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Tidy House 101: How To Clean Sink Drain and Cleaning Tips and Tricks

We’ve all been there, that feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach as you turn on the sink faucet to wash your hands and watch the water level rise…and rise…and rise some more without draining. While it’s important to let the professionals do their job when things are serious, it’s much easier on the budget and your schedule if you can get and keep your sink draining well without calling a plumber in every few months.

how to clean drains

Here are some tips on how to clean sink drains, often with homemade cleaner you probably already have on hand. This is beneficial because natural drain cleaners won’t destroy plastic drain pipes, they’re safe with children and pets around, and they don’t leave harmful chemicals or toxins in the air. Of course, anyone is welcome to try commercial-grade drain cleaning agents, just be sure to read the labels and follow the instructions carefully.

how to clean sink drain

First things first, however. Before you go any further in your attempts to unclog the drain, first take off the drain stopper or screen and remove any debris or muck that you can see with a dry paper towel. This will not only help your drain cleaner to work more effectively, but it will also alleviate future blockages.

3 Foot Toilet Auger Snake with Bulb Head to Clear Clogged Toilets

How to clean sink drain with homemade drain cleaners

DIY Baking soda & vinegar sink drain cleaner

Carefully sprinkle 1/2 cup baking soda down your drain, then chase it down with 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar. Cover or plug the drain to force the drain cleaner to work its way downward through the pipes, with a powerful chemical reaction that is very effective in clearing nearby clogs. (Tip: For shower drains, you can cover with a large bowl weighed down with water.) Let sit for an hour, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. Repeat as often as needed until you’ve achieved a good drain flow; the good thing about this natural drain cleaner is that it won’t damage your pipes, so you can use it as many times as you need.
DIY Baking soda & vinegar sink drain cleaner

NOTE: You can also substitute straight lemon juice for the vinegar in this method. This substitution might be helpful in areas where citrus smells might be more appealing than lingering vinegar smells, such as in the kitchen, although lemon juice is more expensive than vinegar. Click here for other natural cleaning ideas.

Salt & borax & vinegar drain cleaner

Measure 1/4 cup table salt and pour it down the dry clogged drain. (Note: Salt helps to prevent the buildup of grease in a drain, and it also aids in odor elimination.) Measure 1/4 cup borax and pour it on top of the salt down the drain. Measure 1/2 cup white vinegar and pour it down the drain on top of the two powders. Pour a kettle of boiling water down the same drain, then let everything sit for an hour. Turn on the water faucet to rinse any residual powder down the drain. Repeat if necessary.

Salt & borax & vinegar drain cleaner

Salt & baking soda drain cleaner

Stir together in a large measuring cup 1/2 cup each of table salt and baking soda. Pour this powder down the dry clogged drain and allow to sit anywhere from 45 minutes to overnight, depending on the severity of the clog. Pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. Repeat if necessary to achieve a good drain flow. This is a particularly useful homemade drain cleaner when the clog in the drain was a result of grease deposits or water particle deposits that built up over time.

Salt & baking soda drain cleaner

Cream of tartar & salt & baking soda drain cleaner

Stir together in a large measuring cup 1/2 cup each of table salt and baking soda, then add 2 tbsp cream of tartar. Stir well to evenly combine all ingredients. Scoop out a heaping 1/2 cup (or about half of the overall) mixture and pour it down the clogged drain. (Tip: Be sure the drain is dry before attempting this, or the powdery mixture will just form a paste that doesn’t penetrate down the drain at all.) Pour a kettle of boiling water down the clogged drain, then let sit for an hour. Turn on the water faucet to rinse any residual powder down the drain. Repeat if necessary.

How to Unclog a Sink Drain

Clogged sink drains are a huge inconvenience. They are one of the most everyday drainage problems suffered by homeowners. When a sink drain is clogged, it is usually due to soap residue, food debris, tepid water, hair, or grease getting trapped in the drain trap located just before the drain opening.

The good news is fixing a clogged sink is one of the most superficial home fixes you can DIY. Here are different methods that can help you unclog your sink drain.

Boiling Water

The most straightforward fix to a clogged sink is boiling water. It is the first thing most people do when they notice that they have a blocked drain. The steps are comfortable, and all you need is a kettle or pot of boiling water.

You can try to loosen your clogged pipes with boiling water. If your sink is blocked by grease or soap scum, hot water may dissolve the clog. The water has to be hot, so you cannot use hot water from the tap.

