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Cleaning your bathroom sink drain may seem like a daunting task, but it is an essential task if you want to keep your plumbing functional.
Bad smells, standing water, and the inconvenience of things not working are just the start of the problem. If you are unable to sort the problem out yourself, there will also be the expense and trouble of getting the plumber to come in.
Luckily, there are several ways in which you can try to solve this issue for yourself, and most of them do not even require the use of harsh chemical cleaners. Many natural household substances can be used for the task of unblocking your bathroom sink pipes.
Read below for the “what, why, and how” of bathroom sink drain cleaning.
What Causes Blockages in a Bathroom Sink Drain?
Before you try any of the methods we advise below for unblocking your bathroom sink drain, it is important for you to understand what the likely culprits are that may be causing your particular problem.
Not all these common blockage causes will apply to all bathrooms, so it’s up to you to figure out which of these are the most likely to be causing you problems so that you can treat your drain’s blockage effectively.
This is a common cause of sink drain blockages, although it is one that takes a long time to create a problem. The residue created when we use a bar of soap creates a thin film of soap scum on the walls of the pipes. This can build up over time, and when combined with other sink debris, like hair, can cause significant blockages.
Loose hair is one of the biggest causes of drain blockages, especially in bathrooms. The obvious problem is the long hairs that are released while the hair is being washed (or combed over the sink), which is usually more of a concern for shower drains. But most people don’t even consider a less obvious concern, which is the short hairs that fall into the sink when one shaves. These tiny hair particles gather easily in the soap scum on the walls of the pipes, causing nasty blockages over time.
Makeup and Cosmetics
Any powder-based cosmetic product is a concern for causing drain blockages and rinsing it down the drain should be avoided at all costs. It’s best to use makeup-removing wipes that can be thrown away or flushable ones that can go in the toilet.
Fat, Oil, and Grease
Under most circumstances, these should not be a major concern for a bathroom sink drain, but in the rare case that it is for you, we have a few suggestions on how to solve problems caused by these substances.
Bear in mind that many fats and oils solidify when they get cold, so pouring hot oil down your drain may seem like a good idea at the time, but it could become an inconvenient blockage if not dealt with properly.
How to Know Your Bathroom Sink Drain is Clogged
If you’re struggling with standing water, bad smells, or simply a slow drain, you probably have a blockage. These symptoms could also be caused by crushed pipes or damaged systems, but usually, it will be a clog in the pipes that can be easily solved using one of the methods suggested below. The most common symptoms of a blocked drain are:
- Bad smells – When water and debris sit in the pipes, the organic matter starts to break down, creating a smell of decay.
- Bubbling sounds – when water isn’t clearing properly from the drains, air bubbles get trapped between the water and debris, and when they release and find their way to the top, the noises can sound like a monster from the deep.
- Standing water or slow drainage – depending on the severity of the clog, the water might drain very slowly or not at all.
- Drain flies – these little pests are often found around standing water and will hover over the entrance of a blocked drain, making the unpleasantness even worse.
Home Remedies for Cleaning a Clogged Drain
Before you grab the chemical drain cleaner or call the plumber, there are a few natural, eco-friendly, and safe solutions you can try that are inexpensive and easy. Commercial drain cleaners may be effective, but they are hazardous to your health, corrosive to your pipes, and dangerous to the environment.
Use a Plunger
This is the first go-to solution that most people will think of when they are met with a blocked drain, and sometimes it is all that is needed. Most homes will have a plunger, even if it has been gathering dust in a cupboard for years. If you don’t have one, it is an excellent tool, and very cheap to buy.
For best results, smear the rim of the plunger with petroleum jelly, as this will create better suction. If there is standing water in the sink, you can use that, if not, fill the sink halfway with water. Cover the drain with the plunger, making sure it is completely covered and centered as best as possible. Push the plunger in, and then immediately pull it to release. Repeat this motion quickly, for about half a minute.
