Help - My Kitchen Sink is Clogged! - Snaking (yet another) drain!

11:36 AM

Time to Snake the Drain - Here's a tutorial!
You'd think I'd be used to dealing with plumbing problems at my house.  The truth is that I kind of am, but they still annoy me!  In this blog we've covered a variety of leaks, snaking drains and other home repair jobs.  Today, we're back to snaking.  This time it's the kitchen sink.  While this isn't as bad as snaking the toilet, it can still be a stinky, greasey job, so prepare yourself.


It's pretty darn easy to tell when the sink is clogged - the sink is filled with standing water.  The real trick is to figure out when a clog is coming.  Plumbing varies from house to house.  Plumbing problems in our house ALWAYS come with a warning sign.  Learn the signs for your plumbing and a clog won't sneak up on you.

Stage #1 - A few weeks before we get a clog our kitchen sink burps.  It doesn't burp everyday.  It doesn't burp all the time.  Just from time to time in the weeks before a clog I'll hear a low burp-y grumbling sound coming from deep in the pipes below the kitchen sink.  If I snake the drain when the sink begins to burp the clog usually doesn't happen.  

Stage #2 - If I ignore the burping, the next stage is what can only be described as back wash.  Back wash starts off sounding like a burp and is followed by waste water from another drain in the house washing into the kitchen sink.  Again - it doesn't happen every day.  It happens from time to time.  Water floods the sink and then goes back down the drain.  The smell of the water usually tells me where it's from.  Shower water usually smells like soap.  Bathroom sink water usually smells like toothpaste.  Dishwasher water smells like garbage.  Really, the source of the water doesn't even matter.  Once I see (or smell) backwash a true clog is eminent.  If I snake the drain when I see backwash a true clog doesn't arrive. If I ignore the backwash, I'll have a clog in less than a week.

Stage #3 - Full on clog.  The pipes had been warning me, but I was busy and tired and not in the mood.  Honestly I'd hoped that it would go away.  But alas I woke up Sunday morning to a full on clog.  The sink was full of dishes from the night before.  The dishes were surrounded with water that smelled like toothpaste.  That means that water for where I brushed my teeth had likely back washed into the sink.  The pipe was clogged enough that the back wash could no longer drain on its own.

And so - now it's snaking time!

For this job you will need:
Gloves (I didn't use any, but they're helpful)
Snake (I prefer electric, but you might be able to get away with using a manual/hand crank snake)
Goggles (especially if you put drain cleaner down the sink)
pipe wrench (optional)
strap wrench (optional)
wet vac (optional)

Important TIP!  If you're going to snake the drain DO NOT pour drain cleaner down the drain!  It's a waste of time and money and it can be dangerous.  The last thing you want is a face full of water and Drain cleaner. 


1.  If you can, remove everything from the sink (dishes, water, etc).  Scoop the water into a bucket or use a wet vac.  It's okay to skip this step, but skipping it means you'll be really wet later.

2.  Determine the best route for snaking the drain.  My kitchen sink will not allow me to run a snake down the drain from the sink.  I have to go underneath the sink to snake the pipes.

My snake won't fit down this drain
If you have a wide drain opening in your sink, you can run the snake directly down the drain (lucky you!)  If you have a wide drain, ship to "Snaking Time"!
Sink with wide drain opening

 PLACE A BUCKET UNDER THE TRAP.  The trap is the pipe under your sink that's shaped like a "J".  Suit up girl, you're about to get very wet!  The water will be gross, but don't worry about it - plumbers get wet!

Underneath the sink, remove the trap by loosening the 2 slip nuts that hold the trap in place.  If you have old pipes you may need to use a wrench.  My pipes are newer PVC so no tools are necessary to remove the connectors.  

Loosen slip nut #1

Loosen nut #2
As you begin to loosen the nuts, water from the sink AND the pipe will begin to fill the bucket.  Even a little bit of water can seem like a lot and it may spray.  Just be patient.  Once the sink (and pipe) are empty, the water will stop coming.

TIP:  DON'T LOSE THE WASHERS!  Washers for PVC pipes are clear/white.  They're SUPER easy to lose in the craziness of snaking the drain.  Keep them in a safe place.

TIP:  Now that they're off, inspect the washers and make sure that they not cracked or broken.  A broken or cracked washer can cause a leak!


My first snake was a manual/hand crank snake.  Manual snakes are inexpensive and work great for small clogs.  Expect to pay about $20.   

