Top 10 Ways to Unclog a Kitchen Drain

dogs and cats in bathtub

It’s happened to all of us at one time or another. You come home to discover your kitchen drain is clogged, and you need to get it unclogged quickly. Since clogged drains happen at all hours of the day, sometimes it just isn’t possible to call in a plumber to get the job done for you. More than that, plumbers, though well worth their hourly wage, are expensive, and sometimes, your budget just doesn’t allow for bringing in a professional. Thankfully, unclogging your drain is one problem you can figure out how to get the job done yourself.

Here are our top tips to unclog a kitchen drain:

  1. Try hot water

The easiest way to possibly unclog a kitchen drain is inexpensive and easily available in every home: hot water. Begin by boiling a pot of water. While the water is heating, you can make use of the lag time to remove as much of the remaining water in your sink. Since the stagnant water may contain debris or smell unpleasant, it is recommended that you wear gloves for this job.

Once the water you are heating has reached the boiling point, simply pour the hot liquid into the drain and wait for the water to work its magic. If the first attempt is unsuccessful, you can repeat these steps several times until the drain is unclogged. Though this technique sounds very simple, it is often highly effective, and therefore, is well worth your effort. 

  1. Add some salt to it

Was a hot water bath not quite enough to dislodge the clog? Why not try adding an abrasive to it like good, old-fashioned table salt? On occasion, your kitchen drain may require some de-scaling to remove debris that has become attached to your pipes. Coarse salt is the best choice for this job, providing a scrubbing action that removes any buildup.

To use this technique, begin by pouring a generous amount of coarse salt down the drain, allowing sufficient time for the salt to work. Follow up the salt application with a full kettle of boiling water then permit enough time for the salt and water to clean the drain. Follow this up with more hot water to push the remaining salt and water mixture through the drain and pipes.

  1. Try a different chemical equation

Hot water and salt just not getting the job done? It might just be time to try on a new chemical equation for size: baking soda and vinegar. Two items found in every household, the combination of baking soda and vinegar is a very powerful cleaning agent. When mixed together, baking soda and vinegar foam, and this emulsion is able to effectively tackle built-up debris, sticky residue, and outright clogs.

As with the two previous techniques, you will need to remove as much of the standing water from the sink before beginning this method. Once you have done this, sprinkle approximately one cup of baking soda directly into the drain and top this with the same amount of common white vinegar. You should immediately see a bubbling action which indicates that the chemicals are working together to create a cleansing effect. Wait until the bubbling completely ceases then put a sink stopper in place and allow the mixture to continue its work for another 15 minutes. Once the 15 minutes are up, remove the stopper and run a generous amount of hot water through the drain and pipes to rinse it thoroughly. This process can be repeated if needed.

  1. Consider baking soda and salt

Baking soda and salt go together like peas and carrots. If you are looking to unclog your drain but without having to deal with bubbles, this is the method for you. Simply combine one cup of baking soda with a half cup of salt then apply the mixture into the drain. Allow this mixture to work in the drain and pipes for a period of a few hours. Follow up the wait time with a generous flow of hot water, repeating the entire process as often as required until the drain is unclogged.

  1. Make use of a plunger

If you’ve tried water, salt, vinegar, baking soda, and even a combination of all of the above to no avail, it’s time to break out the plunger. If you are trying to unclog one side of a double sink, you will need to seal the unaffected side with a wet rag or a well-fitting stopper. In order for the plunger to do its job, you must get a tight seal. Fill the sink with the clog with sufficient water to cover the bottom of the plunger then begin the plunging action. When the drain has been unclogged, you will hear a popping sound. You can then cease plunging and rinse the drain well with water that is warm or hot.

  1. Inspect your garburator

Sometimes, the problem comes from a different spot than you suspect. A clogged garburator can be every bit as much of a problem as a stuck drain. If the flywheel on your garburator is stuck, you can make use of a small wrench to try to loosen it. These wrenches are usually provided by the manufacturer at the time of the unit’s purchase and are designed specifically for this purpose. Be sure to read the instructions in the garburator’s manual and to carefully adhere to them while attempting to free your flywheel. Always be sure to unplug the garburator before attempting to repair it. Best safety practices dictate that you should never insert your hand into the unit. Instead, make use of a flashlight to identify the problem then utilize a pair of pliers to remove any foreign objects.

  1. Take a look at the P-trap

When you have tried every possible method to unclog your sink and there is still something keeping it from draining properly, it’s time to check the P-trap. The P-trap is a pipe found beneath the sink, and it is usually hidden underneath a cabinet. Because the P-trap is bent, debris can accumulate in the curved crevices. When this occurs, a thorough cleaning is required. Thankfully, this is not a difficult job to do. Put a bucket directly beneath the P-trap then unfasten it. Be prepared for some gross looking and smelling material to fall out. Completely remove the P-trap from the drainpipe and clean out any debris on the inside. Rinse the P-trap then return it to its original position, carefully tightening the pipes in place.

  1. Use a plumber’s snake

If all else fails, put on a plumber’s hat and try a snake. Also sometimes referred to as an augur, a plumber’s snake is a tool that can bend and reach inside the pipes to dislodge material that is causing a clog in the system. The best course of action is to loosen the P-trap and stub pipe and apply the snake inside the pipe until you feel pressure against it. The resistance you feel is likely what is causing the clog in the sink. This blockage can then be broken up into smaller particles that can be washed down the drain. In some cases, you will need to make use of a hooked object to remove the debris. Be careful not to scrape the pipes with your snake as this can lead to leaks down the road.

  1. Consider the coat hanger

Don’t have a snake? You can make one yourself using a wire coat hanger. Straighten out the hanger and insert it into the pipe with the P-trap and stub pipe removed. The hanger does have the disadvantage of not being able to reach as deeply as a snake, but it is often sufficient length to dislodge whatever is clogging the system. 

  1. Try dynamite

Tried our top nine tips and still haven’t had any luck? Well, if you’re still determined to do it yourself, we’ve got one final trick for you, and this one’s guaranteed to get results: try dynamite! Though dynamite is sure to get the job done, replacing your entire house might be more expensive than simply calling in a pro to unclog your drain. If you’ve tried steps 1-9 and you’re seriously considering step #10, we recommend calling a plumber!

picture of a cat after a bath

How Can I Prevent Clogs from Occurring Again in the Future?

The best way to keep clogs from occurring is by providing regular maintenance on your sink. Baking soda and vinegar combined together makes an excellent cleanser that helps to keep debris from building up in your pipes. By cleaning your drain and sink once a month or even slightly more often, your pipes will remain healthy and free from buildup.

Part of your maintenance should include regular inspections of your garburator. Be careful not to overload it with things that can become stuck to the blades or that will not break down easily.

But the most important thing you can do to prevent future drain clogs is to be careful about that you put down your drains. Pet hair attached to food dishes and water bowls can accumulate, leading to future clogs. If you attempt to wash your cat in the sink, you may end up not only with some war wounds but also a large amount of cat hair at the bottom of your drain. It is wise to remove all pet hair from your sink and drain by hand. Other items that should never go down your sink include bacon grease, oil, butter, and coffee grounds. To dispose of these items, make use of a soup can or coffee mug that can later be thrown away.

If my sink becomes clogged, do I have to call a plumber? Chances are unclogging your drain is something you can resolve completely on your own. But just in case you run into a problem that’s too stubborn for you to fix by yourself, keep a plumber’s phone number close at hand!

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