We’ve all had times when our kitchen sink stops draining, and the water backs up, filling the sink with an unattractive sludge from who-knows-where.
Making the best decision on the spur of the moment is hard to do. “Should I call a plumber right away?” “Can I fix it myself?”
I have good news: You don’t have to reach out to plumbing experts to clear your drainage and pipes, at least not yet. Most of these kitchen sink issues are usually fixable, provided you follow the right steps.
Water coming up back up the kitchen sink drain is often indicative of underlying problems. Your sink didn’t just randomly decide to send water back up or to clog on its own. It probably has everything to do with drainage problems, which is why you must be ready to take immediate action.
If you want to know how to unclog a sink and how to address the situation immediately, then you couldn’t be at a better place. In what follows, I will provide tips on what to do to solve your kitchen sink problems, and how to get your water flowing properly down the drain.
Table of Contents
Plunge the Blockage
A blocked sink, similar to a blocked toilet, always indicates potential plumbing issues in the drainage system. While there are several ways to unclog your sink, it is always ideal to start with the ones that are simple and easy to execute.
The plunger is your best friend in this situation, as it can help you determine the extent of your drainage problem. Simple clogs can be cleared through vigorous pumps of a plunger. However, if the plunger does not work, then maybe it is time you try other methods (which I will discuss).
How does one use the plunger effectively?
The issue of how to unblock a sink is often a tricky one for first-timers. To use the plunger, simply position it over the drain and pump aggressively for about half a minute. Observe if the water drains and repeat the plunging action many times.
In case the clog persists after using the plunger, then your sink has ‘deeper’ clogging issues that probably require other plumbing methods to effectively clear your pipes. (Note that toilet and kitchen plungers are different in structure and you shouldn’t use a toilet plunger in your sink.)
Here is a good video on YouTube that I found helpful:
Use Boiling Water
Sometimes a pipe can get clogged due to soap residue, oils, and debris that might get stuck in the sink drain. Using boiling or hot water can help unblock sinks and get your system to function as required. You will need to boil water and pour it into the sink opening. Boiling water can help melt grease and other clogging agents that might have built up in your sink.
However, if your drain is connected to a PVC pipe, using this method is not ideal because boiling water can melt the plastic. Try this home plumbing method several times until the sink unclogs. If it doesn’t, then it is time to try another option.
Examine the Garbage Disposal
Does your sink drain have a garbage disposal? If so, then it could be the origin of your drainage problems. A blocked garbage disposal system might force water back up the pipe.
You should turn on the garbage disposal to see if the blockage will be unclogged. But, if the disposal is dysfunctional or overheated, then it might fail to turn on. You might still be able to reboot the system by activating the reset switch that is usually located at the bottom or side of the unit.
Turn on the disposal again to see if it will clear the clog in your pipes.
If you hear a humming sound once you turn on the disposal, chances are the unit could be broken or jammed. Always remember to turn off your garbage disposal system before attempting to fix the unit. You should never place your hand or stick your fingers in the disposal.
Once the disposal system is fully turned off, you can attempt to turn the blades manually by inserting an Allen wrench through the hole and twisting clockwise until you feel reduced resistance, which is an indication that the blockage is gradually breaking up.
After you feel the clog to be loosened up, turn the power on, and proceed to test the disposal. If the disposal system was the source of the clog, then water should flow down the drain with relative ease.
Try Baking Soda and Vinegar Mixture
This method is highly effective, especially when dealing with grease, oil, and food residues in your sink drain. The first step when using this method is to remove the water that came back up the sink.
There are several methods of getting the mixture inside the pipes. The first one is a direct application: Just pour a cup of baking soda directly down your drain. You can use a spoon or spatula to force the powder down if the need arises. After pouring in the baking soda, then pour a cup of vinegar down the drain and place a plug to seal the opening and allow it to reach your drainage pipe.
Allow the mixture to sit for a while, at least 20 minutes.
You can also choose to mix one cup of baking soda with vinegar before you pour it. To do so, you will need to place the baking soda in a bowl. Afterward, place an equal amount of vinegar and stir the mixture until it starts to fizz. As soon as the fizzing starts, pour the mixture down the drain and place a plug over the drain. I advise allowing the mixture to sit for several hours.
Whichever method you select, you should pour boiling water down the drainage after allowing the mixture to sit. The hot water will melt and remove the residues that might have been left behind by the baking soda and vinegar mixture.
The mixture is ideal as it breaks down food particles while weakening the bonds formed by grease and oils on your drainage pipe, thus allowing for easy melting and cleaning when rinsed with water.
The Plumber’s Snake Can Help
Some tough clogs require superior plumbing tools to get the job done. With a plumber’s snake, you can dislodge debris while pulling it out of the drainage pipe. You can also improvise and use a wire coat hanger if you don’t have a plumber’s snake. Feed the plumber’s snake slowly down the drain without being too rough. (You don’t want to push the clog or debris further down.)
A plumber’s snake will help you to access clogs that are hard to reach. Once you are confident that you have broken down the debris, the next step is to pour hot water down the drain to further clean up and remove residue that might be left in the pipes. Test to see if your sink drains the water as expected.
Preventing Future Clogs
Since kitchen sinks are always in use, it is important to practice regular maintenance to prevent residues from building up and forming clogs. I recommend running boiling water down the drain regularly to break down grease and oils. While you don’t have to do this every day, doing so weekly can help you avoid several plumbing issues.
You should also avoid overloading or straining your garbage disposal system. If you can, refrain from sending large chunks of food down the disposal system. Granted, the system is convenient in improving your overall drainage system, but that doesn’t mean you should send a lot down the unit as it eventually affects your pipes and their ability to drain.
Cleaning up grease and oils from plates using paper towels will also come in handy in preventing gradual build-up of these hard-to-remove clogging agents. If you try these proven methods and your sink doesn’t improve, then you should consider trying a professional plumber to advise you on the way forward.