Snaking the Pipes

1. Get your materials ready. This method is for those stubborn clogs and therefore requires more materials, including a bucket, screwdriver or wrench, and plumber’s snake (also called a drain snake).

  • If you do not have a plumber’s snake, you can improvise using a straightened wire hanger. Simply take a regular wire coat hanger and straighten it as much as possible, then bend one end over to create a hook.

2. Place the bucket underneath your sink. You want to position the bucket underneath the P-trap, that is, the curved part of pipe that leads directly from the drain.

3. Check to see what is holding your P-trap together. Some are held together with screws, in which case you need a screwdriver, while others have slip nuts on both ends of the pipe, in which case you will need a wrench.

4. Remove the P-trap. Do this step slowly and make sure the bucket is still positioned directly beneath you. Standing water as well as the small pipes inside of the P-trap may spill out and you want the bucket to catch them.

  • Whether the P-trap is made with screws or slip nuts, in both cases you will turn in a counterclockwise fashion to loosen the parts. When they are well loosened, you can use your fingers to pull them off completely. Be sure to keep the screws or nuts close by as you’ll need them when putting the P-trap back in place!

5. Find the clog. First check the P-trap. If you can see the blockage, use your fingers, coat hanger, or the plumber’s snake to force it out.

  • Build up typically occurs in the P-trap since the curve of the pipe is designed to stop fluids from coming back up into the sink.
  • If there is no visible clog, it is possible that the clog is in the pipe that goes into your wall. In this case, you need a plumber’s snake and it is not recommended that you substitute the wire hanger. Insert the plumber’s snake into the opening of the pipe that leads into the wall until it meets resistance (which is likely the blockage). Then tighten the nut at the base of the snake and begin twisting the snake. You can also use an in and out motion, similar to plunging, with the snake in order to dislodge the clog. Once you no longer feel any resistance at the other end, pull out the snake.

6. Reattach the P-trap. Use either the screwdriver or wrench and turn the screws or nuts clockwise to tighten them.

  • Make sure you have replaced the screws or bolts tightly so that water doesn’t leak.

7. Turn on the sink. The water should drain at its normal speed if the clog has been effectively removed.

Using a Wet and Dry Shop Vacuum

1. Get your materials ready. You will need rags, a bucket, screwdriver or wrench for undoing the P-trap, and a wet and dry shop vacuum (also known as a shop vac).

2. Place the bucket under the sink. Position the bucket directly underneath the P-trap below the sink.

3. Remove the P-trap. This is the curved pipe that is often held together with screws or slip nuts. Make sure that the bucket is directly below to catch any of the standing water left in the pipes.

  • Depending on what the P-trap is held together with, you will use a screwdriver or wrench to turn the screws or slip nuts in a counterclockwise fashion to loosen them and then use your fingers to pull the loosened parts out completely.

4. Locate the pipe you will connect to the shop vac. Every sink has two pipes, a vertical and horizontal one that intersect at an angle. You will be connecting the shop vac to the vertical pipe, also known as a stopper, that runs up into the sink.

5. Place the nozzle of the shop vac onto the stopper. Place the nozzle directly from below in order to create as much of a seal as possible.

6. Set the shop vac to vacuum fluids. Shop vacs have an option to vacuum wet or dry and in this case you want it to vacuum fluids to catch the clog.

7. Plug up any other openings. Doing so will ensure you have the tightest seal possible which will in turn help with the suction.

  • While maintaining your grip on the shop vac nozzle, seal the sink with a drain stopper and also plug up any open pipes where the P-trap was located by stuffing them with rags.

8. Turn on the shop vac. If you cannot feel anything moving, you may want to allow a little air through by releasing the sink stopper for a few seconds at a time

9. Pulse the shop vac. Turn it on and off for a few seconds at time. Doing this will create more suction and help loosen the buildup, particularly if it is a very compact clog.

10. Continue running the shop vac until the clog comes out. If the shop vac’s suction is strong enough, the clog may directly shoot through the pipe and into the vacuum bag. Otherwise, you may need to use your hands to pull out the clog once it has moved down the pipe into a reachable distance.

11. Put the sink back together. Remove the nozzle of the shop vac and, using either a screwdriver or wrench, put the P-trap back into the piping. Again, make sure to tighten the screws or bolts well to avoid water leaking.

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