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How Do I Fix a Slow Draining Sink?

If you have a slow-draining sink, give one of these solutions a go to get everything flowing nicely again.

Seeking the Source of the Slow Drain

Before you go picking and prodding through your drain pipes, you should get familiar with what might be causing your sink to drain slowly. Here are some of the common issues to consider.

Dirt and Mineral Buildup

Over time, your sink’s drain can get filled up with all kinds of dirt and minerals. These particles eventually can clump together and create a blockage in your drain pipes.

Food, Oils, and Other Clog Culprits

Everything that goes down your sink, including food particles, oils, grease, hair, and other bits, have the potential to clog it up. You might notice that water flow begins to slow until one day it stops and the backup is impossible to ignore.

A Blocked Drain Line

Your plumbing drain lines form a system of branch drains that connect to the main drain line that exits the house. Depending on where a drain is blocked, a single fixture or all the fixtures in your home could be affected.

A blocked main drain line is a much more serious issue, because it connects all of your systems. You don’t want to mess with your whole house plumbing! If you suspect this is the issue, don't use any of your plumbing fixtures, and contact your local plumber immediately. A plumbing specialist will have the knowledge and tools to inspect your system and clear the drain line for you.

How to Unclog, Clear, or Clean Your Slow Drain

If a clog seems to be at the heart of the problem, here are some tool-based and mixture-based solutions to break up the blockage.

Tools That Can Help

With a drain snake or cable auger (or a straightened-out wire hanger):

  • Before you start poking and prodding, remove the drain covering or stopper. Make sure you’re using the right cable size for the drain (too small and there will be too much slack, too large, and it could get stuck before reaching the clog).

  • Insert the snake or auger and slowly inch it about two to three feet into the drain. If the snake hits a blockage, twist the snake or auger to catch the clog source. Pull the snake out.

  • Note that running a snake or cable through a trap isn’t a good idea unless you have one designed for that -- otherwise, the cable could break the trap.

With a plunger:

  • Before getting started, remove any drain covering or stopper in your drain opening.

  • Partially fill the basin with water and place the plunger lip completely over the drain opening. Ensure that the drain is entirely covered, and that the seal is tight.

  • Plunge vigorously for about 20 seconds.

Ward Off Future Clogs

With that clog cleared, let’s leave the trouble behind for good! Here are a few ways to maintain clean drain hygiene and avoid slow-draining sinks in the months and years ahead.

  • Don’t pour grease or oils in the sink

  • Clear any food scraps on plates in the trash before rinsing them in the sink

  • Don’t put leftover food particles or scraps in the drain or down the garbage disposal

  • Collect any hair or soap scum in your bathroom sink basin after each use instead of running it down the drain

The more often you maintain your drains, the less often you’ll deal with problems. A clean a day (or a week) keeps the clogs away!

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