How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink Drain

Water flowing into a stainless steel sink.
What You'll Need
Hot water
Wet rag
Sink plunger
Plumber's wrench
Scrub brush
Mild liquid soap
Hand auger

Your sink is perhaps the most well-used tool in the kitchen. You need it to help prepare meals, and to keep everything in the room clean. However, food scraps and congealed grease can stop up the drain over time, and when this happens you need to know how to unclog it. Follow the advice below for several simple, but highly effective methods to fix this problem.

Step 1 - Run Some Hot Water

Before you plunge or snake your kitchen sink, attempt to break up the source of the clog by running a steady stream of very hot water into the drain. This can help dissolve and/or wash away built up grime and grease. If this fails to produce any results after 10 to 15 minutes, you will most likely need to proceed to other solutions.

Tip: To prevent future clogs, allow hot water to flow down the drain for several minutes a week, to clear contaminants before they have a chance to present a problem.

Step 2 - Plunge the Sink Drain

If hot water failed to do the trick, try plunging the clogged drain. First, take a wet rag to stop up the sink's overflow opening or the other drain in a double sink. This ensures that all the force exerted by the plunger is concentrated on the source of the clog. Then, fill the sink with a small amount of water. Firmly position the head of the plunger over the drain and push and pull it vigorously. With any luck, the hot water from the first step will have provided the clog with some lubrication, enabling it to more easily be dislodged. If plunging fails to produce any results after half an hour, you need to snake the drain.

Step 3 - Remove the Trap

It is better to remove the trap and tail piece that is attached to the pipe from the wall or the floor, and then use the hand auger to snake this drain. Trying to get the corkscrewed end of the auger through the basket strainer can get difficult and if the snake gets caught in the pipe you have a large problem.

Begin this step by placing a bucket beneath the drain trap to catch the water that will flow out when it is removed. Then, use a plumber's wrench to carefully twist off the trap. If your drain trap is dirty, clean it by soaking it in a mixture of warm water and mild liquid soap. Scrub it with a hard-bristled brush or an expendable toothbrush to remove any caked-on grime; then, rinse the solution off in warm water. An exceptionally filthy or rusted drain trap should be replaced.

Tip: If the piping under the sink is chrome plated brass and is old, removing the slip joint nuts may cause it to break. This is common for older chrome-plated piping and traps. It is better to remove these altogether and replace them with PVC piping and traps. Also, if the tailpiece does not come out of the wall or floor, you can cut it flush at the pipe connection and take a small hack saw blade to cut through the brass pipe inside of the larger drain pipe. Just cut through the chrome-plated brass and use a screwdriver to pry it out once it is cut.

Step 4 - Snake the Drain

Carefully insert the corkscrewed end of your auger into the drain pipe in the wall. Turn the handle clockwise to send the end further down the drain, and continue driving it downward until it becomes difficult to turn the handle. This typically means that you have come into contact with the source of the clog. If possible, continue to turn the handle to penetrate and break up the obstruction with the snake end. Once the clog has been successfully taken care of, retract your auger by turning its handle counterclockwise. Then, reassemble the drain and run some hot water down the pipe to wash away any remnants of the problem.

Mark Vander Sande, professional plumber, contributed to this article.