How to unclog a sink in your home

woman unclogging a sink with a plunger

Danny Baggs

Posted October 31, 2023

Noticing that water in your sink is draining slowly (or not at all)? You might have a clogged sink on your hands. Here are two ways to safely unclog a sink in your home.

Blocked kitchen, laundry and bathroom sinks can cause all sorts of issues in the home, from water draining too slowly to water damage on your walls, floors and ceilings that requires a licensed plumber to remedy.  

While RACV Trades plumbers were called out 8,467 times in 2022 to fix blocked drains and pipes, RACV Homes Trades & Services Senior Product Manager Nathan Tayeh says there are a few instances where household members can unclog their own sink.

Do I need commercial drain cleaner to unclog a sink?

You don't need commercial drain cleaner to unclog your sink. Instead, grab the following items to clear common drain blockages:

  • baking soda
  • white vinegar
  • sink plunger.


a blocked kitchen sink full of water and food debris

Clogged sinks should be remedied as soon as possible. Image: Getty

How to unclog a sink with natural ingredients

How do I unclog a sink with baking soda and vinegar?

Follow these steps to clear common sink blockages:

  1. Pour a kettle full of boiling water down the drain.
  2. Next, pour half a cup of baking soda down the drain.
  3. Now pour a cup of white vinegar down the drain.
  4. Quickly cover the drain with the sink plug to force the foaming chemical reaction down the drain, rather than up into your sink.
  5. Leave the drain alone for 30 minutes while the foam eats away at the blockage.
  6. Slowly pour another kettle of boiling water down the drain.

How does baking soda and vinegar work to unclog sinks?

Baking soda and vinegar form a foaming chemical reaction when combined. This foam bubbles through clogs, breaking them up into smaller, looser materials. The boiling water adds extra pressure to force stubborn blockages off the pipe walls, and washes off any residue left behind by the baking soda-vinegar foam.


Clean your home the natural way | RACV

How to unclog a sink with a plunger

What is a sink plunger?

A sink plunger is a smaller plunger made specifically for clearing drain blockages in household sinks. You can pick one up from your local big-brand supermarket.

“Unclogging a minor sink clog with a plunger can be a simple process,” Tayeh notes.

"Limiting tools to a plunger means the risk of injury, or causing more damage to your pipes, is extremely low. However, if you don’t take care and follow a few key rules, like wearing rubber gloves and safety glasses, then things can go astray.”

How does plunging work to unclog drains?

A plunger uses hydraulic suction and compression to forcibly pull water up and force water down the drain in order to move clogs.


woman using plunger to unclog sink

A plunger might be all you need to unclog your sink. Image: Getty

How do I unclog a sink with a plunger?

  1. Fill the clogged sink about half full with water. Make sure the water in the sink is cold before plunging to prevent burns.
  2. Place the plunger completely over the drain, and push down slowly through the water, allowing air bubbles to escape. “The aim is to ensure that there is little to no air caught under the plunger,” says Tayeh. “If there is still air in the plunger, you will end up simply pumping air and not putting any pressure on the blockage.”
  3. Alleviate your downward force on the plunger once it is placed firmly over the drain, so that it draws water back up inside itself.
  4. Plunge straight up and down using short, sharp movements without breaking the seal over the drain. “Using short and consistent movements with a plunger is key,” Tayeh says. “This will look as though you’re trying to shake something loose, which is essentially what you’re trying to do.”
  5. 'Pop' the plunger straight up off the drain after each five-second burst of plunging. Check in between plunging bursts to see if you have been successful in reducing the clog.
  6. Repeat if necessary. If you feel little resistance when plunging, it may be because other fixtures such as a bath are connected to the same drain, which means every time you plunge, all you’re doing is forcing water out from another opening. “If nothing is happening, have someone else hold a plug over the other opening,” says Tayeh. “This will block any air getting into the pipes, giving you more resistance and opportunity to forcefully unblock the sink.”
  7. Call a professional plumber if the clog doesn't move. “A small, localised blockage, usually within a few metres of the sink, should be fine for the average person to tackle themselves,” Tayeh explains. “But any blockage unable to be cleared by a plunger will require a professional plumber to fix.”


Mistakes to avoid in the kitchen | RACV

How to prevent clogged drains

A sink strainer plug can help you avoid clogging your sink again. They are common in modern kitchens. Simply allow the strainer to catch food and hair from washing down your drain, then empty the debris straight into the bin before replacing the strainer.

Similarly, try not to brush your hair over the bathroom sink, and refrain from washing loose hairs in your sink down the drain. Gather them up and throw them in the bin instead.

Finally, you can flush sinks with hot water after tasks like washing dishes to rinse away new buildup before it can stick to the pipes and build into larger blockages.


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