How Do You Unclog a Kitchen Sink with Standing Water?
A kitchen sink with standing water is different from a slow draining kitchen sink as I have outlined in this post. Unlike a slow draining sink drain which is usually partially clogged, a kitchen sink with standing want is usually fully clogged.
A kitchen sink with standing water is caused by a clog in the drainpipe and especially in the P-trap or the garbage disposal drain hose. This is usually caused by accumulation of fats, oils, grease and food particles which form a sticky substance in the sink drainpipe, completely restricting the flow of water out of the sink.
To unclog a kitchen sink, start by draining the water in the sink. Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain followed by another cup of vinegar and after 10 minutes blast boiling water down the drain. If that doesn’t work, disconnect and clean the P-trap and/or snake the sink drainpipe from the P-trap-drain elbow. Plunging will dislodge light clogs.
All kitchen sink drain clogs are not equal. Some are a harder to dislodge than others. You will therefore find that one method will work out for some sinks but will not work for others.
What I recommend is starting out with the easiest method and then upgrade gradually to the toughest one. In few instances none of the methods will work and you will need to call in a professional plumber.
To unclog a double sink kitchen sink, skip the plunging. Use the baking soda, vinegar and boiling water combination or remove and clean the P-trap. If that doesn’t work, insert a drain snake straight into the drainpipe from the P-trap-drain elbow connection and snake the drainpipe.
In a double kitchen sink system, both the sink bowls share the same P-trap and drainpipe. If both the sinks are blocked and backing up, it means that the clog is located in the P-trap or farther inside the drainpipe. Plunging in this case will not be effective. Either remove and clean the drain trap or snake the drainpipe with a drain auger.
If you have tried everything and your kitchen sink is still clogged, duck under the sink and disconnect the P-trap, elbow, garbage disposal drain hose and tee. Stick a drain auger directly in the drainpipe till you get to the clog. If this too does not unclog it, go ahead and call a professional plumber.
How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink
The first thing you need to do whenever you have a clogged drain is to check whether it is the only drain that is clogged, or all the drains in the house are clogged. What most people don’t know is that the kitchen sink drain is connected to the bathroom drains, which all drain into the main house drainpipe. The main hose drainpipe drains into the city’s sewer lines or septic tank.
If you find out that most of the drains in the house are either fully clogged or draining slowly, you most likely have a clogged main house drainpipe or a blocked vent stack. Clearing one or both of the 2 will fix the problem.
If fortunately, only the kitchen sink drain is clogged, fixing it is quite easy, because it means the clog is not too far from the sink. In most instances, the clog is usually in the U-bend under sink, commonly known as a P-trap or drain trap.
The following are the different methods of unclogging a kitchen sink drain:
1. Use a Baking Soda, Vinegar and Hot Water Combination
Boiling water on its own is usually enough to unclog kitchen sink drains. As earlier stated, kitchen sink drain clogs are mostly caused by fats, oils and grease (FOGs), which can easily be melted by hot water.
Incorporating baking soda and vinegar works even better. Apart from breaking down clogs, the solution helps to get rid of and prevent drain flies infestation, as well as remove bad smells from drains.
Baking soda is a readily available alkaline product while vinegar is a weak acid formed my mixing acetic acid and water. When the compounds react, water and carbon dioxide gas are produced and in the process aid in breaking down clogs.
Here is how to unclog a kitchen sink with baking soda, vinegar and boiling water:
- Drain the water in the sink. You want the baking soda and vinegar to act directly on the clog and not be diluted by the water standing in the sink. Grab a cup and scoop out all the water into a bucket. Soak up the remaining water with a sponge.
- Pour 1 cup of baking soda down the drain followed slowly by another cup of vinegar. You need to pour the vinegar slowly since it reacts very fast with the baking soda.
- Wait for 10-15 minutes. The fizzing reaction between baking soda and vinegar will break the clog into smaller particles that are easy to flow down the drainpipe. As you wait, boil about a gallon or more of water.