Most people make the mistake of thinking they are done at this point, but to complete the process with the best results, as soon as the water starts to drain, add more water, and start the plunging process again. Once you are confident that the blockage has been removed, rinse the sink with hot water.
If there is a good chance your blockage is caused by fats and oils, clearing it may be as simple as pouring boiling water down the drain. Adding some dish detergent will increase the effectiveness of this option by further breaking down fats and oils, as well as soap scum.
Simply mix a small amount of dish detergent into some boiling water and pour it down the affected drain. This method will be ineffectual if there is a lot of standing water in your sink.
Salt and Hot Water
This method is great for clearing grease blockages, as well as soap scum, as salt is rough, and scours the walls of the pipes. Pour half a cup of any type of salt (rock salt may work best) down the drain, and flush it with 2 liters of boiling water. This method will not work if there is standing water. Follow up with the next method for a good, deep clean.
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Be sure to wear protective gloves and goggles when using this method, as this mixture can cause skin and eye irritation if not handled properly.
Mix 1/3 cup of vinegar with an equal amount of baking soda and pour the mixture down the drain as soon as it begins to fizz. Leave the mixture to sit in the drain for at least 30 minutes (an hour is best), and then flush it and your blockage away with hot water.
Adding a tablespoon of cream of tartar to this mixture can assist in breaking up the particles that are causing the blockage, making it easier to clear. These substances may work with a standing water blockage.
Create a hook out of a long piece of wire or an old, straightened wire hanger, remove the drain cover from the sink drain, and push the hook down the drain until you feel the blockage. Twist the wire around so that the hook can gather as much of the blockage as possible, and the pull it out and discard the debris. Repeat this process until you feel that enough of the blockage has been removed that the rest can slide clear of the pipes. This method works very well for blockages caused by long hair.
Commercial Products for Cleaning a Clogged Drain
If you’ve tried some or all of the above methods and nothing has worked, you may want to try a commercial drain cleaning product before you call the plumber as a last resort. If that is the case, you will want to look for solutions that are safer for your pipes, your health, or the environment. Here are the three products we recommend if you are looking for a more commercial solution.
DRANO® Max Gel Drain Clog Remover and Cleaner
DRANO® Max is a thick gel that goes right to the clog, even through standing water. It is safe for your pipes, due to ingredients that protect them from chemical corrosion, but it is definitely not safe for that nasty clog. It eats through soap scum, fats and oils, hair, and other debris in 15 minutes, yet it is safe to leave it in the drain overnight to do its work. If you don’t get the perfect result the first time, give it a second go.
Green Gobbler Liquid Drain Clog Remover
A slightly eco-friendlier option than the Max Gel, Green Gobbler Liquid Clog Remover is biodegradable and doesn’t contain any bleach or sodium hydroxide. Known to break down hair, lime build-up, toothpaste, soap scum, and body oils, this drain cleaner won’t corrode your pipes, and comes with 5 hair grabber tools to make your work easier.
Omont Drain Clog Remover Tool
If you’d prefer not to use a chemical mixture at all, perhaps the answer is a drain cleaning tool. The Omont pack includes a 6-pack of hair clog remover tools and a stainless steel drain cleaning tool with a claw on the end for grabbing onto debris and lifting it out.
How to Prevent Your Drain from Clogging
Prevention is better than the cure, they say, and if you’ve ever experienced a bad blockage in your sink drain, you’ll agree. So how do you stop it from happening again?
- Place a hair catcher or grate into the drain. These handy little devices sit in the drain entrance and catch many of the substances that would otherwise cause blockages. Just remember to clean it out regularly.
- Create a drain maintenance schedule that consists of regularly flushing your drains with hot water to remove scum and oil build-ups.
- Don’t let you hair go down the drain. Always clean the sink out after shaving or haircuts, and don’t rinse it until there is little to no hair left.
- If your sink has a pop-up plug, keep it clean. Hair and other debris tend to get wound around these, and if they are not cleaned out often, they will eventually go down the drain and could cause a blockage.
- If you use your sink for something that you know could cause build-up, flush the pipes with boiling water immediately after use.