How to Remove Kitchen Sink Drain

If you notice a musty smell and damp patches in the sink cabinet, you must act fast to prevent further damage. In this situation, the culprit is typically a leaking sink drain. Fast action makes for an easy repair.

If you have never carried out this repair, don’t worry! Let us walk you through how to remove a kitchen sink drain and replace it.

Key Points:

  • A musty smell and damp patches in the kitchen sink cabinet usually indicate a leaking drain.
  • Common causes of sink leaks are broken seals, aged putty, and corroded drains.
  • Proper tools and know-how is necessary to remove a kitchen sink drain and replace it.

Why is Your Kitchen Sink Drain Leaking?

Unfortunately, there is no go-to reason why sinks leak. Instead, there are a range of problems that you will need to explore.

Here are some typical causes of sink leaks:

  • A broken seal: If the plumber’s putty surrounding a joint is too thin, water seeps through
  • The putty dries and perishes: It takes a long time, but putty dries with age. As it does so, it becomes brittle and can’t expand and contract as it should. Cracks begin to show, and pieces break off
  • The drain wears out: Stainless steel drains are durable but not impervious to corrosion. Sometimes you need a new drain or sink basket

What Type of Basket Strainer Do You Have?

The basket strainer catches large items that may have accidentally fallen into the sink. This item can sometimes be the source of the leak, and servicing depends on the type of strainer you have.

Typical strainers include:

  • Locknut strainer: New homes are more likely to have this type. This design looks like a ring that surrounds the threads. A rubber washer between the head and strainer seals any gaps and prevents seepage
  • Locknut strainer with screw attachments: This model uses a plate that fits over the threads instead. Screws in three or four corners secure the plate to the sink
  • Bell washer strainer: This type encloses the strainer completely. A single nut connects the housing to the basket strainer

How to Remove a Sink Drain

Read over each step carefully, and get the proper tools required for your sink before you begin.

Disconnect the Drain from the Piping

Lay down an old towel or cloth first to catch any water that spills out. Put down a small tray or box to store washers or screws you remove safely.

Now find the coupling nut that connects the sink strainer to the pipe. It’s either metal or PVC, and most nuts are relatively easy to spot compared to the rest of the drain.

If the coupling nut is PVC, loosen it by hand, turning it in a counterclockwise direction. Metal nuts may be stiffer, so use an adjustable wrench for them. Again, turn it counterclockwise to loosen it.

If the basket strainer spins as you’re loosening the nut, use pliers to hold it in place from the top. It is best to ask someone to help, but you can stretch to reach it on your own. Once you’ve loosened this fitting, the pipe should come loose.

Optional: Disconnect the drain pipe where it joins the P-trap. This will free up some space to make it easier to work.

Loosen the Sink Strainer

If your model uses screws, remove those using a standard screwdriver. Be sure to match the head and size to the type of screw. Place them in the box or tray and remove the plate.

If your model uses a single locknut, you’ll loosen it in much the same way that you did the coupling further down. You may need to shift it using an adjustable or pipe wrench. You can also stop by a hardware store to purchase a locknut wrench.

Once you’ve loosened the fitting enough for it to spin smoothly, unthread it by hand. If the rubber washer is still in reasonable shape, you can put it back afterward.

At Mr. Kitchen Faucet, we suggest that you replace the washer with a new one. They are not that expensive, and it’s easy to swap it out now that you have everything disconnected.

If you have a bell washer strainer, loosen the nut at the bottom. You may then wriggle the housing free. If it doesn’t budge, use a screwdriver to pry it off.

What if the Connections are Rusted Together?

Sometimes the nut or screws are entirely rusted. Removing them is not easy, so now might be the right time to call in a professional.

If you’d prefer to be your own sink plumbing kitchen hero, be sure to work carefully. Start with a generous application of WD40, cola, or lemon juice. Cola or lemon juice seem like odd choices, but they both dissolve rust and can be used in a pinch.

Allow the liquid to saturate everything, and wait five minutes. Try turning the nut or screw again. If you can’t, apply more liquid and wait a little longer.

If the nut doesn’t budge using pliers or a wrench after this, you’ll have to try something else. In this case, you may even have to cut through the metal and then chisel the residue away.

A rotary multi-tool, along with the correct blade, will cut right through the nut. The danger is that you could also slice the drain or nick the pipe, so work slowly.  

