When do you need to call a plumber to unblock sink?
There are a number of reasons why your sink gets clogged. Many instances are preventable, and some are easier to remedy than others. We’ll take a look here at what causes a drain or sink blockage, and what you can do about it.
What to do if your sink gets blocked?
If there is a lingering smell coming from the sink area or you notice that the water is draining more slowly than it should, chances are you have a sink blockage.
Some sources recommend washing substances like bleach, vinegar or baking soda down the drain to unblock it. We don’t advise using any of these, as they involve running more water down a sink that is already blocked and could possibly make the problem worse.
If you know you’ve accidentally dropped something down the drain that shouldn’t be there (a piece of jewellery, a bottle cap, etc), then you’ll need to look for the item in the P-trap. But if you don’t know of anything unusual being dropped down the drain, then we suggest you first start with gentle plunging to dislodge a sink blockage.
Stop running the water, as this could just make the blockage worse, and grab your plunger. We suggest you have a separate plunger that you use just for sinks, rather than using the toilet plunger. You can even buy a smaller suction plunger for the sink that has a more ergonomic handle, and is easier to use in a sink.
Using a suction plunger, cover the drain and gently push and pull. The plunger works by sucking and pushing air through the pipe, which will hopefully push and pull the substance blocking the pipe, eventually dislodging it. You may hear a gurgle or a small rush of water once the block is released.
If plunging doesn’t unblock the sink, the next place to look for the clog is in the P-trap under the sink, if you’re comfortable trying to unblock your sink yourself before calling us out.
Again, make sure the water isn’t running. Place a bucket underneath the trap and check if there is a clean-out plug near the bottom of the trap. Some models have one, making it easier to check before unscrewing or disassembling the pipes. If there isn’t a clean-out plug, you will need to disassemble the trap to check for any trapped substance. Slowly unscrew the bottom pipe section, and allow the water to drip into the bucket. Use a small utensil or tool (a teaspoon will do) to clear out any substances in the bottom of the trap.
Once the trap is cleared out and re-assembled, turn on a small amount of water and check if the blockage is cleared. If the sink is still blocked, it may be time to contact us. Give us a call and we’ll talk through some options over the phone before coming out.
We’ll provide a basic overview here of how a typical kitchen or bathroom sink works, but we understand that our readers have different levels of knowledge and ability when it comes to household maintenance and DIY.
We don’t recommend you try to fix your drainage or plumbing issues if this area is entirely new to you. But understanding how your household drainage works will help you use it correctly and prevent common drainage issues.
The sinks in your home are all connected to the clean water supply and the waste water system. Clean water flows in, and waste water drains out. Sink blockages occur when the waste water, and whatever you wash down the sink, isn’t draining out properly.
The main difference between sinks in different parts of the house is usually size and function. The sinks or basins in your bathrooms are connected to faucets or mixers, and a drain. Kitchen sinks, however, are often set up to connect to a water filter, a waste disposal system and/or a dishwasher. So the plumbing in the kitchen is slightly more complicated.
The drainage area might look different in your sinks or basins depending on the type of strainer or stopper you have – some bathroom sinks have pop-up stoppers, and a kitchen drain might have a waste disposal basket.
If you look underneath any sink, you’ll see the main drainage pipe that curves into the shape of a P or a J. This is called the trap or the P-trap because its purpose is to temporarily trap water before it exits. This trapped water provides a seal so that waste water, sewage backflow and gases from the sewage system don’t flow back up through your pipes and into your home. The water in the trap is replaced every time you use the sink.
The handy thing about the trap is that this is usually where substances that cause a sink blockage get trapped (another reason for its name).
Most sink blocks can be prevented by knowing what you can and cannot wash down the drain.
There are certain things that you should NOT put down the sink:
- excess fats, oil, grease
- paper towels, napkins, paper
- teabag strings
- coffee grounds
- contact lenses
- cigarette butts
- fibrous or stringy vegetables or peels (e.g. celery, onion skins, banana peels)
- stickers from fruit and vegetables
Other ways to keep your sink from clogging
- Consider ways to re-use or compost waste
Many items that are commonly washed down the drain or waste disposal unit are great for the compost. Your garden will benefit from the nutrients in food scraps, and some plants thrive from the nitrogen in coffee grounds. So before washing anything down, stop and consider how you can re-use some of your kitchen waste.
- Keep hair out of the drain
Hair in the bathroom sink, bath or shower drain is a common cause of drain blockages. To prevent these, you can buy a hair catcher drain basket from a hardware store. Or you can simply place a small washcloth over the drain while showering to catch the hair before it enters the drain. If possible, brush your hair before and after your shower, not during. Do not clear the hair out of combs or hairbrushes in the sink or shower.
- Finish up with some hot water
If you’re washing greasy pots and pans in the kitchen sink, first wipe them with a paper towel to get rid of most of the fat, and put the greasy paper towel in the rubbish (unfortunately, kitchen grease and fat are not suitable for the compost). Alternatively, keep a container with a lid in the kitchen that you use to pour kitchen oil or grease in, and dispose of it at the end of each week. Once you’re finished washing the dishes, make sure you run some hot water down the drain at the end of your wash cycle to do a final clear out of any grease.
If you find that you’re still having issues with sink blockages or drains getting clogged, get in touch with us at Sumich Plumbing and we’d be happy to help.
The Sumich Difference
There are a number of plumbing and drainage companies in Auckland, so why choose Sumich?
Founded by owner-operator Chris Sumich in 1991, Sumich Plumbing & Drainage has one of the most experienced teams operating in Auckland. Our team has a combined experience of over 100 years and we’ve seen a comprehensive range of scenarios and solutions over the years. Clients trust us to give honest, transparent advice and service.
As registered members of the New Zealand Plumbers, Drainlayers & Gasfitters Association, we are professional, licensed Auckland plumbers for all of your plumbing, drain laying, gas-fitting and heating needs. Give us a call to see how we can help.