Note: Avoid using this method if you have PVC pipes because the boiling water can cause the plastic to melt or damage. If you have a porcelain sink, pour the hot water down the drain and not into the sink.

Step by step guide to Unclog a Sink Drain

Step 1: Boil half a gallon of water in a kettle or a large pot on your stove

Step 2: Carefully take the boiling water over to the sink

Step 3: Aim at the drain opening and directly pour the boiling water in it.

Step 4: Try to see if the sink is still clogged by turning on the faucet. If the water is still standing in the sink or the water drains slowly, repeat the process again

How to unclog with a Plunger

You probably have a plunger lying around the house, which can be very helpful when it comes to unclogging a sink. There are two kinds of plungers: the toilet or flange plunger and the cup plunger. What you need to unplug the sink is a cup plunger.

Step 1: If you are trying to unclog a double sink, seal off the second side using a stopper or a wet cloth.

For a bathroom sink, cover the overflow outlet beneath the rim at the top of the bowl. In the kitchen sink, take out the basket strainer and lift the drain stopper in the bathroom.

Step 2: You will need to ensure a tight seal around the plunger, so you should fill up the sink with enough water to cover the plunger’s bell.

Step 3: Put the plunger’s cup over the drain’s opening and ensure that it is properly sealed against the drain’s surface.

Step 4: With sharp, quick plunges, push up and down several times to clear the obstruction. You might need to apply pressure to the sealing over the opening at the overflow. When you plunge a clogged sink, the air pressure can cause the covering on the overflow to come loose.

Step 5: Run the faucet for a few minutes to make sure the drain is clear

Step 6: Take out the cloth clocking the overflow and replace the sink basket or the drain stopper

Baking Powder and Vinegar

If you are environmentally conscious and averse to chemical drain cleaners, you can try this natural alternative. Baking powder and vinegar are items that you can find in your kitchen, so this method is also very cheap.

Step by step guide using Baking Powder and Vinegar

Step 1: Take out the standing water using a bowl or cup from the sink

Step 2: Measure a cup of baking soda and pour it down the clogged drain. If necessary, make use of a spoon or spatula to push the baking powder down the drain.

Step 3: Follow with a cup of vinegar down the opening of the drain.

Step 4: Take a cover or stopper over the drain to seal the drain opening

Step 5: Allow the mixture to sit for about 15 minutes.

Step 6: Take out the cover and allow hot water to run from the tap down the drain

Step 7: Boil some hot water and pour it down the drain to break the more significant clogs.

Step 8: Repeat the entire process if the sink is not fully unclogged or double down on the blocked sink.

Sink Auger

Also known as a drain-cleaning snake, canister, or drum auger, a sink auger is a great way to deal with stubborn clogs. This tool is designed with a coiled spiral that can reach into the drain. When the auger runs an obstruction, you turn the handle to remove the debris and take it out of the drain. You can get an electric auger or a manual auger.

You can make your sink auger if you do not have one. All you need is a wire hanger. Please use needle-nose pliers to properly position the hook to help it fit easily through the opening of the drain.

Tip: Avoid using too much force or pushing the cable roughly when using an auger, so you do not move the clog down the pipe further.

Step by step guide using a Sink Auger

Step 1: If your sink has a drain stopper, take it out

Step 2: Slowly push the auger cable into the opening of the drain. Once you feel the line go on the clog, take out a few more inches of the line and wind the set screw on the canisters tight.

Step 3: Crank the augers handle clockwise as you apply pressure to the cable. If the end of the line bends while in the pipe or gets stuck on the clog, turn the line to help get it past the bend.

Step 4: Release as much cable line as necessary until you successfully get a grip on the clog. If the clog is lodged in the trap, this should be easy.

Step 5: Gradually pull the cable from the pipe. You want to do this carefully, so the clog does not fall off the end of the pipe. As the excess line comes out, push it back into the canister.

Step 6: Go over the process again until you finally clear all clogs.

Step 7: Run hot water from the tap to dissolve any oil or grease remnants as soon as the sink has been wholly cleared

Tip: if you extend the cable down the trap’s full length without retrieving any clogs, the blockage is most likely situated in the vertical drain sink to the branch drain.

