How to fix a clogged kitchen or bathroom sink with standing water: 4 Easy Steps

The sink is the most common fixture in the kitchen, toilet, and bathroom. It’s where all the dirty dishes go and where you clean yourself. You might be wondering how to fix a clogged drain because you don’t want to call a plumber every time something goes wrong.

It is not recommended that you use chemicals as these can corrode your pipes. The best way is to use a plunger (more on that later). If that doesn’t work, you might have to climb under the sink and inspect it.    Let’s discuss this further.


What causes a slow draining sink?

One of the most common causes of a clogged kitchen sink is grease. Grease builds up and can build up in your pipes, which can cause a clog to occur.  You shouldn’t put grease in the drain but a lot of people do it. Another cause could be particles that are too big to go through the pipes and into the drain. Particles like hair, paper towels, and food particles can clog your drain in the bathroom.

Use a plunger to unclog the sink. Image made with Canva by PlumbingInstanFix.

Some people argue that you can use vinegar or baking soda to unclog a drain but in most instances, this doesn’t really solve the problem. It can provide some temporary relief but in most instances, you are just pushing the clog somewhat further. You have to remove it completely to get your system back in working order. 

The chemicals that you get in the store are often not strong enough either and will probably not work. It also makes it harder to work on the drain if you have used this. Plumbers have access to strong chemicals but these are too dangerous for the general audience. Furthermore, they can’t be used in a lot of drains as it would break them down. Therefore not a lot of plumbers use chemicals to unclog a drain.  

How to unblock a clogged kitchen or bathroom sink: fix a slow draining sink

Use a plunger to unclog the kitchen sink drain

Step 1: Check if other sinks drain well in the house. It is possible that the city system or your main system has a problem and blocks up your whole house (we have discussed how to clear the main sewer here). If there is only a problem with one sink, it is time to get a plunger. The plungers for sinks are different for toilets. In some instances, you can fold the plunger so that it can be used for both. Fill the sink with water (you might have to remove nearby electric appliances).

This adds some pressure and can push the clog. Then attach the plunger over the stopper and use a cloth to cover the overflow. Give it a few pumps. It is possible that the water level drops and that the clog is cleared. You might have to use some pressure on the plumber. Make sure that the sink is stable and strongly attached to the wall when you do this. 

If you don’t have a plunger, you can try to use clog remover tools. These are quite cheap and made out of plastic. These are better suited for hair than grease clogs. A coat hanger might work as well. If you have a garbage disposal on the sink, you can let it run again.

A newer tool is using a rubber bladder. This can be attached to your garden hose and is placed in the sink. The bladder will expand and increase the water pressure. This can push clogs away. It might be needed to check if your drain is properly attached though as the pressure can push it away and splash water all over your kitchen or bathroom.

It can be a great solution for people that don’t want to use a plunger. It might be more expensive than a bottle of drain cleaner but you can reuse it and it is better for your drains. You can get an attachment to hook up a garden hose on your kitchen or bathroom faucet. This makes using this bladder quite easy and can clean the clogs quite fast.

How to open kitchen sink drain

Step 2: If this didn’t work, we will have to check what is going on under the sink. There is often a P or bottle-shaped part (or trap). Be careful when you used chemicals before. Wear gloves and eye protection. Grab a bucket and some towels as this can contain some water. You might have to turn off nearby electric appliances (such as the garbage disposal).

-Let’s start with the P-shaped part (this is often in plastic). If you are lucky, you can unscrew a part of this as there is a plastic piece that can be turned loose. You might need a tool to do this as it can be tightened quite hard. Place a bucket under this and check if something comes out of it. 

-If it is a bottle-shaped part (this is often in metal), it might be possible to get the lowest part lose if it is metal. Simply turn on the metal parts. You might need to use quite a lot of force to do this so support the other parts of the drain. Check how everything fits together so you can reinstall it afterward.

Use an auger to unclog the drain if the kitchen or bathroom sink is clogged past the sink.

If this didn’t work, the problem is probably further in the pipes and past the kitchen or bathroom sink. We can use a plumbing snake or auger to reach this. You need to remove the S or P-trap before you can do this as it might get stuck there otherwise. This snake should be gently pushed down the pipes that go in the wall. Wear eye protection and gloves when you do this.

You have to turn this snake around. Be aware that your pipes can bend so you have to make sure that the snake doesn’t get stuck. You can use a snake camera as well if you have this to check what is going on. In some instances, the pipes are not secured that well so you have to be careful as they can break. If this happens behind the wall, you have a problem. 

You can rent more advanced augers from your home department shop. This is the same equipment that plumbers use. You can damage the drains if you don’t know what you are doing so this is only for handy people. It is recommended that you first use a camera to check what is going on.

You can also buy an attachment for your pressure washer. Then you just push this in your drain (after you have removed the trap). It pushes itself forward using water pressure and also sprays water to the other side.

Be careful when you do this as there might be other drains further down. If you push it far in the drain, you will need a camera to check what is going on. You can do a lot of damage if you just push this in your drains without knowing what is going on. Furthermore, if it gets stuck, it can be a pain to get it out of your drains. 

Call your plumber

 Step 4: if this didn’t work, you will have to call your plumber. The problem can be further down the pipes or even in the city sewer system. They have metal snakes or can use water pressure to deal with bigger problems. In a lot of instances, tree roots have gone into the drainage system and are blocking the sewage. Plumbers can cut these roots and make sure that the sink works again. You are not going to be able to remove this yourself. 

Plumbers can run a camera in your system to check what is going on. This makes it a lot easier to diagnose the problem. In most instances, the problem is in the sink itself or further down the drain. Tree roots can often be cut with water pressure. If there is really a big issue (such as a hole in the drain), they might have to dig up the drain and replace it. These are really expensive repairs. 

 Make sure that your plumber shows footage of your own plumbing system. Some plumbers try to fleece customers by showing images of other houses and exaggerating the problem. 

How to unclog a double kitchen sink with standing water

The process is quite similar as outlined before. When you use the plunger, you just have to close one of the holes. This makes sure that air doesn’t escape. Cover both overflows as well.

The P-trap system might be more complex. You might want to take a picture before you start working on it. This will make it easier to remember how you have to assemble it.

A camera can be a great tool in this situation as you can locate the problem. This avoids having to open up the drain if the clog is somewhere else. You can use these cameras for a lot of things in your home so it is a great thing to get. 50 feet is more than enough for most applications.

Avoiding future problems with your sink: water coming back up

There are some things that you shouldn’t put in the drain: grease, long hair, and crumbs. These can lead to buildups and block drains. There are some drain stoppers that hold hair out of the drain. Hot liquids can deform your drains and shouldn’t come in contact with them. 

Some plumbers recommend that you use special products to maintain the drains but this is generally not needed. Just makes sure that you don’t flush items in them. 

Unclogging drains can be very satisfying and there are Youtube channels that follow plumbers as they fix clogs in drains across the country (yes, people are weird).

To conclude, it can be stated that a lot of clogs can be fixed quite easily by working around the sink itself. From using a plunger to checking the traps, a lot of issues can be fixed there. It is also possible to remove clogs further down the drain.

For bigger issues, you will have to call a plumber as they have special equipment to deal with tree roots and bigger clogs.  We have discussed how to unclog a toilet here.

A sink is used every day. Therefore it is important that it keeps working properly. In this post, we have outlined some steps that you can take to unclog your kitchen or bathroom sink. In most instances a plumber is sufficient, in other cases you will have to use water pressure to remove the clog. It is important that you don’t throw items in the sink that can cause clogs. This includes food scraps and garbage.