Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Is a Clogged Sink Drain?
- 2 What Do You Need To Know About Unclogging a Sink?
- 3 What Are The Different Ways to Unclog a Sink?
- 4 When Should You Hire A Professional To Unclog a Sink Drain?
- 5 How Much Does Unclogging a Sink Cost?
- 6 What Should You Look For In A Drain Cleaning Specialist?
What Is a Clogged Sink Drain?
Every sink in your home has a drain in the bottom to dispose of used water, called gray water. The gray water enters the drain from the faucet and is routed to your main sewer line, which either connects to your public sewer system or to a private septic tank or cesspool.
A clogged sink drain occurs when something stops up the drainpipe or any portion of the line leading out of your home. The water backs up to your drain, resulting in slowly draining or totally stagnant water that doesn’t exit the sink. In most cases, homeowners notice poor drainage rather than no drainage, which is caused by a partial clog rather than a total blockage.
Bathroom sinks generally get clogged because of hair accumulating in the P-trap, S-trap, or the piping below these areas. Kitchen sinks more often become blocked because of food particles, and some of the worst kitchen sink clogs are caused by solidified grease in your drain pipes.
What Do You Need To Know About Unclogging a Sink?
Before you attempt to unclog your sink as a DIY plumbing project, you should know how your trap works, the standard methods that can damage your plumbing lines, and why it’s so important to take the issue seriously.
Know How Your Trap Works
If you’ve ever looked under your sink, you’ve likely noticed a piece of PVC pipe that dips down from the sink drain, then curves upward, and finally drops down into the floor or the wall.
This section of piping is called an S-trap, and it’s a crucial part of your plumbing system. Another common variation dips down more slowly after the upward bend and is called a P-trap.
The trap below your sink catches water and only drains when enough water enters from the drain. The water blockage prevents dangerous and hazardous sewer gases from entering your home, but it also tends to catch hair, food scraps, and other debris. The shape of the trap makes it one of the most problematic parts of your plumbing when it comes to buildup.
Knowing how your trap functions is essential because it should be the first thing you check for a clog. More often than not, the problem is in your trap and can be cleared relatively easily without much plumbing knowledge.
You should also understand that the trap can only be assembled and disassembled because it isn’t glued together with PVC glue. Instead, it relies on screw-on couplings and rubber gaskets to create a watertight seal while maintaining an easy access point for clearing drain clogs.
Unfortunately, these couplings are the weakest points in your drain pipes, and they can easily get damaged by several of the popular methods for clearing a sink clog.
Many homeowners believe a plunger will help push whatever is causing the clog further into the piping and toward the sewer line. While this is true, excessive force while plunging can crack the couplings and cause them to leak, worsening your issue.
Some property owners turn to chemical drain cleaners that use caustic chemicals to eat away anything that could be causing the blockage. Unfortunately, these chemicals can severely damage the soft PVC used for drain pipes, again making your issue more severe rather than solving it.
Finally, a drain snake is a common go-to do-it-yourself solution to clean a sink drain. These tools work well, but using them with excessive force when they reach the clog will likely cause damage to the couplings that hold your trap together.
Why Are Clogged Drains a Serious Plumbing Problem?
Most people with partial blockages believe that their clogged sink drain is nothing more than a nuisance. Unfortunately, sink clogs can indicate very severe problems, so you should approach them with the mindset that they may be more than a minor inconvenience.
Most sink clogs can be remedied by disassembling and cleaning the trap, but those that persist even when the trap has been cleared are signs of a clog deeper within your plumbing pipes. Clogs in the lines behind your walls can not only be challenging to access, but they also often require you to remove sheetrock and other building material if the clog is severe enough.
Kitchen sink clogs, in particular, can be problematic if the clog is caused by solidified food grease. When grease hardens in your PVC pipe, it can cause a total blockage that is extremely challenging to remove without taking out the affected piping entirely and replacing it with new PVC piping. This process is not only intrusive and often requires renovation after the fact, but it’s also labor-intensive and can be costly.
What Are The Different Ways to Unclog a Sink?
There are several methods both DIYers and professional plumbers can use to clear a clog in a bathroom or kitchen sink.
Clearing the Trap
The first thing any DIYer should do if they’re comfortable disassembling some PVC couplings is to take apart the trap and clean it out. Many sink clogs are caused by material caught in the trap, so clearing hair or food scraps from this problematic section of PVC can often get rid of your clog.
If you’re not confident in your ability to take apart your trap and put it back together, a plumber can complete this for you for a very affordable price.
Hot Water, Baking Soda, and Vinegar
A very common and simple method used by homeowners involves first pouring a gallon or two of boiling water down your drain. Next, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. After about fifteen minutes, pour an additional gallon of boiling water into the sink drain.
This method should only be used if you have a slowly-draining sink and not a complete blockage, as adding water to a sink that isn’t draining at all will only back up the sink further and need to be removed by a plumbing company. It’s not the most effective way to clear a sink clog, but it is very affordable, easy, and quick.
