sorry, again I never measure) into the drain. Let’s estimate 1/2 cup. Use a wooden spoon or your hands, or whatever to get all the soda into the drain. Then pour the hot vinegar into the drain. It will foam and bubble up. Let that do it's thing for a while, let's estimate 15 minutes. While the timer is ticking, boil some water. Pour the boiling water down the drain. This may take a few applications before one will see results. It is suggested by some to do this on a regular basis as preventative maintenance. I suspect it depends on how hairy the people and how many people share these drains. Why not add it to your spring and fall cleaning schedule so at least it's being done twice a year. * Now, for kitchen sinks. The culprit is most likely grease. I've actually seen recipes that say to drain hamburger in the sink, (and then pour boiling water down the sink) for example. I suspect some people do not realize how much oil and grease they are dumping down the drain over a period of time. Buy some ubber cheap degreasing dish washing liquid. You can save the more expensive one for your dishes. Measure out 1 cup of the degreasing type dishwashing liquid and pour down the drain. Let it sit there as long as possible. Boils some water and pour that down the drain. From now on, pour any hot grease or oil into a can, I saved a tuna can for this purpose but one may need a larger can depending on their cooking habits. Once the grease has cooled, use paper towels, news paper (I get those ads once a week in the mail), or paper bags if you prefer to be a wee bit green and at least get a second use out of them, to wipe out the grease and toss. (Can you say “run on sentence.”?) Or if you eat a lot of tuna, just throw out the whole can.

arhodes18 (author)2009-12-15

 Great 'ible, thanks! I just did it and it worked great, it was disgusting, but it drains now :-) thanks again!

Treasure Tabby (author)2009-11-17

Oo, nice. I wonder if this will work with a stubborn tub drain? That thing is driving me nuts. The drain can't completely close and then when you want it to drain, it takes ages.

If it's hair clogging the drain you can use a straightened clothes hanger with a hook at the end to pull the hair out.  If it's just buildup you can use a plunger.  Plug the drain, fill the tub with hot water and while covering the tub overflow with a wet towel, vigorously plunge the drain.

I work as college dormitory maintenance.  Tub, toilet and sink clogs are our #1 calls.  We've learned the easy way to unclog them without chemicals as they are expensive and no matter what the bottle says... they all damage the pipes in the long run.

phatpatfoley (author)2009-11-18

Hey all, I am 3 year plumber helper and let me tell you, bathroom sinks can be nasty. however, they do sell a plastic tool that slides in under your stopper and can pull all the gunk up with it. I've seen em at home depot, and carry them on my truck. They work great. And remember that sometimes taking apart the trap can he a horrible thing, and cost you big time.

SurferGeek (author)phatpatfoley2009-11-22

Those things are really only good for hair clogs and you can do the same thing with a bent clothes hanger. 

Mark Rehorst (author)2009-11-19

 Great project!

Two plumber's rules for a better life:

1)  Poop flows downhill!

2)   Don't eat with your fingers!

hollasch (author)2009-11-16

After step 6, where you've removed the pop-up assembly, the classic mistake is to get into cleaning the drain from above with your toothbrush and then turn on the tap to rinse it all down the drain. Some of the spooge will inevitably flow out the now-open pop-up opening and into the back of your cabinet.

Oh, and although foxfirekenzie tries to explain away this horrible mass with the Florida humidity, rest assured that your sink looks just as gnarly -- everybody's sink drain looks this gross.

katmckee (author)hollasch2009-11-17

Hi hollasch,
I use that big wide tub and I do run the water down into it to clean the stopper right then and there.

JoelDude (author)2009-11-17

No amount of money savings will make me clean something like that with a 10ft pole and bio hazard suit, specially if its not MY sink. I rather spend the 15 in Drayno. Still good instructable.

foxfirekenzie (author)2009-11-16

Oh boy! You have the most gnarly sink I have ever seen! Great photos and if it works for you, it will work for anyone! :)
I am off to do this to my own now. Thanks for the boost.

katmckee (author)foxfirekenzie2009-11-16

Thanks foxfirekenzie! I meant to mention that I live in Florida and the humidity levels make for astoundingly microbial-friendly habitat. Enjoy your colony removal, and let us know how it went.

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