How to unblock a sink with or without a plunger

  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • Uh-oh, the sink's blocked again. But before you Google 'emergency plumber' read this!

    So your sink’s blocked. But there’s no need to call the professionals just yet, as we think we can get your water flowing freely again in a jiffy. Follow our step-by-step guide on how to unblock a sink and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done. You’ll save yourself some money, too!

    More DIY: How to keep your house warm in winter

    How to unblock a kitchen sink


    Image credit: Lizzie Orme

    1. Block up the overflow

    It’s easiest to do this using a dishcloth or old towel.

    2. If you have a plunger, use it now!

    Place the sink plunger over your plughole, cover with water – this will help you to create an airtight seal – and grip the handle with both hands. Pump up and down to create suction until the blockage is dislodged.

    If going at your sink with a plunger isn’t working, or you don’t have one…

    How to unblock a sink without a plunger


    Image credit: Rachael Smith

    1. Add baking soda and vinegar

    This low-cost solution uses two ingredients you’re likely to have in your kitchen cupboards – baking soda and vinegar. Add a couple of teaspoons of baking powder, followed by a cup of white vinegar. Bicarb of soda can also be used in place of baking.

    2. Try a common hangover cure

    Alka-Seltzers are great for mild blockages and nasty smells. Pop a couple down the plughole and then pour in a cup of vinegar. Wait a few minutes and then blast with the hot tap to flush through the blockage.

    3. Pour in a little biological washing powder

    This is another idea that will leave your sink smelling sweeter. Pop two tablespoons of biological washing powder down the plughole, followed by a kettle’s worth of boiling water. This should remove any fats or grease that have built up. Soda crystals are similarly effective.

    4. Insert a long wire

    Get hold of a long flexible wire tool. Feed it into the drain, so it bends around the pipe and clears what’s blocking it. You could buy one or use a straightened wire coat hanger – just be careful of any sharp edges!

    Buy now: Drain Cleaner 4.65m, £10.99, Wickes

    And if none of those work…

    5. Unscrew the U-bend and clear out the blockage by hand

    If all that fails, you need to take the U-bend apart. Don’t call a plumber – this job’s easy enough to take on, but do change into some old clothes, because it’s going to get mucky and you’ll be working in a very small space. Expect to spend anything up to an hour on it.

    Put on a pair of rubber gloves, put down some old towels and slowly unscrew the U-bend or bottletrap using a wrench. It can come in several parts so take a picture first – that way, you’ll know how to put it all back together later.

    Have a bucket ready to catch any water as you pull it apart, and clear out the pipework. Remember to wash out any dismantled traps or pipework in another sink, bath or using the outside tap – otherwise you’ll end up with wet feet!

    Trouble in the loo? How to unblock a toilet

    How to unblock a bathroom sink


    Image credit: Tim Young

    Try the methods above, but we do have a specialist tips for bathroom sinks, which can get clogged with hair.

    1. Unblock sink hairs with a magic tool

    Rid bathroom drains of pesky hair with the ingenious Drain Weasel tool, which snags and removes hair. insert the wand in the plughole and hold it by the sleeve. Rotate the handle 360 degrees until your feel resistance. Carefully remove and discard the wand, saving the main part for next time.

    Buy now: The Drain Weasel 2 disposable plughole cleaning brushes, £8.99, Lakeland

    Hopefully that’s worked for you. But before we go, here are a few more of your sink unblocking questions, answered.

    Can bleach unblock a sink?

    A combination of bleach and boiling water can break down some type of clog – but it won’t eat through hair, for example. We would recommend you try the above methods first, as we think you’ll find them more effective and they are certainly less harmful to the environment.

    If you do use bleach to unblock a sink, make sure you read the instructions on the bottle first. Wear gloves and keep your skin covered in case you accidentally splash yourself.

    How do I unblock sink full of water?

    If you are using a plunger, the fact that the sink is full of water won’t be a problem, since you’ll need it there to create an airtight seal (see above). The weight of the water might also act to push the blockage through.

    However, if the plunger method doesn’t work, you’ll need to empty out as much water as possible. Use a saucepan or jug to scoop it out and then pour the water into a bucket. Then try the other methods of unclogging the sink that we’ve listed.

    Get the job done: 12 DIY updates that anyone can do

    Right, time to have a go yourself. Trust us – unclogging the sink yourself really isn’t tricky as you think, and you’ll save yourself a small fortune!

    All the latest from Ideal Home