How do I unstop my kitchen sink?
Sharmel from St. Louis, MO
It depends on how bad the clog is. I recently had this problem. I tried putting vinegar and baking soda down the drain which is the same as using commercial liquid drain cleaner (but safer and much cheaper). That didn't work because somehow a toothbrush and some drinking straws became lodged in the pipe. I also tried using the plunger while the dishwasher was draining water through the pipes which worked for me on other occasions, but alas not this one.
I discovered the hidden treasures by buying a plumbing snake (plastic drum auger) at the Home Depot. I bought the cheapest one possible which was about $12. Go under the sink and take the pipes apart. Make sure you have a bucket or large bowl underneath to catch any water from the sink if there is any. If the clog is under the sink you'll be able to take care of it without the snake. Otherwise take the snake and unwind it until you feel some pressure. Turn it several times and pull. It's pretty simple. I did it without too much difficulty. I had to pull very hard though.
I thought I was going to break something because I had to stand up to get some leverage. The hidden objects came out and now I put a mesh strainer over the sink drain so no other objects go down the sink. The toothbrush was flushed down the toilet by a 2 year old. Fortunately it was only a baby size toothbrush. Hopefully that will fix your problem.
The unpleasant part for me was cleaning the snake. Hose it off in the driveway and then spray it with WD40. I actually didn't have any WD40 that particular day, so I just used cooking oil, and that worked pretty well too. It's not rusty and I was able to use it again, but I would recommend spraying with WD40. I guess cooking spray might also work if that's all you had. If you put baking soda and vinegar down the drain regularly, it will keep the pipes running smoothly. (10/09/2008)
Baking soda and vinegar is not an effective substitute for Drano or products like that. Nor will they keep your pipes clean. When you combine them, they bubble nicely, but all that is happening is that the vinegar is combining with the baking soda, and carbon dioxide, water, and salt are being produced. Baking soda by itself will deodorize a drain, and may help to unclog grease clogs if accompanied by boiling water. Vinegar by itself may also be marginally helpful, as it is a slight acid. Boiling water is likely just as effective on its own, to keep a drain clear.
To unstop a clog, your first step is to try the plunger. If you have a double sink, you have to close off the second sink to get anywhere with your plunging. If that doesn't work, then you get a commercial drain cleaner like Drano or the stronger kind that you "shoot" into the drain. If that doesn't work, then it is time to try the snake. Of course, if the clog is caused by something in the drain, like silverware or toothbrushes, then you might just as well go straight for the snake. There is no way something like that is going to dissolve. Most clogs in the bathroom are caused by hair and sometimes you can just pick that out. Clogs in the kitchen are most commonly caused by solidified grease or chunky bits of food stuck in the drain, usually a combo of these. (10/14/2008)
If you can get to the pipes, put a large bucket under the elbow piece. Slowly unscrew it on both ends letting the water drain. Remove the piece completely and more than likely you will find your culprit; in my case a huge clump of grease. (03/01/2009)
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