How you handle a drain clog can depend on whether your bathroom sink has a removable drain stopper. If it does, you can simply pull the stopper straight up out of the sink, perhaps giving it a little twist as you go depending on the stopper style. With the stopper out of the way, you can easily snake the drain and clear the clog. Things get a bit more difficult, however, if your sink stopper isn't readily removable.
In that case, you may need to decide whether you wish to attack the clog from the top or the bottom of the drain. If attacking from the top, you'll need to remove your drain stopper. If attacking from the bottom, you'll need to remove the P-trap. Fortunately, both options are fairly simple. It's generally easier to start from the top and move on to the P-trap only if this fails for some reason.
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Start With the Basics
Before you go tearing into your plumbing, make sure there isn't an easier way. Begin by vigorously plunging the drain with a flat plunger. If that fails, you can try a safe homemade drain cleaner, such as boiling water or baking soda and vinegar. Don't use toxic commercial products because if the clog doesn't clear and you have to get into the pipes for further cleaning, you don't want that hazardous stuff waiting for you inside the drain.
If these tactics fail, you're ready to move on and disassemble part of your sink. You'll need to maneuver underneath the sink no matter which unclogging method you use, so empty the cabinet under the sink before you get started.
How to Unclog a Bathroom Sink Drain by Removing the Stopper
Removing the sink stopper is the cleanest way to access a drain clog, but you'll still want to keep a bucket handy. This will catch any water that comes out with the drain stopper mechanism and will help you avoid a mess. Once the stopper is out, you can easily use a Zip-It tool or plumbing snake to clean out the drain.
- Look underneath the sink and locate the pivot rod. The pivot rod is a horizontal metal bar that runs from the sink drain to a vertical post or strap called the clevis.
- Squeeze together the small clip where the clevis and pivot rod meet. While squeezing the clip, push back on the clevis to free it from the pivot rod.
- Place your bucket beneath the retaining nut located on the opposite end of the pivot rod.
- Unscrew the retaining nut. You may need a pair of pliers to do so. Remove the nut and rod together and give them a cleaning.
- Lift the sink stopper out of the sink. Notice that the bottom of the stopper has a small opening in it. When reassembling the stopper, make sure the end of the pivot rod goes through this hole.
- Snake your drain or use the Zip-It tool as needed to remove the clog.
- Reassemble the sink stopper by simply reversing the removal procedure.
How to Unclog a Bathroom Sink Drain by Removing the P-Trap
Most of the time, removing the sink stopper will give you the space you need to get the appropriate unclogging tools into the drain. If you're having trouble pushing a snake past the P-trap, however, you may find you need to remove it. In this case, you can sometimes skip removing the stopper altogether.
- Place a bucket under the P-trap.
- Unscrew the connectors on each end of the P-trap. Use pliers if they're tight.
- Pull out the P-trap and look for clogs. Be careful: it's full of dirty water. If you see a clog between the trap and the sink stopper, remove the sink stopper and push the clog through the pipe down into your bucket with a straightened coat hanger or snake. You need not remove the sink stopper if the clog isn't between it and the P-trap.
- Check the P-trap itself for clogs. If you see any, push a straightened coat hanger or snake through the trap to open it, or flush it out with water in a utility sink or outdoors. Otherwise, insert a drain snake into the pipe leading to the sewer and clear the clog.
- Reassemble the P-trap and sink stopper if applicable.