How to Clear a Choked Sink

One day your sink refuses to drain. Normally pipes carry all water and waste from the sink to the main drain. A drain choked with with any sort of debris, however, prevents water from effectively flowing past. A few strokes of a plunger may suffice to remedy the situation. When the plunger fails, removing the p-trap from beneath the sink will allow you to remove stubborn debris and soap build-up by hand.


Keeping pipes clear allows water to drain effectively.

Step 1

Raise your sink's stopper, if it has one, to the upright position. 

Step 2

Pull up on the stopper, or try turning it counterclockwise.  If these actions fail to allow for removal of the stopper look for the horizontal pivot rod attached to the drain pipe beneath the sink. This rod connects the stopper to a toggle lever.  Loosen the retaining nut that connects the pivot rod to the sink drain, then lift the stopper free of the sink.

Step 3

Dampen a rag.  Stuff a section of the rag into the overflow hole inside the sink basin.

Step 4

Place the center of the plunger cup over the drain.  Run enough water from the faucet to cover the cup.

Step 5

Thrust the plunger handle up and down repeatedly.  When plunging maintain a tight seal between the plunger and the sink basin.

Step 6

Remove the plunger.  Run the faucet briefly to determine whether the choke in the drain has been removed and the water is able to run freely. If the drain remains choked proceed to removing the p-trap. 


Step 1

Set a bucket beneath the p-shaped pipe beneath your sink.  Removing the pipe -- called the p-trap -- causes standing water to spill into the bucket.

Step 2

Turn the slip nut on each end of the p-trap counterclockwise.  If the nuts fail to loosen by hand use a plumber's wrench or channel-type pliers for the job.

Step 3

Separate the p-trap from the drain pipe and p-trap arm.  Turn the trap upside down over the bucket to empty it of water and any solid matter.

Step 4

Carry the p-trap outside.  Direct the end of a hose into either opening of the p-trap and run fresh water through the trap. Flush any solid matter from the pipe. 

Step 5

Set the p-trap back in place against the drain pipe and p-trap arm.  Tighten both slip nuts by hand.

Things You Will Need

  • Plunger
  • Rag
  • Bucket (as needed)
  • Plumber's wrench or channel-type pliers (as needed)
  • Hose (as needed)


  • Before reinstalling the stopper wipe it clean. Stoppers, particularly in bathroom sinks, tend to capture soap scum and hair, which also prevent optimum water flow.
  • For kitchen sinks, pour boiling water once per week into the drain opening to melt accumulated grease and fat.

Photo Credits

  • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images