Skip to Content

How to Clear a Clogged Sink Drain

In this post:  DIY tips for how to clear a clogged sink drain without using chemicals.

How to clear a clogged sink drain

When the water starts backing up in your sink, don’t panic. You may not have to call a plumber if you follow these easy steps to clear a clogged sink drain.

I prefer this method for unclogging a drain, because it doesn’t require any chemicals.

BONUS:  You can also use these same steps to rescue something that accidentally falls down the drain.


When I was younger, I dropped an earring down the bathroom sink drain.  I thought it was gone forever, but my dad came to the rescue.  He took the drain apart and got it back for me.

I learned two things that day:

  1. Don’t take your earrings out anywhere near an open drain.
  2. There is actually a trap below the drain, and it’s not that hard to take it apart.

The main purpose of the drain trap is to prevent stinky gases from coming up through the sink.  But it also catches things like lost earrings or toothpaste tube caps.  It can also get clogged up with gunk, and need to be cleaned out once in a while.  Here’s how.




DIY guide download

1.  Place a bucket under the plumbing

Water bucket for cleaning out a drain

Clear everything out from under the sink to make room to work (and to prevent anything from getting wet).  Get yourself a decent light so you’ll be able to see what you’re doing, and we’re ready to go.

The very first objective in any plumbing project is to avoid causing water damage.  Place a bucket (or your empty trash can) under the pipes where you’ll be working to catch the water.

2.  Unscrew the plumbing fittings

Theoretically, you should be able to loosen the plumbing fittings by hand.  Unscrew the trap from both sides.

It’s possible that your fittings may have been over-tightened, or seized up with gunk.  If you can’t get them off by hand, you may need to use a pipe wrench.  Just be careful not to use too much force that might crack or torque your plumbing.

3.  Clear the clogged drain

This is the gross part.  Dump the water out of the pipe, and clean out the gunk.  Any lost items should be trapped in here.

Unclog a sink drain

You may want to take the pipe to a different sink to really clean it out.  Just try to capture most of the gunk that comes out, so you don’t just rinse it down another drain to create a new clog.

4.  Clean out the connecting pipes

More grossness.  Reach your finger into the connecting pipes and clean the gunk out of those, too.

Clear a clogged sink drain

Be sure to clean out both pipes, and take a look up inside for any big clogs.

5.  Reconnect the plumbing

Once it’s clean, put your pipe back in place.  Screw the fittings on by hand so they’re watertight, but not so tight that you can’t get them off next time.

Connect a sink drain trap

6.  Check your unclogged drain

How to clear a clogged sink drain


Leave the bucket in place under the sink as you run water through the drain.  Carefully check for any leaks around all of the fittings.  Tighten any fittings that show leaks.

When your water is flowing freely, and the plumbing underneath remains dry, you have successfully accomplished unclogging a sink drain.  (Or recovering your lost earring.)


DIY Home Maintenance

If you can clear a clogged sink drain, you have what it takes to do many DIY home maintenance tasks.  Be sure to check out Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist for more projects you can do on your own.

And sometimes, the project may be just beyond your DIY ability (or desire).  For tips on hiring a professional, you’ll want to read more about How to Hire the Right Pro for the Job.

How to clear a clogged sink drainEasy steps to unclog a drain


Sunday 4th of November 2018

Great comments - thanks for sharing your information.


Sunday 4th of November 2018

So glad you found it useful, Lynda!


Tuesday 18th of September 2018

Are you supposed to turn the water off first? (I'm definitely a beginner if you can't tell!)


Tuesday 18th of September 2018

Great question, Jennifer! Since you're only dealing with the drain, you do not have to turn the water supply off for this project. Just make sure you don't run the faucet at all while you have the pipes apart.