Keep your kitchen and bathroom drains running smoothly. Learn simple steps you can take to unclog a stopped sink, tub or shower drain.
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Wear the appropriate safety gear and follow the manufacturer's instructions for use and safety when using any chemical drain cleaner or drain-opening tool. Use caution when clearing clogs in older pipes. Some chemicals and tools may not be suitable. If you have older or corroded pipes, you're concerned about damage, or you can't clear a clog, contact a professional plumber.
See below for instructions and tips on using each of these solutions.
Remove the strainer or sink pop-up stopper.
A screwdriver with a magnetic tip helps you keep the screws out of the drain.
Clean and reinstall the stopper or strainer. Run water to flush any remaining material from the pipes.
Remove the strainer or stopper as described above if necessary. Insert the drain stick down the drain and through the trap. You may need to twist the tool to find the right angle. Embed the tip into the clog as deeply as possible to allow the barbs to hook the material.
Remove the drain stick to pull up any material it snags. Run water through the drain to wash out any loose debris and reinstall the strainer or stopper.
Block the overflow opening on a tub or sink with a wet cloth. If you're working on a sink, block the drain and overflow of any adjacent basin. Blocking these openings helps focus the force of the plunger toward the blockage.
If standing water isn't already present, add 2 to 3 inches, but be careful to keep it from overflowing. As you use the plunger, the water helps force the obstruction out of the way.
Apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly to the rim of a sink plunger cup to create a tighter seal.
Remove the strainer or stopper as described above. Cover the drain hole with the plunger cup and work the handle up and down repeatedly. After 15 to 30 seconds, see if the water drains properly. Try again if the drain is still blocked or sluggish. After you clear the clog, run water to flush away any remnants of the obstruction.
A plunger that has a cup with a flat bottom works well for sinks, tubs and showers.
Some P-traps have a clean-out plug in the base of the bend that may allow you to clear a clog without removing the trap. Take out the plug, insert a drain stick and push it around the bends of the trap.
Bail out any standing water in the sink and place a bucket under both connections of the trap.
Loosen the slip nuts securing the trap to the sink drain pipe and the waste line. Carefully remove the trap, allowing water in the pipes and trap to drain into the bucket. If you use tools on chrome fittings, pad the fittings with a cloth to protect the finish.
Wear rubber gloves to keep your hands clean and give you better grip when removing the trap.
Don't leave an open waste pipe after removing the trap. Plug it with a wet cloth to prevent sewer gas from backing up into the house.
Hold the trap over the bucket and work a bottle brush through it to push out buildup. Check the trap for wear or corrosion that could lead to a leak. Purchase a new one if necessary. Remove the cloth from the waste pipe and reinstall the trap. Fill the sink basin with water and let it drain to test for leaks.
Insert the auger cable or sewer rod.
As you reach bends in the pipes, you may need to twist the auger or sewer rod and use moderate force to push through the turns.
Pull the auger or rod back out when the line feels clear and any standing water drains. Reattach the overflow plate, strainer, stopper or trap and run water through the line to wash any remnants of the clog.
If you removed and replaced a sink trap, test it for leaks.
Make sure the product is intended for your system and is suitable for the type of pipes you have. If you have a septic tank, make sure the product is labeled for use with septic systems. Then match the product to the type of clog you have and the fixture — sink, tub or shower.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions. Keep in mind:
Plumbing vents on the roof of a house draw air into the pipe system to allow household drains to function properly. If a vent is blocked by leaves or other debris, drains may run slowly or stop completely. A clogged plumbing vent can often be cleared with an auger. If you're not comfortable working from the roof, contact a professional plumber.
Watch our DIY Basics video: How Do I Unclog My Toilet?