Unclogging a Sink, Shower or Tub Drain

Unclogging a sink or a blocked drain may sometime be not successful with one method but can be successful through a combination of techniques. Unblocking a clogged drain includes the use of speciality tools and may take some time especially if you have to disassemble the pipes where the clog is. Have a bucket, sponge and cloths ready for messy fixes. We also suggest that you wear protective gear and follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding the proper use of chemical drain cleaners or drain-opening tools if you have to use them. Pay extra caution when unclogging a sink drain especially when working with older pipes. Some chemicals and tools may not be good for them. If your home has corroded pipes and the clog cannot be cleared through DIY, it is best to contact a professional blocked drain plumber to fix the problem for you.

Methods for unclogging a sink, shower and tub
• Remove hair that has collected around the strainer or pop-up stopper. Hair is one of the most common causes of clogs bathrooms.
• Use the stick for the drain to clear clogs in the s-trap or p-trap caused by hair.
• Clean the sink trap by removing clogs caused by the build-up of soap scum or grease and other foreign objects like toys.
• Use an auger or a plumbing snake or a flat sewer rod to clear blockages that are deep in the drain pipes or lines.
• Use chemical drain cleaners that have lye, bleach and sulphuric acid content to soften and break down clogs.

Proper ways to clean stoppers and strainers
• Remove the sink’s stopper or strainer. If the drain is equipped with a strainer, remove the screws securing the strainer and be careful not to let the screws fall down the drain.
• Remove pop-up sink stoppers by twisting and lifting them out. Put a bucket under the assembly. Free the rod from the upright strap and unscrew the lever that seals the drain pipe and pull the rod out. Lift and free the stopper with pliers. Screwdrivers with a magnetic tip will help you keep the screws out of the drain.
• Clean the strainer or stopper and reinstall after. Run tap water to flush any residue and debris from the pipes.

Unclogging a sink drain with a drain stick
• Remove the stopper or strainer. Insert the drain stick down the drain pipe and through the trap. Twist the tool and embed the tip into the clog as deeply as possible to hook the material that causes the clog with the drain stick barbs.
• Pull up the drain stick with any of the cloggy material that it has collected. Let water run through the drain to wash out loose debris and reinstall the stopper or strainer.
Unclogging a sink with a plunger.
• With a wet cloth, block the overflow opening on a tub or sink. For a sink, block the drain and overflow of any nearby basin. Blocking these openings help force of the plunger to be concentrated on the blocked drain.
• If there is no standing water, add 2 to 3 inches of water but not let the water overflow. Plunging will force the obstruction out of the way. For a better and tighter seal, put a thick layer of petroleum jelly on the rim of the plunger cup.
• Remove the stopper or strainer and cover the drain hole with the plunger cup. Plunge up and down repeatedly. After 15 or 30 seconds, look if the water drains properly. If water is draining sluggishly or if the clog has not been dislodged yet, keep trying. Once the drain is clear of the clog, run water to flush any debris left.
• Flat bottom plungers work well for tubs, sinks and showers.

Unclogging a sink p-trap. Some p-traps have clean-out plugs found on the base of the bend that lets you clear clogs without the need to remove the trap. Remove the plug and insert a drain stick, push it around the bends and fish the cloggy materials out.

• Remove any standing water in the sink and place a bucket under the trap.
• Loosen the slip nuts that secure the trap to the sink drain pipe and waste line. Remove the trap and let the water in the pipes and trap drain into the bucket.
• Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands and to have a better hold when detaching the trap.
• Never leave the waste pipe open. Put a wet cloth to prevent sewer gas from seeping into the house.
• Work a bottle brush through the trap and push out any mineral or grease build-up. Check for corrosion that might lead to a leak. If necessary, replace it with a new one. Remove the cloth from the waste pipe and put the trap back. Fill the sink with water and see if it drains properly and test it for any leaks.

Unclogging a sink, shower or tub drain with an auger or a flat sewer rod
• Insert the sewer rod or auger cable.
• If you are using an auger, push the cable until it reaches the material that caused the clog. Turn the crank clockwise to let the tip dig into the obstruction. Twist, push forward and pull the auger or rod back to break up the clog. If you are using a sewer rod, direct it through the pipes until it reaches the clog. Push and pull back to break the clog.
• When you reach the bends of the pipes, twist the sewer rod or auger and push through the bends with moderate force.
• Pull the rod or auger back out when the line clears and the standing water drains. Put everything back together (overflow plate, stopper, strainer or trap) and run water to wash away remnants of the clog. This is also the best time to check the sink trap for leaks.

Unclogging a sink drain with chemical drain cleaners
• Before using any drain cleaning chemicals, ensure that the product you are going to use is suitable for the type of pipes you have or that it is labelled for use for septic systems. The solution should also match the type of clog you have and the fixtures that you are going to use it for.
• Follow the instructions on the product label.
• Avoid mixing chemicals to avoid creating toxic fumes.
• Don’t let the chemicals stay longer than recommended or as directed.
• Don’t use plungers, drain tools, remove a trap or clean-out plug after using a chemical drain cleaner. The chemicals may still be present in the water and they might be harmful to you. If things do not work well with the drain cleaner call a professional plumber to fix the problem.
Preventing drain problems.
• Don’t put grease, coffee grounds or any material that can clump and solidify when dumped into the sink drain.
• Run plenty of water to flush food particles down the pipe when using the disposal.
• Clean strainers frequently.
• Maintain your drains with a suitable regular treatment.
For homes with septic systems, have a plumbing professional inspect it every two to three years

If you need professional help on a unblocking a toilet or  blocked drains, contact the blocked drain experts on 0412 738 874 or leave a message.

Helpful details for a Blocked Drain and Emergency Plumber situation:

Triple zero – 000
City of Melbourne – Floods and Storms
Yarra Valley Water
Victoria State Emergency Service

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