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7 Ways to Fix a Slow Draining Sink

A slow-draining sink is not a mere annoyance, but it can also be a warning sign of more significant plumbing problems. Ignoring it can lead to clogged pipes, water damage, and in some cases health hazards. 

Before you call professional plumbers to unclog your sink, there are several DIY methods you can attempt yourself to save money. We’ll take you through how to fix your slow-draining sink and also provide some awesome tips to help prevent your kitchen or bathroom sink from becoming slow to drain in the future.

Below are the seven steps we would recommend to clear a slow-draining sink.

  • Clean the sink stopper
  • Melt the gunk
  • Use a Zip-It tool
  • Use a plunger
  • Snake the Drain
  • Check the trap
  • Clean the Overflow Hole

1. Clean the sink stopper

If you’re dealing with a slow drainage issue, the problem may be lurking right at the bottom of the basin. The sink stopper can often become clogged with hair, soap scum, and other debris over time. 

To solve this issue and get your drains working again, you need to clean the stopper. First remove the stopper – In many modern sinks, you can simply unscrew it for easy access. For older sinks, there will be a small rod with a nut and clip attached to the pipe underneath the sink that needs to be removed in order to access the stopper. 

Once you have removed the drain stopper, scrub away any of that disgusting soap scum or sludge that has accumulated with a brush and cloth or paper towel. Once you’re happy that you’ve got it looking all shiny and new, give it a final rinse and screw it back in place. 

2. Melt the gunk

Baking soda and vinegar are two household staples that can help you fix a slow drain. 

Remove any visible junk from the drain, and pour a cup of baking soda followed by a a cup of white vinegar. This will cause a fizzy chemical reaction that should help to dislodge stuck gunk – leave it to work for an hour or two before flushing the drain with boiling water.

Using baking soda and vinegar is great for being cheap and easy to use, but it is unlikely to solve more problematic clogs.

If you are still having trouble with your bathroom or kitchen sink, you can try a store bought drain cleaner. Commercially available chemical cleaners should dislodge built up residue and grease buildup but should be used with caution. The harsh chemicals can damage your plumbing system with repeated use. Make sure to follow the manufacturers instructions, and then flush the drain with very hot water.

3. Use a plunger

A toilet or sink plunger is a simple and affordable tool that can help you quickly fix any slow-draining sinks in your home. It’s easy to use and can be used in a variety of situations, from minor clogs to major blockages. 

To ensure a good seal, fill the sink with enough water so the rim of the plunger cup is submerged. Then start plunging up and down in quick, repetitive motions until the water starts draining away. This should dislodge any clogs that are causing the slow drainage, allowing for normal flow again. 

4. Use a Zip-It tool

Zip-It tools are slim strips of plastic with hooks. Simply thread it through your kitchen or bathroom drain and through the clog. Pull it out and the hooks will catch hair, or any other gunk blocking the pipe.

If the obstruction is visible, you can, in a pinch, use a bent coat hanger to catch and remove any hair or debris buildup.

5. Snake the Drain

If the clog is a bit too deep to reach with a Zip-It Tool, plumbing snakes, also known as drain snakes, can be an effective DIY solution for clearing clogs in a slow sink drain. These tools are long, flexible cables that can be inserted into the drain to break up and remove blockages. 

To use a drain snake, insert the tip into the drain and rotate the handle. As you work the snake down the drain, you may feel resistance when it encounters the blockage. Keep rotating the handle or motor so the snake will push through the clog and break it up. Once you’ve cleared the blockage, run hot water down the drain to flush out any other debris.

While plumbing snakes can be effective for clearing clogs, it’s important to use them carefully to avoid damaging your pipes.

6. Check the trap

If all the above fails, the next thing you might want to try on your bathroom sink is to remove and check the p-trap for clogs or damage. 

A p-trap is designed to hold standing water to prevent sewer gas from entering your home from the main sewer line. However, it also is a likely place for food, hair, and other detritus to get stuck.

Before you start, gather all the tools needed, make sure to turn off the water supply to the sink, and remove any items stored beneath it. Then, place a bucket underneath the P-trap to catch any dirty water that may come out. 

The trap is usually held in place by slip nuts at each end of a curved pipe, so use a wrench to loosen these nuts and pull out the trap. You’ll likely find all sorts of debris inside it – coins, hair, and other gunk – which will be blocking the flow of water out of your sink. 

Once you’ve removed all this sludge, replace the P-trap and tighten up the slip nuts to secure it back into place.

7. Clean the Overflow Hole

The overflow hole in your sink plays a crucial role in maintaining proper drainage. To ensure it functions optimally, regular cleaning is essential. To clean the overflow hole:

  1. Locate and inspect your sink’s overflow hole, typically found near its rim.
  2. Prepare a cleaning solution by mixing warm water with mild detergent or vinegar.
  3. Take a small brush, such as an old toothbrush, and dip it into the cleaning mixture.
  4. Gently insert the brush into the overflow hole and scrub in circular motions to dislodge any buildup or debris.
  5. Rinse thoroughly with clean water while continuing to scrub if necessary.
  6. After cleaning, wipe away any excess moisture from around the overflow hole to ensure it is completely dry.

Cleaning the overflow hole regularly will help prevent clogs and maintain optimal drainage in your sink.

Why does my sink drain slow?

There are multiple reasons why your sink drain might be draining slowly. The most likely culprit is a blockage in the sink drain, or in the P-trap, which is the curved pipe that sits beneath the drain. 

Over time, drains can become clogged with debris such as coins, hair and other items, preventing water from draining freely and causing it to become slow-moving or completely backed up. Add soap scum or grease to the mix, and you’re bound to get a ball of hard-to-shift gunk in your pipes.

Fortunately, all of these causes of a slow-draining sink can be easily fixed with some DIY knowledge and, in most cases, with common household items. 

Why is my Sink still draining slowly despite not being clogged?

If your kitchen or bathroom sink still won’t drain, or you’re dealing with multiple slow drains, gurgling noises, sewer gas smells, or air bubbles, you might have a more serious issue like tree roots blocking your sewer line or a clogged vent pipe on your hands. 

If you suspect this is the case, then the best solution is to call a qualified plumber who can help remedy the problem.

How to prevent a Slow Sink Drain?

To help prevent these blockages, try to clean pipes and drains regularly by pouring baking soda and hot water down them. It’s also a good idea to cover bathroom drains with hair catchers and remove any potential impediments from the drains before they have the chance to disappear down your drain pipes.

You should also avoid pouring grease, oils, coffee grinds, or anything else that might become lodged or build up inside your plumbing.

About the author

An accomplished plumber with more than 15 years of experience in the industry, David "Fitz" Fitzgerald began as an apprentice and steadily worked his way up to become a fully licensed and certified master plumber.

With extensive training in all aspects of plumbing. David is well-versed in the installation, repair, and maintenance of plumbing systems, including pipes, fixtures, and appliances, and is able to troubleshoot and solve even the most complex plumbing issues.

He loves to share his wealth of knowledge and looks forward to engaging with the community here on No Hassle Plumbing.

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