Why Doesn't My Bathroom Sink Drain?

How to unclog a slow or stopped bathroom sink drain without having to call on an expensive plumber.

Strings of hair, mustache or beard shavings, soap build-up, fish tank ornaments (don't ask). A clogged drain can be one of the most frustrating things, and it usually happens at the least convenient of times.

Returning the flow to a bathroom sink drain can be pretty simple, inexpensive, and most repairs can be done with common tools found in any tool box or junk drawer.

The first thing to do is to get to the plumbing under the sink.

Most sinks sit on top of a cabinet with doors that open to the front for access to the pipes and for the storage of various cleaners.

Under the sink will be a set of 4 to 5 pipe pieces. There will be a straight pipe coming down from the sink drain. There may be a short, straight extension pipe. A pipe that will then turn 180 degrees (a complete U-turn) for a few inches then another that will turn another 180 degrees. From there a longer straight pipe disappears down into the floor.

The drain restriction will - more than likely - be in the bottom of the first 180 degree turn. That is what, and why, it is called the "trap". It traps most everything that shouldn't go into the sewer system or septic tank, such as a wedding ring.

Most modern plumbing under the sink will consist of non-corrosive, non-rusting plastic PVC piping, though older sinks will be made of metal.

If the pipes are plastic, the pipe nuts will turn loose rather easily with help from a pair of channel locking pliers.

Place several rags or, if room, a small bucket to catch the water that's still in the pipe.

Loosen the nuts on each end of the 180 degree pipe so they fall away from the connection.

The pipe will come out easily and the offending clog can be removed.

Reinstalling the 180 pipe may require new vinyl washers. Look the old ones over carefully to decide if new ones are needed. Look for cuts, pitting, or if the materials are too hard to bend slightly. If they are they can leak and literally destroy a wooden cabinet and flooring under the sink, undetected, in time. The washers can be purchased for less than fifty cents at any local hardware store or super-center.

If the pipes are metal the nuts, and possibly the pipes, may be rotten and turn to dust in your hand if they are old enough.

Placing several rags or a bucket under the pipes, remove all of the nuts, the 180 degree pipes, the vinyl washers and the pipe(s) coming from the sink itself and take them to the hardware store to match up a set of plastic replacements.

The pipe coming directly from the sink will have the draibn stopper valve set-up in it as well. Remember how the linkage from the sink was hooked to the lever at the pipe for installation. Adjustment is typically easy with a sliding washer on a threaded stud, or holding screws into the lever.

Install the new plastic pipes in the same position that the metal ones were originally in.

This should take care of any draining problems that come up.

© High Speed Ventures 2011