- Dump hot water down the drain. While the baking soda and vinegar reaction will have done most of the work, the hot water will further dissolve and wash down the clog leaving your kitchen sink clear and smelling fresh.
2. Plunge the Sink Drain
There are 2 types of plungers, flat-bottomed plungers and bell-shaped plungers. Bell-shaped plungers are ideal for unclogging toilets but with a kitchen sink drain you need a flat-bottomed plunger.
A plunger works by creating a pressure differential between the top and bottom of the clog, forcing the clog to be dislodged. Plungers merely push the clogs down the drainpipe but not necessarily break them apart.
A plunger will dislodge a clog from a kitchen sink drain most of the time, unless the clog is really nasty. The plunging technique also matters a great ideal.
In order to plunge effectively, you will need to have water in the sink, the bottom of the plunger needs to be immersed in water in order to create a tight seal.
While cold water will also work, I prefer to use hot water. Hot water will dissolve part of the clog and when you apply the plunging technique the clog will just have to move out of the way.
Here is how to effectively plunge a clogged kitchen sink that won’t drain:
- Start by draining the water. Soak up every bit of water from the sink.
- Pour ¼ cup of dish soap down the drain. Dish soap is fantastic in lubricating clogs, making them easy to dislodge with a plunger.
- Wait about 5 minutes for the dish soap to penetrate the clog
- Fill the sink with hot water up to the ¼ mark level. The hot water and dish soap will combine beautifully in breaking down and lubricating the clog.
- Plug off the sink overflow drain. Since the main sink drain and overflow drain are connected, failure to plug off the overflow drain will have the pressure created by the plunger escaping through it. Stuff a rag or towel inside it, in a way that you will be able to pull it out later.
- Start plunging. Introduce the plunger in the sink and make sure it completely covers the sink drain opening. The initial plunge needs to be gentle to properly engage the plunger. After the initial plunge proceed to plunge aggressively, only stopping to check if the water in the sink is draining out.
Plunging a double kitchen sink is not easy. The moment you start plunging one sink drain water will start to backup through the other sink drain.
In such a scenario. Plunging works better if there are 2 people and 2 plungers. Have the second person hold the second plunger over the other sink drain. They don’t need to plunge. Just seal off the drain.
The next thing is to plug off the overflow drains as well. If you are quite big and strong. You can spread yourself wide and do this on your own but the success rate will be low.
3. Inspect the Garbage Disposal
Unclogging a kitchen sink with a garbage disposal is tricky but if you know what to do it is quite easy. There are certain things which should not be thrown inside the garbage disposals but people out them anyway.
When the above happens, or when you don’t run your garbage disposal with enough water, a clog may be formed in the drain hose, P-trap or even the drainpipe. The garbage disposal blades may also be jammed, preventing them from spinning.
If your garbage disposal won’t even start, start by making sure that it is plugged in properly and that the switch is turned on. Secondly, check if the reset button on its button has tripped. If so, press it up until you hear it click.
If the garbage disposal is humming but not grinding, it means that the motor is receiving power but the blades are not spinning. This is often caused by jamming of the blades by something that should not be in the disposal.
Start by turning off or unplugging the garbage disposal from the power supply. When that is done, grab a powerful flashlight and check inside the disposal unit for foreign objects. You may need to suck out the water from the unit first.
Stick a wrench under the hole on the bottom of the garbage disposal and start tunning the blades manually. Alternatively, insert a stick inside the garbage disposal and use it instead.
Never stick your hand inside the garbage disposal. By manually turning the blades, you will force the clog to be shredded into pieces and hence unclog the drain.
Plug in the garbage disposal to the power outlet and check if the blades will start spinning freely again. Run hot water for 30 seconds to 1 minute to wash down the clog.
To clean and clear the garbage disposal even more, fill it with ice cubes and add ¼ cup of salt. Turn on the garbage disposal and cold water and run it until the ice completely melts.
