Jun 8, 2020


9 Ways to Unclog a Drain Without a Plumber

A clogged drain doesn't always mean it's time to call the plumber. Learn how to handle straightforward plumbing tasks with these tips!

A do-it-yourself guide to unclogging a kitchen drain and tips for healthy sink maintenance.

Before you call the plumber to unclog your kitchen drain, put down that phone and read on, you, yes you, can try to unclog a kitchen drain. Roll up your sleeves, move that stack of greasy dishes to the side, and give these do-it-yourself suggestions a try.  

How to unclog a drain

Unclogging a kitchen drain involves a little bit of trial and error. These methods can be done at home using common household materials. If one method doesn’t put an end to the problem, try another until your sink is draining smoothly again. If all else fails, give the plumbing experts at Rümi a call. We specialize in clearing drain stubborn blockages.

1. Hot water

So easy. So cheap! Is there any reason not to try this one first? While you’re waiting for the water to boil, remove as much of that icky standing water from the sink as possible. You’ll want to wear some rubber gloves for this one. When the water is heated, pour the entire kettle into the sink and wait. Do a jig. Sing a song. Do another jig. Just make sure you give the water time to work its magic. Repeat the process several times if the clog hasn’t budged, because seriously, this technique really does oftentimes do the trick.

2. Salt & hot water

Just like you, your kitchen drain may enjoy a nice exfoliation once in a while. While hot water can help loosen up debris, coarse salt actually scours the inside of your pipes, removing more material than hot water alone. After removing standing water from the sink, pour about half a cup of table salt down the drain before you pour in the hot water. Let it sit for a few minutes, and then flush with hot water to clear the mixture.  

3. Vinegar & baking soda

Turns out, everyone’s favourite grade school science experiment (we’re talking papier-mâché volcano) is actually useful! We all know that vinegar and baking soda create quite a fizzle when combined. Well, that’s exactly what it might take to jolt loose that sticky drain debris.

Again, remove standing water first, pour about a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by an equal amount of white or apple cider vinegar. The solution will bubble. That’s good! It means the chemical reaction is working. When the bubbles subside, place a stopper on the drain and wait 15 minutes. Run hot water to see if the clog has cleared and repeat if necessary.  

Pro tip: Vinegar is just one of many natural cleaning alternatives that can be found around your home. Learn more about which household products can make your home clean, green and ready to gleam!

4. Baking soda & salt

If you want super-powered scrubbing without the bubbles, try baking soda and salt together. Mix about a cup of baking soda with a half-cup of salt and pour the mixture down the drain. Let this abrasive combination sit for several hours before flushing with hot water. Repeat the process a few times as needed.

5. Plunger

Oh, the plunger. If the salt, baking soda and vinegar combinations didn’t do the trick, then step it up a notch. If you have a double sink, first seal off the second side with a wet cloth or stopper. Next, since the plunger requires a tight seal to work, fill the sink in question with enough water to submerge the bell of the plunger. Then, plunge away. When you hear that suuuuuuction clear the clog, remove the plunger and flush drain well with warm water. Oh, and please wash your hands afterwards. Thanks.  

6. Garburator

Check to make sure it’s not your garburator that's causing the problem. A clogged device can wreak as much havoc as a clogged drain. If the flywheel is jammed, you may be able to free it using that little wrench supplied by the manufacturer (yes that’s what that thing is for). Follow the manufacturer’s instructions about where to insert the tool and how to turn it. You can probably look instructions up online if you don’t have them on hand.  

Please, please unplug your device before dreaming of sticking your hand down there. But actually, instead of your hand, first use a flashlight to determine what’s causing the issue, and then use pliers or tongs to remove any items that have been caught.  

7. P-trap

The P-trap is that bent piece of drainpipe underneath the sink, usually tucked away in a cabinet. Debris can build up in the bend, and sometimes it just needs a good cleaning. Believe it or not, it’s easy to do this yourself! Place a bucket underneath the P-t rap before removing it. We guarantee some gunk will fall out, but you can handle it. Unfasten the P-trap from the drainpipe and clear out anything that’s stuck. Replace and run water through it.  

8. Plumber’s snake

Unleash your inner plumber. Also called an auger, a plumber’s snake can clear clogs that may be stuck further down the system. Consider unscrewing the P-trap and stub pipe (the arm that connects the sink to a central household drainage pipe) and insert the snake into the pipe until you feel resistance. That’s probably where the clog is. Try to break it up with the coiled metal and then pull it out. Just make sure you don’t scrape up the insides of your pipes, because that can cause leaks. If you hear any scratching, quit what you’re doing and readjust the snake.

9. Coat hanger

This one really makes you feel like MacGyver. A good old wire coat hanger might be the most underrated tool of them all when it comes to clearing a clogged drain. Straighten out a standard hanger and insert it exactly where we suggested in the plumber’s snake section above. Obviously, the hanger can’t reach as far as a snake, but in many cases, you’ll still reach the clog. Get ready for the title of Household Hero to be bestowed upon you.  

Healthy sink maintenance you can do yourself

Your sink appreciates regular maintenance to keep it running smooth and smelling fresh. For routine cleaning, you can use the vinegar and baking soda method mentioned above by pouring equal parts vinegar and baking soda down the drain before flushing with hot water.

If you do have a garburator, don’t overload it. Show some respect! It’s designed to be a kitchen helper, not a miracle worker!

Remember, you can avoid tough clogs by watching what you pour down your sink. Never put bacon grease, coffee grounds or oils down your kitchen drain. If you need to keep a mug next to the sink for the explicit purpose of capturing oils from a pan before placing it in the sink, then so be it. Just make sure your spouse doesn’t mistake it for their morning coffee.

Stuck? Ask a home inspector

Wish you had an expert to bounce your home maintenance ideas off of? Book a 15-minute call with Rümi’s resident certified home inspector to discuss and prioritize projects around the home.

Try a Home Protection Plan!

Looking for a plumbing solution that's a little more hands-off? Sign up for Rümi Home Protection Plan warranty coverage, complimentary Ask a Home Inspector Subscription and more! We offer 3 plans to help you manage home repairs and expenses: