How To Fix a Bathroom Sink Stopper That is Stuck Shut

Stuck sink stoppers are problematic. It’s one thing if it’s stuck open because at least it lets the water drain, but it’s a whole different ballgame when it is stuck in the closed position.

Grimy, sudsy water fills up your sink quickly, even with just a couple of hand washes.

Quick Answer:

If your bathroom sink stopper is stuck, begin by identifying whether it’s a pop-up or a lever-type stopper. For a pop-up stopper, simply grip the stopper and twist it while pulling upwards. If it’s a lever-type, go under the sink and locate the horizontal pivot rod attached to the drainpipe, disconnect it from the vertical strap, and the stopper should be freed. Always remember to place a bucket under the sink to catch any water when removing parts. If problems persist, consult a professional.

If the drain is stuck shut for long periods, it can render your sink almost useless. You can’t even do something as simple as brushing your teeth or washing your hands without filling the sink, and since you have no way to drain it due to the stuck stopper, another sink may be your best bet until you fix the issue.

Luckily, unsticking a sink stopper is usually pretty simple. If your sink drain stopper is stuck in the closed position, continue reading for a guide on troubleshooting your stuck sink stopper.

Why Is My Sink Stopper Stuck?

Generally, sink stoppers are on bathroom sinks. However, kitchen sinks stoppers are typically no different, so you can use this same guide. There are numerous types of stoppers, such as push-down stoppers, rubber drain plugs, and the like. Popup stoppers are very common in bathroom sinks, which we will address in this article.

Why Is My Sink Stopper Stuck

These pop-up stoppers are relatively simple to navigate as they only have a couple of moving components. So, when something does go awry, you likely have a disconnected component or a broken part. Repairing a broken or disconnected part is generally a straightforward task that is within the capabilities of most individuals.

How Do Sink Stoppers Work?

Bathroom sink stoppers aren’t complex to figure out, as many mechanisms only have a few parts. Each component works with the others to move the plug up and down as you adjust the controlling portion above the sink.

 The lift rod is usually behind the sink and is what you pull to trigger the mechanism. The clevis screw secures the clevis strap, which connects the lift rod and pivot rod to the lift rod. On the other end, the spring clip connects the clevis strap to the pivot rod, which is what pushes the stopper up or down.

If your sink stopper is stuck open or closed, it’s likely that one of these components isn’t functioning as it should. Now that we understand how sink stopper mechanisms work let’s move on to troubleshooting the problem.

Troubleshooting A Stuck Sink Stopper

Troubleshooting A Stuck Sink Stopper

Your first step in this process will be to clear out anything in the cabinet beneath the sink. You will have to spend some time up close and personal with the stopper mechanisms behind the drain pipe, and trying to work around random items in the cabinet is no fun. So, move everything you can out of your workspace.

Check the Clip

The spring clip is one of the possible culprits of your malfunctioning sink. Crawl under your sink and verify that it is still connected to the necessary components. If it has come off, reattach it. If it appears damaged or worn, it’s best to switch it out with the appropriate replacement part.

Horizontal Pivot Rod Issues

Some horizontal pivot rods are composed of steel. Unfortunately, steel is prone to rust, especially if you’ve had a leaky sink. Over time, the steel may wear down from water exposure, becoming weak and not functioning as it should. If the pivot rod has rusted away, replacement parts are necessary.

You can purchase the individual steel replacement part if you like, but steel typically doesn’t last very long in plumbing systems. Brass is a great alternative. If and when you decide to replace the pop-up drain assembly, a brass assembly is the way to go.

Pop-up stoppers that are stuck open can result from disconnected parts as well, so if that is the case, verify that all components are attached and moving as they should.

Broken Pop-Up Plug

Pop-up plugs with a broken end don’t connect to the mechanism as they’re supposed to, thus causing the entire mechanism to be useless. If everything else under the sink looks fine and all of the components are connected, the problem could be with the plug itself.

Check the end of the pop-up plug beneath the sink. There is a thin plastic strip at the base of the stopper flange. If the tailpiece is broken, you’ll need to replace the pop-up assembly.

Repair The Issue

Fixing a Stuck Sink Stopper

Once you have determined what is causing your push-to-pop-up sink stopper to stuck down, you can move forward with fixing the issue. Disconnected parts are a quick and easy fix as long as they are still in good shape. Simply reattach them to their rightful place, and test the mechanism to verify it works.

If you determine you need to replace the entire pop-up assembly, remove the old assembly. To install the new assembly, insert the new stopper into the drain. Slide the clevis above the stopper rod, then insert the horizontal pivot rod into the drainpipe.

Tighten the retaining nut enough to hold the pivot rod into place, but don’t overtighten it. Next, tighten the clevis screw. Check your work with the lift rod to verify that all moving parts are correctly attached.

If the horizontal pivot rod won’t move, the retaining nut is too tight. Tighten it just enough that the stopper rod doesn’t slide down. Loosen the clevis screw, then move the stopper rod up and slide the clevis as far up on the stopper rod as it will go. Then, tighten the clevis screw.

Now, verify that you have a good seal by attempting to fill the sink with water. If the seal isn’t functioning as it should and the sink won’t hold water, adjust the retaining nut and clevis until it works well.

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