Not Drano? No problem: you can unclog your kitchen sink without harsh chemicals.


This story is part Tips for the houseCNET’s collection of handy tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

You have a problem when you do the dishes and the water stops flowing. This standing water means your kitchen sink pipes are clogged with food and grease and need to be cleaned. But that doesn’t mean you should hose down your sink with Drano. We have some simple methods that don’t require pouring chemicals down the drain at all, but are just as effective.

An added benefit is that you may already have the items in your cabinets that you will need to get your pipes flowing again. Some methods require simple mixing, while others require a little more elbow grease and suction power to clear your drain. But these methods are quite inexpensive compared to calling a plumber.

Depending on the severity of the clog, you may need to follow all of these techniques and repeat them several times to unclog your sink. And if your kitchen sink has a garbage disposal, try running it before you start grinding any food that may be in it (a common reason for clogging). Here are the best ways to unclog your sink and get rid of standing, smelly water. (For more cleaning tips, here how to remove pet stains from carpets, how to remove makeup stains from your beddingand how to clean your mattress.)

white vinegar on a kitchen counter

If your kitchen sink won’t drain, use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to clean it or soak it.

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Use a plunger

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If you have standing water in your sink, the best way to get it into the drain is to plunge it. You’ll need a plunger, but preferably not the one in your bathroom (yuck), so use a clean one. It’s a good idea to store a small plunger under your sink for this purpose.

If you have a double sink, be sure to plug the other side before you start, to keep the seal intact and prevent water from splashing out the other side.

Place the plunger over your sink drain to create a suction effect and pump firmly until water begins to drain. Once all the standing water is out of the sink, run clean water down the drain to make sure it’s clear. If not, you will have to dive again.

Warning: Be careful with how you pump the drain, as you could bring more food and water down your sink. The goal is to send food through the drain, so avoid pumping quickly unless you want a mess. Gently release the plunger handle on your sink so you don’t suck anything out of the drain.

Use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar

If you don’t have a clean plunger handy, you can use the tried and true cleaning technique of combining baking soda and vinegar. This creates a bubbling reaction that breaks up large chunks of mud so they flow easily down the drain.

First, start by boiling water in a kettle, then pour it down the drain (electric kettles can heat water anywhere, but it doesn’t matter how you get the water boiling – just be careful not to spill any).

It needs to boil and not just hot tap water so it can dissolve and loosen food particles and small blockages. This will help flush out the drain, but it won’t completely clear the clog. However, if you have PVC pipes, it is best to skip this step as it may loosen the pipe joints. You can always rinse with warm tap water after doing the vinegar and baking soda treatment.

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Next, pour about a cup of baking soda down the drain and let it sit for a few minutes. You may need to use a wooden spoon, rubber spatula, or plastic utensil to help push the baking soda down the drain. I would avoid using metal or anything sharp so as not to scratch your sink.

After the baking soda has settled a bit, pour in a cup of distilled white vinegar. The combination will create a fizzy reaction to loosen the clog. Use a stopper and plug the sink for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, boil another pot of water. When the time is up, pour the boiling water down the sink to rinse it out once more.

Repeat this regularly to avoid buildup in the future.

hand pouring baking soda into a kitchen sink

Keep your sink drain clear.

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Clean the P-trap of old food and grease

If you’ve tried all of the options but your sink still won’t drain, you may need to clean the P-trap. This is the part of your sink that keeps debris and sewer gases from coming up the drain. drain.

First, carefully insert a straightened coat hanger into your sink opening to dislodge any food that may be stuck in the drain. Unfortunately, if that doesn’t work, you’ll have to disassemble the P-trap.

The P-trap is located under the sink and is shaped like a U. To remove it, put on a pair of gloves (like plastic dishwashing gloves or leather gloves that you are not afraid to get dirty ) and place a bucket, trash can or garbage bag under the pipes to collect food or water. If it is too tight, use pliers to help loosen the fittings.

Once it’s removed, use something firm like a knife or coat hanger to push the food through and scrape the sides for any grease. Now you can reattach the P-trap and watch your water flow as it should.

pipes under a kitchen sink

The P-trap is shaped like a U and is located under your sink.

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Take good care of your waste disposal

The garbage disposal is one of the most common reasons why your sink may be clogged. There may be a spoon or food supporting it. In order to prevent your sink from becoming clogged again, you’ll want to follow these tips.

  • Never pour grease down your sink. Instead, pour it into an old glass jar (like the pasta sauce one) and throw it in the trash when it cools.
  • If you have a trash can, always run cold water instead of hot water when using it. The cold water helps keep the grease in its solid form so it doesn’t stick to the walls of the pipes. Hot water could melt it, causing slippery residue to stick to the pipes.
  • Do not throw certain foods in the trash – such as potato peelings, bones, coffee grounds or pasta. They could damage or dull the blades (bones, coffee grounds), or make them sticky and clogged (potato peelings, pasta).

Ready to unclog the plumbing in the rest of your home? Check how to clean your shower head the simple and stupid way and how to unclog a toilet without a plunger.

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