Products That Can Help You Unclog Your Sink

Certain products can help with unclogging your sink. If you do not want to go down the DIY route, you can try out some more accessible, time-saving options. Some of these products include:

Bio-Clean Drain Septic Bacteria

Bio-Clean Drain Septic Bacteria

This cleaner is a unique combo of enzymes and bacteria that helps break down organic waste in your plumbing system. It is multipurpose and can be used for septic tanks, kitchen sinks, litter pans, bathtubs, and so much more.

The debris clogging your sink is consumed by the bacteria contained in this sink drain cleaner. Soap film, grease, and organic waste are broken down by enzymes, reducing large molecules of dirt to smaller bits ingested by the bacteria.

It is very safe for the environment, and this formula immediately gets to work when you apply it, so you don’t have to wait.

Drano Max Gel, Clog Remover

Drano Max Gel, Clog Remover

This clog remover is a fast action cleaning gel, formulated thick enough to dissolve clogs that are thick and form quickly. It is very efficient and even goes through stagnant water directly to the site clog. It is safe to use on all types of pipes – metal pipers and PVC. You can also use it in septic systems and garbage disposals.

This formula works in just 15 minutes and has ingredients that prevent your pipes from corrosion. For severe clogs, you can leave it in your drain overnight. Great for removing soap scum, gunky clogs, and hair.

Green Gobbler Drain Opening PAC’S – 8.25

Green Gobbler Drain Opening PAC'S - 8.25

The Green Gobbler drain opener is effortless to use. It comes packaged in single-use packs, so you do not have to guess how much you need to use or measure anything! It works perfectly for clogs in the toilet and leaves no mess.

This drain opener is also great for kitchen sinks, bathroom sinks, floor drains, showers, slop sinks, etc. It is a safe alternative to dangerous and environmentally toxic chemicals for unclogging drains.

Thrift Marketing Drain Cleaner 2 lb

Thrift Marketing Drain Cleaner 2 lb

Here is an excellent drain cleaner that clears out your drain line in less than a minute. It works on sewer lines, septic systems, drains, and grease traps. It is safe to use in both kitchens and bathrooms and is highly durable.

This product contains high amounts of sodium hydroxide and will not affect the plumber’s snake. You can use it with various materials, including fiberglass or acrylic, metal or PVC pipes, and chrome or porcelain sinks.

XIONLAB Safer Drain Clog Remover

XIONLAB Safer Drain Clog Remover

XIONLAB Safer Drain Clog Remover uses innovative technology in its formulation. This clog remover works by attacking the clogs at their root. It clings to all blockages and clogs without producing any toxic gases. This product is odorless but super useful and biodegradable.

This drain clog remover is non-corrosive, and you can use it on any pipes. It gets the job done professionally and safely. Uniquely designed to be gentle enough for sinks and challenging sufficient for septic tanks.

Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver

Green Gobbler Drain Clog Dissolver

Maintain free-flowing drains and pipes with this drain clog dissolver. This effective formula liquifies hair, soap scum, grease, and everything else you can think of that clogs your sink.

With this, you will unclog your pipes in a matter of minutes. It is straightforward to use and very effective in dealing with backed-up drains. It leaves no mess and requires no fuss to use. It is also environmentally friendly and very safe.

TubShroom the Revolutionary Tub Drain Protector

TubShroom the Revolutionary Tub Drain Protector

The TubShroom fits snugly inside your drain, collecting every strand of hair that attempts to make its way through your drain. To clean it up, wipe the TubShroom with a paper towel and place it back over the drain.

This strainer fits perfectly over any standard drain and neatly collects dirt. It is a safe alternative to cleaning chemicals favored by a lot of plumbers.

3-Foot Toilet Auger Snake with Bulb Head to Clear Clogged Toilets

3-Foot Toilet Auger Snake with Bulb Head to Clear Clogged Toilets

This 3-foot long auger has a 12.7mm snake that is very durable resistant to kink. It has a vinyl guard that protects the porcelain at the bowl’s neck as the auger goes into the s-bend.

The firm inner core cable is compression wrapped with three different wrappings found at the center core to clear and power through thick blockages. Its corrosion-resistant tube with larger ergonomically designed handles that make this tool the perfect toilet unclogger.


A clogged sink is an expected occurrence in any household. Avoid rinsing plates with food into the sink. Make use of a drain filter or clean out your dishes in the sink before washing. If possible, try not to shave in the bathtubs or the shower so that the hair doesn’t get stuck and clog your pipes.

Frequently unclogging your sinks can save you a lot of money when it comes to plumbing. Ensure that you use products that are safe and compatible with your pipes and sinks.