Check out these tips to unclog a drain and prevent clogs from happening in the future.
Kitchen and bathroom sinks do a great deal of work around your home, so if they’re clogged, you’ll notice right away. These clogs typically happen as a result of built-up debris in your pipes — everything from crumbs or hair to dirt or grease.

Although stores sell many chemicals to clear your drain, these products are harsh and can cause damage to the pipes. Many times these products simply move the clog further down, which can eventually cause a larger backup.

Here a few ways to help you remove drain clogs and prevent them from forming in the future.

Boiling hot water

Try attacking your clog with boiling water. Hot water won’t do it — boiling is the key to dissolving any organic matter in your sink.

A few words of warning, however: Don’t use boiling water if you have PVC pipes, as the heat could cause their joints to loosen. In addition, make sure to never pour boiling water directly onto a porcelain sink bowl, as it can crack. Always pour the water directly down the drain. Use a large kettle or pot, boil it on the stove, pour it down the drain and repeat if necessary.

Vinegar and baking soda

When boiling water alone won’t clear a sink, you can try using vinegar and baking soda. Start by pouring half a box of baking soda down your drain. Don’t add any water. Next, pour half a cup of vinegar down the sink and then stop up the drain with a metal stopper or rags; vinegar and baking soda produce the “volcano” reaction often seen in school projects. Wait 30 minutes before pouring boiling water down the drain.

Plunger or hand plunger

If your sink is completely plugged due to a large obstruction or has become so clogged no liquid will flow through, it may be time for a plunger.

First, make sure you have the right kind of plunger: cup-shaped, not flanged, is what you want for a sink. Both handheld and full-length plungers are available and they are equally effective.

Remove any metal strainers in your kitchen sink, or the metal stopper in your bathroom sink. Fill the sink halfway full with water, then place the plunger over the drain and make sure you have a firm seal. Use sharp, fast plunges to remove the clog. Check periodically to see if the sink is draining.

Small hand-operated drain snake

These handheld drain snakes are available from hardware supply stores, typically for less than $10. They use a long, spring steel wire to “snake” into drains. Once up against a clog, they can be twisted to catch and remove debris. The steel wire design allows them to bend around most pipes.

If all else fails, you may have to remove the drain pipe and remove the clog manually. Clogs often form in the U-shaped piece called the P-trap. This piece normally has a nut on either end that is easy to twist off. If you have metal pipes, you may need to use channel locks or a large adjustable wrench. Also, make sure to place a bucket underneath the P-trap before removing it.

While these home techniques can be effective in removing sink clogs, consider hiring a plumber if you encounter anything unexpected, or if none of the above DIY methods work. Large plumbing problems require professional expertise; without proper knowledge, you may do more harm than good.

Drain maintenance

You don’t have to be an ace plumber to keep your clogged drains clear. Here are some easy ways to maintain drains and prevent clogs:

  • Cover drains with hair and food catchers, also called strainers, to keep these items from entering the drainage pipes and causing a clog.
  • Run hot water down the drain after each use. Hot water washes away any fresh buildup, allowing it to flow through the drain, as opposed to sticking to the sides of the pipes.
  • Add a handful of baking soda to your drains and follow with hot water. Baking soda is a great natural cleaner and will help remove odors. Vinegar is another great natural cleaner for drains.