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How to Clear a Clogged Kitchen Sink Drain

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Unclogging a kitchen sink can be one of the most annoying, frustrating, and potentially messy fixes you’ll have to do in a year. And, no matter how careful you are about the things you toss down the drain, it inevitably happens. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to handle, and shouldn’t require calling a plumber.

Things to know:

  • Buy a plunger specifically for the kitchen. Using the same plunger you use in the bathroom is kind of gross.
  • Don’t use drain cleaners in the kitchen. They can damage your pipes, fittings and garbage disposals, and you run the risk of having that burning liquid splash up at your face if you end up plunging the sink anyway.
  • Dish cleaning gloves may help you stomach the situation if clogs gross you out.
  • AirGap_Image_UncloggingSinkMany sinks have an air gap — a small chrome dome that sits on top of the sink, and which prevents contaminated water from slipping back into a dishwasher. (Homes without a dishwasher sometimes use this mount for a spray hose that can be used when cleaning dishes.) The problem? There are open air slots in an air gap, and when you’re plunging a sink that dirty water can come flying out. Needless to say, this can get messy. Either have a friend tightly hold a rag over the top when you’re plunging, or look under the sink for the hose that connects the air gap to the garbage disposal. Using a clamp on that hose will block the water.

Finally, there are different methods you have to use depending on the type of sink in your home.

Unclogging Sinks That Have a Garbage Disposal

  1. Remove your sink strainer and any gunk that can be easily removed by hand.
  2. Block the air gap if you have one.
  3. Put petroleum jelly on the rim of the plunger and place it over the drain hole; the petroleum jelly isn’t necessary, but it does make a tighter seal.
  4. Rapidly pump the plunger multiple times, lift it out, and see if the water drains. If it doesn’t work, repeat the process.

Unclogging Sinks That Don’t Have a Garbage Disposal

  1. If you have a double sink, put a stopper into the drain hole that is NOT clogged. If you don’t do this, you’ll just be pumping the clogged drain water into the second sink, and not creating enough suction to do the job. 
  2. Remove your sink strainer and any gunk that can be easily removed by hand.
  3. Block the air gap if you have one.
  4. Put petroleum jelly on the rim of the plunger and place it over the drain hole; the petroleum jelly isn’t necessary, but it does make a tighter seal.
  5. Rapidly pump the plunger multiple times, lift it out, and see if the water drains. If it doesn’t work, repeat the process.

Don’t give up if this doesn’t work right away. Sometimes it just takes a bit of persistence to get things moving again. That said, if the plunging doesn’t work, you can try removing the sink trap (also called a P-trap) — which is that curved section of pipe located under the sink — and see if the clog is in there.

Below is a great short video that shows just how easy this is. If you have a clogged sink there will be a lot more water coming out of the pipe than what you see in this video, so have a bucket or pot that’s large enough to catch it all; otherwise, you’ll have a big wet mess to clean up.

If the clog isn’t in the sink drain or the sink trap, then it might be time to call in professional help.

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