It’s happened to all of us. Every day we use the bathroom sink. We may use it and not give it a second thought, unless the water starts to drain slowly, which is an indication of a clogged bathroom sink drain pipe.
It happens to us very often. Whether it’s digging off chunks of soap and washing it down the drain, or long strands of hair, or even purposely washing down small toys and hair ties, our kids manage to constantly lest the limits of our home’s draining capabilities. More often than not, our kids win!
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to clear out a pipe clog. Most of the time, the clog consists of items that I mentioned above, but there have been clog materials that honestly should have been sent in to a lab or something for identification!
If you’re not familiar with pipes or how the plumbing system works in your house, when a clog forms you may feel inclined to call a plumber, or try to handle the issue by using a clog-clearing liquid like Drano. While I’m not saying to never call a plumber, or never use Drano, as they have their positive uses, I am offering a suggestion that might help and save you money at the same time:
Check your p-trap!
You may be asking what in the world a p-trap is and what you’re getting yourself into. Be assured that as far as difficulty goes, checking a p-trap is probably a one on a difficulty scale of 1-10, in my opinion.
First, you’ll want to clear out underneath your sink, so you have plenty of room to work, and to avoid getting those items wet. I always lay down a towel and then a large low-profile bowl or pan underneath the sink plumbing to catch water.
If your p-trap is working correctly, there will be water inside of it. A major purpose of a p-trap is to retail a small amount of water, so that pipe gases further on down the line can’t escape out of the sink and into your home. That pool of water inside the trap acts as a barrier for the gas.
The p-trap is made to come apart; it shouldn’t be glued in. You’ll notice two slip nuts that hold it in place on each end. Keeping a hand underneath the trap to hold it steady, simply untwist each nut until they spin free. Carefully loosen the trap away from the piping; again, water will likely spill out, so have your bowl or pan lined up to catch the water. Minor splashing may occur, so have your towel ready too.
If the clog is in close proximity to the sink, you now have the best access to it. I always empty out the trap itself and clear it of any materials, either resting in the trap, or any sludge that is clinging to the sides. Like I mentioned, I lost count of all the sink clogs I’ve had to clear, but in every case, the clog has been above the p-trap, within the pop-up drain stop.
You can easily determine if the clog is at the drain stop by turning on the faucet and look at how the water is draining through. If the water seems to come out slow compared to the flow from the faucet, then there is a clog in that section.
Clearing the Clog
What I have done, and it has worked every time, is take a basic metal coat hanger, untwist it apart, and straighten out the hook end. Then, after turning the water on to help flush the clog materials down, push the metal hanger up the pipe through the p-trap opening. I try to work fast, because the pan I’ve placed underneath to catch water will fill up fast. Lightly shaking the hanger as you push it up and pull it down, combined with the water flow, should dislodge the clog. It usually takes several times for me to free up the clog, as it dislodges it sections.
After I’ve determined that area is clear, I use the metal hanger to check the other pipe opening for any obvious clogs. If everything appears to be clear, reinstall the p-trap (don’t cross-thread or over-tighten the slip nuts), turn on the faucet, and see if the sink drains normally with no leaks.
If, after determining that the pipe is clear from the sink to the back of the cabinet the sink is still draining slowly, undo the p-trap again and try a snake, which is a more aggressive plumbing tool for clearing blockages. You’ll want to insert the snake into the pipe opening leading into the wall.
If you are still unsuccessful, you might want to go ahead and call a plumber. You may be dealing with clog further than you can reach down the pipe.
I hope you are successful! A drain clog can be one of the easiest DIY projects that people call in a professional to handle. Save money and try to fix the problem yourself!