These work great for smaller clogs 
   For tougher clogs I prefer an electric snake.  The electric snake is a manual snake that attaches to a drill and clears tough clogs QUICKLY!  Expect to pay about $30.

My snake attached to my drill.

Slowly feed the snake down the drain until you reach a stopping point.  The stopping point may be the clog, or it may be an elbow in the pipe.  Slowly begin to crank the snake (or run the drill) moving the snake slightly back and forth until you're move past the stopping point.  

Next feed a little more snake into the pipe and run the snake again.  Continue feeding the snake into the drain until you run out of snake or until you believe you've passed the clog.

Me snaking the drain
 Even if the snake is just a short distance inside the pipe, I usually snake 25 feet (the entire length of my snake).  I don't want to break up a clog only to have it move deeper into the pipe.


Flush the sink.  If you've removed the J trap you'll have to reassemble the trap to run water down the sink.  Flush hot water down the sink and allow it to run for a few minutes.  This will flush any remaining bits of clog out of the pipe.

If the drain is not yet clear, you'll need to snake it again!

Once you're sure that the pipe is clear, clean up your mess and you're good to go!


Retract the snake.  Most snakes need to be retracted manually.  That means that you're pulling the snake out of the dirty drain with your hands.  You might want to use gloves for this (especially if there was drain cleaner in the sink).  

TIP:  I don't use drain cleaner so I prefer to retract the snake with my bare hands.  That allows me to feel what's on the snake.  If the snake is greasy I know that grease may have been part of the reason for the clog.    

No more clog!

I like to inspect the tip of my snake.  Whatever is tangled on the tip of your snake is what was clogging the drain.

My snake tip was filled with hair and brillo!  First - YUCK!  Second, the brillo was an interesting find.  My husband has recently taken to cleaning EVERY-DOG-GONE-THING with brillo.  I love that he's into scrubbing things clean, but I had no idea that brillo would clog a drain.

Maybe this clog would have happened anyway, but we WILL NOT be purchasing more brillo!

I hope this tutorial was helpful for you.


Leave a bucket under the sink to check for leaks
If you removed the J trap to do this job, leave a bucket under your sink for a day or 2.  The bucket will catch leaks if you didn't get everything tight enough.  If after a day or 2 the bucket is dry, you're golden.  If the bucket has water, make sure that your joins are tight and all washers are in good repair.

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  1. It's good to know that you are quite knowledgeable with solving problems in your house, particularly when it comes to your clogged sink. The post is really informative, and the details are explained in a clear way. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas about plumbing, Kathy! Cheers!

    Gordon Patton @ Bison Plumbing and Heating Ltd.

  2. Hi Kathy! Thank you very much for sharing these very useful DIY drain-cleaners to us. It will really come in handy to those who often clogged their drains for usual reasons. Though, if the cause of the clogs is something related to its overall plumbing structure, then tools such as snake wouldn’t be enough. Nonetheless, thanks for always sharing your very own tips! :)

    Lovella Cushman @ Perfection Plumbing

  3. Thank you for sharing with us this experience about your kitchen, well done, great post.

  4. I hate clogged sinks. What I do is ensure that I always clear clogs periodically before they reach the stage where no water can get past it. Of course, at that stage, you can't tell that they exist. What you do is, pour a half cup of baking soda down the drain followed by a half cup of vinegar. That helps.

    Traci Romero @ Harris Plumbing

  5. Thank you for your extremely informative step by step information to help me diagnose and then unclog my sinks. I love your step by step diagnosis you listed here. Ever since my wife and I moved to our new home we have had trouble with clogged drains and sinks about once or twice a year.

    Darryl Housand @ Haaker

  6. Your tips for testing my clogged drain seems like it help me decide if I'll need to snake it a few time. Your method for removing the J trap and flushing hot water down the sink to see if it's clear yet seems like a good way to do that. I'll make sure to reassemble the trap so that I can run water down the sink while I'm unclogging it.

  7. Your tips for testing my clogged drain seems like it help me decide if I'll need to snake it a few time. Your method for removing the J trap and flushing hot water down the sink to see if it's clear yet seems like a good way to do that. I'll make sure to reassemble the trap so that I can run water down the sink while I'm unclogging it.

  8. After reading your post, I remember the time that I had a clogged drain which I tried fixing myself. But I just end up clogging the drain even more. From that moment on, I only hire professionals from companies that offer clog drain solutions to help solve my drainage problems.

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