Clean Kitchen  — Kitchen Sink in Milwaukee, WI

You're rinsing off your dishes after dinner and the dirty water is swirling normally down the drain —until, with an ominous gurgling noise, it suddenly isn't. Instead, the water starts to back up, and a nasty swill of dirty water (complete with food particles) fills the sink. To make matters worse, this may not be the first time you've had this issue this week. What's a frustrated homeowner to do?

Crossing your fingers and hoping the issue goes away won't solve the problem. If you're sick of dealing with recurring sink clogs, you can try a few DIY tricks to deal with the issue before calling in a pricey plumber. Keep reading for some basic instructions on dealing with a backed-up kitchen sink, complete with a list of inexpensive plumbing tools to invest in so you can get the job done right.

1. Baking Soda, Vinegar, and Hot Water

If your sink has only backed up a few times, start by trying this simple solution. Pour a half-cup to a cup of baking soda down the sink, then chase it down with an equal amount of vinegar. After five minutes, pour several cups of hot water down the sink. Repeat the process a few more times as needed.

2. Chemical Cleaning Agents

If baking soda and vinegar solve your problem, you may not need to go further. But this process only works on the most basic clogs. If a more natural solution doesn't work, turn to heavy-duty chemicals that can get the job done without damaging your plumbing.
Some of the top clog-removing chemicals include:

  • Bleach-based cleaners. Like lye-based cleaners, these agents can scour minerals, grease, and food clogs from your pipes. They're also toxic, so store out of the reach of children.
  • Drain cleaners. These products are easy to find at most home improvement stores, but it works best on soap residue rather than grease and food.
  • Pure Lye. This chemical works well on grease residue and food clogs. Lye is extremely potent and poisonous if consumed — only handle with gloves, and keep it well out of children's reach. Lye can also damage older plumbing systems.

Before you settle on a certain drain cleaner over another, talk to a plumber or an expert at a plumbing supply store. They can tell you which type of drain cleaner will be most effective for your specific plumbing system, and they can also talk to you about how to use and store chemicals safely.

3. Hand Augers

When chemicals don't work, to take a page out of a plumbers' book by investing in an inexpensive hand auger (sometimes called a drum auger). This tool can remove even the largest, most stubborn clogs, and the tools are much more affordable than scheduling a plumbers' visit every time your sink backs up.

The auger consists of a snake, or flexible cable, and a corkscrew. To use the auger, insert the cable into the drain. When the cable reaches the clog, pull out an extra foot of cable from the auger, and then turn the corkscrew part of the auger so it pulls through the clog. You should be able to slowly wheel the clog back up through the sink.  

If the clog won't catch, try removing the P-trap (the S-shaped curve of pipe beneath the sink) and running the cable through the pipes that way.  
When you're ready to get to work unclogging your drain, having high-quality tools is paramount. Whether you're looking for chemical cleaners for your kitchen sink or motorized augers that can tackle larger jobs, Crown Hardware & Plumbing Supply has you covered. Learn about our wide selection of drain-cleaning tools, and scan our blog for more DIY plumbing tips and tricks.