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How to unblock a sink

Sinks can become easily blocked so it's vital we know how to deal with the problem. Discover the best way to unblock a sink with these easy-to-follow tips and techniques.


Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Cleanipedia Team

unblocked sink and plughole
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Key steps

  1. If you think the sink drain is blocked with natural products, such as food or oil, then use cleaning products to break down the blockage.

  2. A plunger is best for actual objects that may have become lodged in the pipes.

  3. If you’re unsure what's causing the blockage, always start with cleaning products.

  4. Limit the amount of food or oil going down your sink by using a plughole filter.

No matter how careful we are, sinks can become blocked relatively easily. This is particularly true of kitchen sinks, as tiny pieces of food can get lodged in the pipes. Let’s get one thing straight: there is no such thing as a permanently blocked drain (you can read more about unblocking clogged drains here). All you need is the right products and the right techniques, and you’ll unblock that sink in no time.

Sink blockages have often been building up for quite some time, so the debris you remove will have had time to grow bacteria. That’s why we recommend using a powerful commercial unblocker and to follow up by cleaning your sink thoroughly with a disinfectant spray.

Techniques for Unblocking Sinks

  • If you think the sink drain is blocked with natural matter that can be broken down, such as food or oil, then cleaning products are usually your best bet. Using them is easy – just follow the instructions and take the proper safety precautions. This method can be very effective at removing this sort of blockage.

  • If you believe the blockage to be down to something else, such as an object that has become jammed in the pipes, it’s best to use a plunger to try and force the object up out of the pipes. 

  • If you have no idea what kind of blockage you have, it’s always worth going down the cleaning product route first and foremost, then moving onto using a plunger if all else fails. Remember – if the blockage is a serious one, you should consult a plumber for advice.

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How to Unblock a Sink: Efficient Products

To unblock sink drains using cleaning products, you’ll firstly want to make sure you have the right products to hand. The most effective option is a store-bought sink unblocker like Domestos Sink and Pipe Unblocker, in which case you will simply need to read the label and follow any instructions and safety precautions.

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Alternatively, you can try weaker combination of baking soda and white vinegar. On opposite ends of the pH scale, baking soda and vinegar create a reaction when they meet, and this is what causes natural blockages to break down. Simply place a tablespoon of baking soda in and around the plughole of the sink, and pour over enough vinegar to cause the mixture to foam dramatically. Leave for 5 minutes before running hot water down the drain until the water drains quickly from the sink – a sure fire sign that the blockage has been removed.

Bear in mind, however, that this method does not smell the most pleasant!

Safety Warning

It is essential that you do not combine or follow up the vinegar method for unblocking sinks with a product containing bleach – bleach and vinegar react to create a toxic chlorine gas.

Unblocking Sinks Using a Plunger

If the above method fails to produce results, or if you know for sure that the blockage is a foreign object in the drains (for example, a child’s plastic toy), then it’s time to dig out the plunger.

  1. Make sure to use a sink plunger when you are unblocking a sink – a toilet plunger will not be effective.

  2. There’s actually more to using a plunger than you might think, but it’s certainly not difficult. One trick is to make sure that the overflow is blocked. You can do this by placing a damp cloth over the overflow and holding it tightly. If the overflow isn’t blocked, the air you’re pushing through will simply redirect to the overflow and you won’t have enough pressure in the pipes to dislodge the object.

  3. Next, place the plunger over the plughole and ensure there’s a tight seal (wetting the plunger will make this much easier).

  4. Pump up and down quickly to build up air pressure in the pipes – this is the key to forcing the object out of the drains.

  5. Repeat a few times and then check the trap for the object. If you haven’t cleaned the trap for a while, you may notice quite a bit of food matter, debris, and hair in there, so take this opportunity to give it a good clean.

Sink Blockage Prevention

We’re not perfect, and we can’t remove the risk of sink blockages from our lives completely. What we can do, however, is learn how to reduce the occurrences of blockages. The most important thing is to limit the amount of food and oil that could potentially slip down your sink. Try placing a filter on your plughole – this will allow you to catch large pieces of food and throw them out without touching them. Pour used oil into a plastic container (once cooled, of course), and throw it in the bin. Ideally, water and soap are the only things that should be passing through those drains.

Don’t forget, use biocides carefully, and always protect your hands with gloves!

Originally published