A combination of hair and soap residue cause the majority of clogs in household pipes, meaning some hot water will usually solve the problem. A plunger and a bit of muscle typically resolve the issue when hot water flushing fails. More serious clogs may require a manual cleaning or drain snaking to clear. No matter what method you use, remember that PVC pipes are essentially plastic, so use caution to avoid damaging them.

Young woman looking a young man trying to unclog sink
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A clogged pipe is something you can often fix yourself.

Step 1

Turn the hot water faucet on and let it run for five to 10 minutes. Hot water may dislodge whatever is clogging the pipe by melting it away, or melting away the sludge around it and allowing the clog to pass through the pipe. Turn the faucet off if the water immediately backs up into the sink or tub.

Step 2

Fill the sink or tub with about 4 inches of water if it isn't full already. Place a wet rag in the overflow holes to seal them off. If you have a double sink, place the rag in one of the drains. Place a plunger over the drain, rolling it onto the drain so that you push water rather than air into it. Press the plunger firmly down to create a seal. The suction caused by the plunger over the drain opening will help force the clogged debris free in the pipe. You will need to push the plunger up and down many times and then swiftly remove the plunger from the drain.

Plumber in blue overalls working on pipes
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Manually cleaning the P-trap removes many clogs.

If plunging doesn't work, try cleaning the P-trap under your sink. Begin by using a sponge to remove any standing water from the sink, then place a bucket under the trap and unscrew it with a wrench. Remove the clog with your fingers or by wiggling a screwdriver around in the pipe. A wire brush will also do a nice job of cleaning out the trap.

Step 4

If your clog wasn't in the P-trap, it's further down the pipe and the drain needs to be snaked. To snake the drain, insert the snake and spin it as you push it down the drain until it reaches the clog. Continue rotating the snake to loosen and remove the clog.

Step 5

Once your clog is removed, it's a good idea to clean out the pipes so they don't clog again. To do so, use a drain cleaning product designed to clear clogs and flush away debris. Read the product label carefully and avoid cleaners that contain hydrochloric or sulfuric acids, as these can damage PVC. If you prefer, you can also use one of these homemade drain-cleaning solutions:

  • Pour 1/2 cup of salt down the drain, followed by boiling water. Flush the drain with hot water.
  • Sprinkle a cup of baking soda into your drain along with a cup of vinegar. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes after it stops bubbling, and then flush it away with hot water.
  • Combine 1 cup of baking soda with 1/2 cup of salt. Pour the mixture into the drain; let it sit overnight and then rinse it away with boiling water.