Rusted screws are tricky to pry out. See if you can loosen them by twisting the thread end with pliers. Work slowly and evenly so that you don’t snap the thread.

Remove the Sink Drain

Once you’ve loosened the plate, nut, or fixture, twist the basket strainer. If the fitting and strainer gate doesn’t move, jiggle it a little. This action helps to dislodge sealant remnants. Try to chip away any stubborn little bits with a chisel or pliers.

If it still doesn’t move, lightly hammer the bottom with a mallet. Take care not to damage the sink drain.

Once the sink drain loosens, continue to wiggle it around until you can push it out entirely. Using a plastic knife, scrape away any plumber’s putty from around the opening where the sink drains.

Note: Use plastic to avoid scratching the stainless-steel surface. Scratches allow dirt and moisture to accumulate, speeding the deterioration of the metal.

That’s the end of part one of the sink drain kitchen removal.

Choosing Your New Sink Drain

Drains come in a standard size, but it’s how the drain connects to the sink that you need to get right. For the best results, take the part that you just removed to the hardware store and let them choose the correct drain.

While you’re there, get a new gasket, a putty knife, plumber’s putty, or a non-water-based silicone.

When to Use Silicone Instead of Plumber’s Putty?

With some modern sinks, you must use silicone. If yours is that type, you’ll have seen silicone or a gasket sealing the joint. If you’re not sure, check the manufacturer’s recommendations for your sink and drain.

You can skip the store and get the parts online, but you need to be careful. Order the items about a week before you want to start so that they arrive on time. Choose a drain and nut system that matches yours exactly. If you are not sure what sink parts you need, please go to the store for expert help.

How to Install a Kitchen Sink Drain

Getting the old basket strainer and strainer grate out is the hard part. From here, it will be an easy process.

Take roughly a ping pong ball-sized amount of plumber’s putty out of the container. Preferably use a little too much than too little as it’s easy to scrape away excess putty after installing your sink drain.

Roll out the plumber’s putty into a cylindrical shape. Make it roughly as thick as a pencil and long enough to circle the drain opening.

If you need a little more, add an extra length, and roll the two together. Now lay the ring of plumber’s putty around the sink opening, making sure you place it relatively evenly.

Place the new drain and grate and press it down firmly. Keep going until the excess putty squishes out of the sides.

It looks messy now, but you need to do this to get a good seal. Any gaps in this layer will allow water to drip through. Use your putty knife to remove leftovers.

Wipe the drain down with a damp rag to clear off any remnants of grease. A little soapy warm water will remove any fingerprints on the outside of the drain as well.

The Putty Isn’t Enough on its Own

The pressure of the water when it gushes down the kitchen sink causes the pipes to rattle. If you don’t fix them in place, they’ll break free of the housing pretty quickly.

Fixing the new drain sink strainer in place isn’t a tough chore. Just work backward from the steps above.

Securing Your Work

Remove any packaging on the new parts. Then start by securing the new sink strainer from the bottom. How you’ll do this depends on whether you have a nut, plate, or bell design.

The single nut is the simplest system, and you may secure it by hand most times. Thread the locknut onto the thread. Then screw it into place clockwise. The nut should sit flush against the bottom of the sink and sink strainer.

If your model has a plate and screws, position the plate with the hole in the center. Line up the holes for the screws on the sink strainer and sink. Tighten them into position, taking care not to strip the heads.

Should your model use a bell wash strainer, fit it over the sink drain. Then use the locknut provided to secure it in place. It’s wise to use a pipe wrench or pliers to tighten it correctly.

Connect the Drain Pipe to the Kitchen Sink Drain

Whether or to you’ll need a wrench for this task depends on the type of nut.

With a metal nut, use the wrench. For PVC, you can use your hand. Twist the nut into place under the sink strainer using a clockwise motion until it is snug.

Test For Any Leaks

Put the plug into the drain and fill the sink with water. Run a piece of paper towel along the drain pipe.

If the paper towel gets wet, you’ll have to remove the drain and start again. Should the sheet stay dry, the installation is fine.

There’s just one more test to perform. Remove the plug so the water can drain out of the sink. Take the dry piece of paper towel and run it around the nut that connects the sink drain and piping.

If the paper is dry, everything’s okay. If water comes through, tighten the nut a little.

Need Some Help Finding the Right Connection?

Mr. Kitchen Faucets wants to make our customers’ lives simpler. If you need to upgrade your kitchen sink entirely, look over our sink comparison chart or read our helpful reviews.

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