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What Is The Best Way To Unclog A Drain?

Unclog A Drain

Unclogging a drain is not a pleasant task, and it is not one that can be postponed. Many of us are familiar with an annoying clogged drain inconveniently interrupting dish-washing time. The dirty water starts draining slowly or maybe not at all, and the blockage is not always visible. Thankfully, there are a few tips and tricks that every homeowner should know when encountering a clogged drain. By following these techniques, a clogged drain will be a much smaller hurdle to overcome.

Boiling Water

Simply pouring boiling water down the drain should be the first go-to strategy when dealing with a clogged drain. Debris such as hair, grease, and soap residue can be loosened and released with boiling water.

Bring about a half-gallon of water to a boil and then steadily pour it down the drain opening. Once it is all poured, turn on the faucet to test if the water drains properly. If not, repeat the process.

Caution: If the drain is attached to PVC pipes, do not pour boiling water down the drain to avoid melting or damaging the plastic.

Some types of blockage will be too stubborn for boiling water. After attempting this method a couple of times, move onto another technique.

The Garbage Disposal

It is time to check the garbage disposal. Blockage in the garbage disposal could be the cause of a slow-draining sink. If your garbage disposal refuses to power on, it may be overheated or dysfunctional. Wait for it to cool down, then flip the reset switch which is usually located on the side or bottom of the unit. Once it is rebooted, try powering it on again to clear the clog.

A low humming sound may mean that your garbage disposal is jammed or broken. Before attempting to diagnose the machine, it is very important to disconnect the power and remember to never stick your hand in the garbage disposal, even when it is off. Insert an Allen wrench into the bottom of the disposal, and manually twist the blades until resistance is felt. Keep twisting until the resistance releases, which hopefully means the blockage is breaking up. If unsuccessful, you may have to seek professional help or consult the owner’s manual.

When the garbage disposal is unclogged, turn it on and carefully listen to make sure it sounds normal again. Finally, run the tap water again and see if the sink drains properly.

If the garbage disposal is not the culprit of slow drainage issues, bring out the plunger.


A flat-bottomed plunger is recommended for unclogging sinks. If one is not available, then a toilet plunger can be used, although it is less sanitary and may not perform as well.

Successful plunging requires a seal around the drain, which water can do. Fill the sink with hot water until it is halfway full. Put the plunger over the drain and quickly pump it up and down. Maintain a firm grip on the plunger and focus on the precise force. Remove the plunger and give the water a few seconds to begin draining. If nothing happens, repeat the plunging process a few times.

Plunging may still not be the key to unclogging a drain. Let’s move on.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

The powerful combination of baking soda and vinegar may finally do the trick in breaking down the blockage. This method is a natural alternative to chemical drain cleaners, which is favorable to many people. The ingredients are common household items, so there is no need to make a special trip to the store.

This approach requires that any standing water in the sink be removed. Grab a cup or bowl and scoop out as much water as possible. Pour one cup of baking soda down the drain. If necessary, push the baking soda further down the drain with a long object such as a spatula or spoon. Follow the baking soda with one cup of white vinegar, then seal the drain opening with a cover.

After letting the mixture sit for about fifteen minutes, remove the cover and run hot tap water down the drain. Pouring boiling water down the drain can also be done again.

By now, you should be making some progress with unclogging the drain. If it is still not completely unclogged, the baking soda and vinegar combination can be put to use again.

Plumber’s Snake

If the blockage still remains after trying all of the above techniques, resort to the plumber’s snake. This tool is a coiled spiral snake that you can send into the drain and hook onto obstructions. By cranking the handle, debris can be dislodged and even pulled out of the drain in some cases.

Not everyone has a plumber’s snake, but a makeshift one can be made. Use pliers to unwind a wire coat hanger into a single long piece. Leave the hooked end as is, since this part will grab onto the debris in the drain. If needed, reshape the hook to help it fit down the drain.

Whether using a real plumber’s snake or a homemade one, begin feeding it down the drain. Prevent pushing the clog further away by feeding the tool down only a few feet at a time and not pushing too forcefully. It can be tricky to maneuver, but patiently attempt to hook the tool onto the obstruction and pull it up through the drain.

If you are able to pull up an obstruction, run hot water to check if you removed all of it. If not, return the snake down the drain and try again.

Clean the P-trap

The elbow-shaped pipe under your sink is known as the P-trap, which might be holding the drain blockage. The bend in the pipe can catch food, grease, and other debris, causing the sink to drain slowly or stop draining altogether.
Cleaning the P-trap requires disassembling the pipe to remove whatever gunk that is slowing water flow. The use of gloves, goggles, and towels is recommended when undertaking this messy task.

To capture any water or debris that may fall out when taking apart the pipe, place a bucket under the P-trap. Unscrew the connectors on the trap that hold the elbow-shaped piece onto the vertical and horizontal pipes. When the P-trap is detached, give it a thorough cleaning. Once all the gunk, grime, and unwanted residue are removed, reconnect the pipes.

Run hot water down the drain. If it is still not draining properly, the drain may be clogged farther up the pipe. Repeat the steps to remove the P-trap, this time also removing the horizontal pipe that connects the whole contraption to the wall. Grab the plumber’s snake or reshaped coat hanger again and fish it into the wall pipe. If the obstruction is found, pull the blockage out before reassembling the pipes and P-trap. Be sure to secure the connectors by hand to avoid over-tightening, which could cause the connectors to crack.

Run hot water again to flush the drain. While you are under the sink, check for leaks in the pipes. If leaks are found, tighten the connectors a little more.

If the drain is still clogged, the fix could be beyond your abilities. The blockage will need to be battled with professional skills and tools. Contact your local plumber, who will be happy to help.

How to Prevent Clogged Drains

After experiencing these extensive techniques in order to remove a drain blockage, it is prudent to practice preventative measures against clogged drains. The number one course of action is to refrain from disposing of harmful items, including heavy grease/fats/oils, meat, coffee grounds, eggshells, starchy foods (pasta, rice, bread), fruit peels, and pits, gum, paint, and paper products.

Practice composting food waste instead of sending it down the drain. Grease, fats, and oils can be poured into a container and thrown away.

When utilizing garbage disposal, do not grind more than one cup of waste at a time, and turn the faucet on while it is running. To scrape away food waste buildup and keep the unit fresh, grind a few ice cubes made of water and vinegar in the garbage disposal every now and then.

The boiling water strategy can also be used as a preventative measure. After washing dishes, pour boiling water down the drain to finish washing everything away. Keep a strainer over the drain opening to catch debris before it gets snagged in the pipes

Max Rose - Owner of Four Seasons Plumbing


Max Rose

Max Rose is the owner of Four Seasons Plumbing, a plumbing company in Asheville, North Carolina.