As the garbage disposal is still running, cut a piece of lemon into several slices and drop one at a time inside it. This will leave it smelling fresh. Do it often
4. Clean the P-Trap
A P-trap, also called a drain trap is the U-shaped bend in your kitchen sink drainpipe. It’s shape and location are usually by design rather than accident, and every fixture in your house with a drain has one.
The P-trap as its name suggests traps potential drain clogs preventing them from clogging the drainpipe farther way, thanks to its shape. Whenever you have a clogged kitchen sink drain, most of the time the clog is usually in the trap.
Unclogging a P-trap is way easier than removing a clog many feet way from the sink. This task can actually take you less than 5 minutes if you know what to do.
Another function of the P-trap is to hold a little amount of water at all times. This water acts as a barrier preventing sewer gases from coming up through your kitchen drain.
If you ever have a sewage smell coming from your kitchen sink drain, most likely the trap is empty. This happens when the sink has not been used for a while causing water to evaporate, or when the trap is leaking.
If you would like to use this method, this is how to clean and unclog a kitchen sink drain trap:
- Drain the water in the sink. You do not want the water to spill all over your kitchen floor after disconnecting the trap.
- Clear the kitchen sink cabinet. If you have stored stuff under your kitchen sink, put them aside to give you room to work with.
- Place a small bucket or pan under the P-trap. There will still be water in the P-trap and tailpiece and you also do not want it on the floor.
- Disconnect the P-trap. If you have a plastic drainpipe, the P-trap connections will most likely be hand tight. Only use a wrench if they are too tight. Use a wrench or slip-joint pliers to loosen the connections if you have a metallic drainpipe. I prefer to start with the trap’s short arm connection to discharge out all of the water via gravity.
- Inspect the P-trap. Check the status of the P-trap. Is it fully clogged or wastewater can still flow through it?
- Check out the tee’s condition. If you have a double bowl kitchen sink, the 2 bowls use the same trap and drainpipe. The second sink bowl is connected to the main sink using a piece of pipe called a tee. It is a good idea to remove the tee and clean it as well.
- Clean the garbage disposal drain. If you have a double kitchen sink, the garbage disposal is connected to the drainpipe using a drain hose/pipe. Use a flathead screw driver to disconnect the drain hose from the garbage disposal and clean it thoroughly.
- Clean all the parts in bucket or in the bathroom sink.
At this point, you can decide to assemble the kitchen sink drain together or snake the drainpipe. Depending on how clogged or not the drainpipe looks, you will know which route to follow.
5. Snake the Drainpipe
A drain snake is a long flexible cable rolled on a drum with a spring-like and hooked head and a cranking handle. When pushed into the drainpipe, the drain snake also known as an auger hooks and pulls out the clog, or breaks it into smaller pieces.
Snaking a kitchen sink drain from the top of the sink is not easy at all. Pushing the auger past the P-trap is the most problematic part, and if you are not careful you can even damage it by drilling a hole as your turn the handle.
If you want to snake a kitchen sink drainpipe properly, start by removing the P-trap. By so doing, you will gain an unrestricted access to the drainpipe without the risk of damaging it.
With the P-trap out of the way, go ahead and remove the drain elbow as well. This is the curved pipe that connect the short arm of the p-trap to the drainpipe.
Feed the drain snake inside the drainpipe until you encounter resistance. Lock the cable in place using the clamp on the drum.
Start cranking the handle until you go through the restriction. Release more cable and check if there are more restrictions. When you are certain that the clog has be removed pull out and clean the snake.
Connect the P-trap back and turn on the kitchen sink faucet. Check that the sink draining is draining as it should, and that there are no leaks on the P-trap connections.
And that is how to unclog a kitchen sink drain naturally.
6. Call a Plumber
If you have tried all of the above methods and still nothing works, pick up the phone and call in a professional plumber. Not all drain clogs can be removed by homeowners.
a professional plumber apart from years of experience has more sophisticated tools and equipment, including drain cameras which allow them to see where and what exactly the clog is.