9 Ways to Fix a Clogged Kitchen Sink


It can feel helpless when a clogged kitchen sink won’t drain. With water backing up and a counter full of dirty dishes waiting to be cleaned, it may be tempting to reach for the phone and call the plumber to fix the problem for you.

While you can do that, an alternative is learning some tips and tricks for how to unclog a kitchen sink yourself. With a little elbow grease and some expert tips, you can tackle this DIY project any day.

1. Check the garbage disposal. 

One of the first things you should do if your kitchen sink is clogged is to unclog the garbage disposal. Run the disposal for a minute or two with the hot water running to see if that clears the clogged drain. If that doesn’t work, make sure the disposal is turned off and carefully inspect it to ensure it’s running correctly.

If the disposal has overheated and automatically switched off, you may need to restart it at the base. The base “on/off” switch can usually be found on the side or bottom of the disposal unit underneath the sink. 

Learn more about what to put in a garbage disposal as well as natural garbage disposal deodorants to keep it smelling fresh and clean.  

2. Get out the plunger. 


If clearing the disposal didn’t unclog your kitchen sink, it’s time to reach for a common household sink plunger. Head to your local hardware store to purchase a kitchen sink plunger, which is smaller than the one that you use for the toilet. 

If you have a double sink, first seal off the drain on one side with a wet cloth or a stopper. You’ll need to create a tight seal around the plunger, so fill the side of the sink you intend to plunge with enough water to cover the bell of the plunger. Place the plunger firmly over the drain and plunge vigorously several times. When you hear the suction clear the clog, remove the plunger, and flush the sink drain well with warm water for a couple of minutes. 

3. Boiling Water 


Boiling water is the easiest and least expensive kitchen sink drainer of all, which makes it the best one to try if the plunger doesn’t do the job. Here’s how to use boiling water to clear your drain: 

  • Place a kettle or pot of water on the stove and bring it to a rolling boil.

  • While you’re waiting for the water to heat, remove as much standing water from the sink as possible, using a mug or small pot to bail out the water.

  • Pour the entire kettle of water into the sink and let it sit for a couple of minutes. If the water stands in the sink without draining, the clog is still there.

  • Give the water time to cool for about five minutes and then remove it by scooping out as much cooled water as possible with the mug or pot and disposing of it in another sink.

  • You may need to repeat the process several times to move the clog, but this strategy often works on many types of blockages. 

4. Use Items in Your Pantry as a DIY Drain Cleaner 


Did you know that you don’t always have to use harsh cleaners to unclog your kitchen sink? You may have a natural drain cleaner sitting right in your kitchen. Here are some ideas: 

  • Use salt and boiling water. Sometimes you can unclog a drain with salt. After removing as much standing water from the sink as possible, pour about half a cup of table salt down the drain. Then, pour in about a quart of boiling water. Let it sit for a few minutes and then flush with hot water to clear the mixture. 

  • Try a DIY baking soda and vinegar drain cleaner. Remove any standing water from the sink before trying this technique. Pour about a cup of baking soda into the drain, followed by an equal amount of white or apple cider vinegar. The solution will soon start to bubble; when it subsides, put the stopper in and wait about 15 minutes. Next, run the hot water to see if the clog clears. Repeat the process one more time if the water is draining but slower than normal (that means the clog isn’t fully clear yet). 

  • Use baking soda and salt. Mix about a cup of baking soda with half a cup of salt, and pour this mixture down the drain. Let the mixture sit for several hours, then flush with boiling water. You can repeat this process if it doesn’t clear the clog. 

5. Use a coat hanger. 


A wire coat hanger can be a great tool if your kitchen sink is clogged. It won’t reach into your kitchen sink plumbing as far as a plumber’s snake would, but it may be long enough to reach some clogs. 

Insert the straightened hanger wire into the kitchen drain or “stub pipe” to push through or pull out the clog if you can reach it. Be careful not to scratch your sink with the wire. 

You may also want to invest in a plastic drain clog remover tool to help get rid of the gunk. This tool is designed to help remove hair from your slow-draining sink or shower, but it can also be used to catch stubborn food particles in your clogged kitchen sink. Just be careful to go slowly and gently—the thin plastic can break off and cause more problems. 

6. Try a plumber's snake.


If the coat hanger didn’t work, head to the hardware store and purchase a plumber’s snake. Also called an auger, a plumber’s snake is a handy tool that can clear clogs stuck farther down the drainage system under your kitchen sink. 

You’ll have to disassemble the drainpipe and P-trap that runs underneath the kitchen sink to expose the “stub pipe” or “stub out” that travels behind the cabinet wall. This is where you insert the snake into the pipe until you feel resistance to break up the clog. 

7. Clean the P-trap.

The P-trap is at the curved part of your kitchen sink pipes, usually inside a cabinet. Cleaning your kitchen drain’s P-trap may be necessary to clear the clog. 

  • First, place a pan or bucket underneath the drain to catch any water or debris that may fall out. 

  • Then, unfasten the P-trap from the drainpipe and clear out anything that is stuck.

  • Finally, replace the P-trap (make sure all connections are closed tight) and run warm water through the pipes for a few minutes.

8. Make prevention a priority.

Sink drain clogs are a normal occurrence, but there are some ways you can prevent them. If you have a kitchen garbage disposal, don’t overload it. Feed items in a little at a time, and wait until they grind and run through completely before adding more. Make sure you use garbage disposal cleaning tips to keep the appliance working properly. 

Don’t ever put bacon grease, coffee grounds, or oils down your kitchen drain or in your garbage disposal. Also, always make sure you run plenty of water down the drain after each use. 

It’s important to know how to maintain and care for all of your home's plumbing components and systems to keep things running smoothly. 

9. Get a home warranty. 

Knowing how to unclog a sink on your own can be very helpful, but sometimes you need help from a professional. With an American Home Shield® home warranty, you can simply submit a service request for a covered issue with your plumbing system, and we’ll send a qualified technician to your house to diagnose and repair it. Our plumbing warranty includes stoppages for the sink, bathtub, shower, and toilet. No more searching for plumbers online and hoping for the best. Our warranty coverage makes it easy to get your plumbing issue fixed. 

American Home Shield covers up to 23 key home systems and appliances so you can be confident in your household and protect your budget when breakdowns occur. Check out our costs and home warranty plans to find the right coverage for your home. 
AHS offers Appliance Warranties and protection plans. 

AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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New Jersey Residents: The product being offered is a service contract and is separate and distinct from any product or service warranty which may be provided by the home builder or manufacturer.