It’s a familiar bathroom problem: you run the water in the sink and it stubbornly refuses to drain away. You could call a plumber or you could tackle it yourself with a plunger, a few tools and a bit of DIY common sense.
There are a number of harsh chemicals on the market that will unblock your sink for you. But these can be expensive and aren’t great for the environment – not to mention your skin if you splash any by accident. Most blockages can be fixed by anyone in just a few simple, chemical-free steps.
- Block the overflow
The first thing to do is block the overflow hole with a damp cloth. This will help to create the water pressure required for the next step.
- Take the plunge
The simplest and quickest way to unblock a sink is with a plunger. These are available from any DIY store and shouldn’t cost more than a few pounds. If there’s no water in the sink already, run an inch or two into the sink. This will create an airtight seal between the plunger and the plughole.
Place the rubber part of the plunger over the plughole and grip with both hands. Then firmly pump it up and down until the blockage is gone and the water drains away quickly.
- Hair we go again
A common cause of bathroom sink blockages is a combination of hair and soap. Over time, the two can form a tight ball of hair that clings to the plughole and refuses to budge. The best way to remove this hairy blockage is to take a wire coat hanger, straighten it out, then feed one end down into the plughole and hook out the hair. You may need to do it a few times to remove all the hair but it’s a quick (and oddly satisfying) way of unclogging your bathroom sink.
- Eco-friendly unblocking solution
If you need to know how to unblock a sink without a plunger because you simply don’t have one, there is a way to clear the blockage using cooking ingredients found in the cupboards of most homes – baking soda and vinegar.
First, make sure that you’ve removed as much standing water as possible, then pour some baking soda down the plughole. A couple of teaspoons should do it. Next, pour in a cup of vinegar and listen for the fizzing as the two react. Once the fizzing stops, pour some hot water down the drain to flush it all out.
Not keen on the smell of vinegar? Domestic cleaning experts at Glimmr recommend salt as a good alternative – mix equal amounts of salt with baking soda, spoon it into the plughole and leave it to sit for a few minutes before pouring through boiling water.
- Round the U-bend
OK, you’ve tried plunging, pulling and dissolving, but the blockage still remains. Now’s the time to get out the big guns and remove the U-bend. Underneath all sinks – as well as all baths, showers and toilets – is a U-bend. This prevents any smells from the drains coming up into the house. But on rare occasions this U-bend can become blocked and needs to be taken off and given a thorough clean. Fortunately, it’s a relatively simple job.
You’ll need a small bucket or container to catch the water in, a wire coat hanger or small wire cleaning brush and, if your U-bend doesn’t have its own in-built seals, some plumber’s tape. Find the U-bend under the sink (clue: it’s shaped like a U) and place your container underneath. Then carefully undo the pipe by unscrewing the two threads. Wait until all the water has drained into the container, then remove the U-bend completely and use the straightened coat hanger or wire brush to thoroughly clean it out. Once the U-bend is clean, screw it back onto the pipes, using plumber’s tape to create a watertight seal if needed. Run some water to see if you have unblocked your sink.
- Call in the experts
If none of these solutions work, you may have a more serious blockage further down in your drainage system. If that’s the case, you really need to get a plumber in to diagnose the problem and fix it.
- Prevention rather than cure
Of course, it’s always better to avoid a blockage in the first place, so avoid putting anything down the sink that could potentially block it, such as tissues or cotton wool. And if you are in the habit of brushing your hair over the sink, think about finding somewhere else in the house to do it. Your pipes will thank you.
If your shower isn’t draining properly, find out how to fix it with our guide to unblocking a shower drain.