Thursday, November 13, 2014

Fixing a Clogged Sink

When I talked to my husband about starting this blog, he asked, "Won't you run out of things to post?"  He didn't see it, but it was clear to me that this wouldn't be a problem.  I want to pull my posts from my real life.  And today, Real Life really stepped up to the plate.

After my husband left for work, I noticed that his bathroom sink stopper was sitting on the side of his sink (on a Kleenex… kudos to him for tidiness).  Clearly, his sink wasn't draining well.  I have noticed his sink (and mine) draining slowly in the past but just decided to ignore it until we had to deal with it.  Today was that day.

So instead of messing with Drain-o or a drain snake, which might help but probably won't solve the problem in the long run, I decided to do it the right way and thoroughly clean the trap under the sink.  We have lived in this house for about 7 years and have never done this.  I think it's overdue.


The "trap" of the sink is that u-shaped or j-shaped or p-sheped (depending on how you see it) tubing in the cabinets under your sink.  (I know that this will not be life-changing information for some of you, but others might have never dived into sink traps before.  Actually, now that I think of it, I don't think I would ever recommend "diving into a sink trap".)

The sink trap is actually designed to prevent sewer fumes from entering your house.  When you remove it, you will see that it is (hopefully!) full of water.  That water is what prevents the fumes from coming up through the drain and into your house.

As a side note, some traps actually have little plugs on the bottom of them that you can use to access them instead of removing them completely.  If you ever lose something (hopefully none of you have dropped jewelry down your sink), the first thing to do is to check the trap (after turning the water off, of  course).

What You Will Need

  • Small bucket (that you don't mind getting very dirty)
  • Cleaning towels
  • Toothbrushes (old ones, obviously) , clothes hangers or any other object that will help you clean out the tubing
Fix It

And now for the fun part.

My sink trap is freakishly close to the bottom of my cabinets.  If I had the clearance, I would put a bucket or container directly below it to trap all the water.  As you can see in the photo above, there just isn't the space.  So, I used our old cloth diapers to line the bottom of the cabinet and catch the drips.

In my assembly, there are 3 slip nuts (those round parts with the little nubs all the way around to grip).  Loosen those by hand.  You really shouldn't need a tool for this unless Hercules tightened them last time.

This is pretty obvious, but do not turn on the water after you have removed the trap.  (I have been known to do such things on occasion.)

Remember, righty tighty, lefty loosy.   Here I have loosened two of the slip nuts.  You can see that they will move completely off of the junction when they are fully loosened.  Now you should be able to remove the trap completely.  It may take a little wiggle, but it will come off.

A word of caution:  this is going to be nasty.  Have a bucket or something to dump this disgusting sludge in after you take it off.  You may want to wear gloves, but I live dangerously, so this isn't an issue for me.

This job got much, MUCH more disgusting after this photo was taken, but I decided, in the interest of decency, not to show you a photo of the aftermath.

Dump the trap water (and sludge and hairballs and whatever else you find), into your Bucket of Disgust.  If you are the optimistic type, check this sludge for lost engagement rings.

I also cleaned the sink trap out with an old toothbrush.  There was a film all along the inside of it, which impedes the flow of the water over time, so I got all that gunk out.  I also stuck the toothbrush down the drain from the sink side to clean out hair and gunk and nastiness.  Like I said, this just isn't pretty, so no photos.

Once everything is cleaned out, put the trap back in place and tighten the slip nuts.  Then, run the water and check the trap for any leaks (if you didn't tighten the nuts sufficiently) and also to refill the trap with water (to catch those noxious fumes, remember).  I also like to take a peek under the sink for every few days after doing this, just be sure that there are no drips or slow leaks.

I also have to say that no amount of hand washing can make me feel clean after this.  It's like touching raw chicken.  It's like my hands are forever tainted now.  Maybe I should reconsider that glove thing.

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