Using a Plunger
Just like clearing a toilet clog or a shower drain clog, a sink plunger can sometimes help push the material caught in your sink drain further into your piping and out into the main sewer line. Some homeowners use this method for minor clogs, but it can be dangerous if the clog is more severe.
A plunger creates water pressure inside your piping to force the clogged material down. However, if the hair or food particles don’t budge when you plunge downward, the high pressure will instead be exerted on your pipe.
Like we described earlier, your PVC pipe is relatively strong, but the couplings used to keep the trap accessible are weak. These can give way under the stress and leave you with a damaged drain line that leaks under your sink.
Snaking the Drain
A plumber’s snake is a very handy tool for clearing sink clogs. It’s a long, flexible metal rod, usually with a coil surrounding the exterior. The end that stays outside the sink has a handle for turning the snake once it’s inserted into your plumbing.
Electric snakes – usually called augers – use a motor to spin the coil for more efficient clearing capability.
As the coiled rod spins, the thin metal grabs hair and other debris trapped in your pipes, which then gets pulled out when the snake is removed. Plumber’s snakes are helpful for clearing a variety of material stuck in your sink drain, and it’s especially adept at pulling out hair. It’s a relatively inexpensive tool, and most homeowners can snake a drain effectively.
Unfortunately, using a plumbing snake incorrectly can damage the pipes under your sink drain. Many homeowners push the snake in until they meet the material causing the clog and then force the snake in further. This can push the clog further into the pipe, making it more challenging to remove.
DIYers can use plumber’s snakes, but a professional plumber will have the experience to use it to remove a clog safely.
For more information on snaking your drain properly, check out the below video:
Hydro jetting is a technique that should only be used by professional plumbers, as it can be very dangerous and damaging even for property owners who are accustomed to home improvement projects.
For severe clogs, a plumber will use a hydro-jet to force water into your drainpipe. The pressure can often push even the toughest of material out to your sewer line for proper disposal.
The intense stress on your pipes from hydro jetting can cause significant damage and burst pipes, so great care must be taken when using this method to clear clogged sinks.
When Should You Hire A Professional To Unclog a Sink Drain?
Clearing a clogged sink drain can seem like an easy fix, but in many cases, it’s best to call in a professional. If you have a very minor blockage that causes a somewhat slow drain and doesn’t entirely stop up the water, you can safely disassemble the trap, clean it, and reassemble it if you’re comfortable doing so. In many cases, clearing the trap beneath your sink will fix the issue.
If clearing the trap doesn’t work, we recommend calling a plumber for help. If you’re a skilled DIYer and want to try some less dangerous methods of clearing your drain, you can try very light plunging and snaking, but you should take great care not to make the issue worse.
You’ll also need to be careful not to damage your drainpipe, especially the couplings that are weaker than the PVC pipe.
You should always call a professional plumber for help if you’re experiencing a total clog, where water doesn’t drain from your sink at all. This means you have a full blockage, and removing it safely and completely can be very challenging. A plumber will often carry out a video camera inspection to determine the cause of the clog and the best way to clear it.
How Much Does Unclogging a Sink Cost?
The national average cost for clearing a sink clog is $300, but the total drain cleaning cost for your sink will depend on the severity of the clog and the time involved in removing it. We’ll provide some specific pricing below based on how significant the clog is.
Minor clogs that still allow the sink to drain slowly can be as inexpensive as $100 to clear if the trap just needs to be cleaned out. This process isn’t very time-consuming, and many handy homeowners can do it themselves.
If you’ve tried clearing the trap and the clog didn’t go away, you can expect to pay an average cost of around $250 to have a plumber snake the drain for you.
For a more significant clog or a total blockage of a single plumbing fixture, most plumbers charge between $350 and $1,000.
Generally, sinks that are totally blocked average around $500 to clear, but the work and time involved can bring that number up significantly. This type of clog usually occurs in kitchen sinks where solidified grease has accumulated in the piping.
Sewer line replacement may be required if multiple fixtures are backed up and the clog can’t be cleared using other methods. This service costs an average of $6,000 but can reach upward of $25,000 for very severe clogs.
What Should You Look For In A Drain Cleaning Specialist?
When you’re choosing a local plumber to clear your clogged sink, we recommend opting for one who has years of experience, extensive training, and plumbing certification.
Clogged sinks can be a recurring problem for many homeowners. Hiring a master plumber will bring your project cost up, especially if they charge a service call fee in addition to their normal rate. However, they are more likely to fix the issue entirely rather than provide temporary relief.
Clogged drains can be challenging to assess before the work begins, but expert plumbers will often charge a flat rate rather than an hourly rate. If you have the option, a flat rate will ensure your total plumbing repair cost won’t be exceptionally high if the clog takes a long time to clear.
Finally, we strongly recommend you select a plumber who provides a satisfaction guarantee for their work. A plumber who can guarantee you’ll be pleased with their work is much more likely to provide excellent plumbing service and peace of mind.