As when dealing with bathroom clogs, clearing clogs in kitchen sinks and laundry tubs is a matter of taking a staged approach: first try the simplest and easiest approaches. If those don’t solve the problem, move on to more complicated and ultimately effective techniques. Snaking is often unnecessary when other methods have been successfully tried first.
The causes of clogs in kitchen and laundry fixtures usually differ from those in bathrooms, but many of the methods of solving the problems are the same. Laundry tubs are often clogged with fibrous materials and string, and occasionally dental floss. In kitchens, clogs can be caused by grease, foodstuffs, and foreign objects that have collected in the drain pipe. Kitchen sink blockages are also often made more frequent by garbage disposers. With kitchen sinks, the best way to prevent blockages is by not pouring grease down the drain, and not challenging the capacity of the garbage disposer. Dump bigger food items into the garbage before rinsing smaller items down the drain.
Using a plunger
Sometimes a conventional flat plunger or a toilet-style plunger will be all that is needed. If you are using a flange plunger, be sure the flange is not too large for the drain. Also, because kitchen sinks and laundry tubs are often paired (double) sinks, using a plunger to clear a blockage involves sealing the other side of the pair to maintain the pressure or suction created by the plunger. You can plug the drain you are not plunging with a rag, or put a a tight stopper. Another person can help to keep the opposing side sealed.
Then add enough water to the side you will be plunging to enable the plunger to properly submerge, and plunge the sink. Try alternating sinks, to see whether that will dislodge the blockage. It doesn’t matter which direction you move the blockage, as any movement is likely to clear it.
Fishing debris using a coat hanger
Another simple trick is to fish around beneath the basket strainer using a wire coat hanger bent into a tight U shape at the end. The openings in the strainers are generally quite small, so you will need a pair of pliers to make the sharp bend required.
If the drain is blocked in the immediate area of the sink, this technique might be enough to solve the problem. If the plunger and coat hanger are unsuccessful, move along to the next step.
Snaking through the basket strainer
If plunging and fishing with a coat hanger have failed and you are interested in snaking the drain but don’t want to open the trap beneath the sink, it’s possible to modify a drain snake to fit it through the opening of a basket strainer. Using a pair of wire cutters, cut off the auger tip of the snake and then pull open the remaining end. This will make a much narrower tip that can fit through the basket strainer. However, this method will make the modified snake less effective for normal snaking, and the snake will still be challenged to navigate around the bends of the trap. This method is a compromise best employed if the trap beneath the sink is inaccessible.
Remove trap and inspect the drain pipe
At this point, you may have exhausted the simple techniques, but even so clearing a drain is not complicated. Before removing the trap beneath the sink, sponge out all the water accumulated in the sink, and position a bucket beneath the trap to catch water that will be released. Then, using slip-joint pliers or a plumber’s wrench, uncouple the trap where it meets the tailpiece and where it meets the drain pipe.
You mow have direct access to potential blockages: it will now be possible to look up through the tailpipe, through the trap, and along the initial part of the drain pipe to see whether there is any obstruction, and to easily remove it. This will ensure that any obstructions in the immediate area of the sink are cleared.
Once you have disassembled the trap and cleared any obstructions in that area, you can reassemble the trap and run water through the piping to see that it drains freely. However, this only makes sense if you have actually found and removed an obstruction. Otherwise, the blockage remains, further down the drain, and snaking will be necessary. Even if you have removed a small amount of blockage in the immediate area of the drain, there could still be more blockage further along. In such cases, snaking is the next step.
Unless you have removed an obstruction and can verify that the sinks or basins are draining freely, snaking is recommended. If you have already opened the drainline trap, you might as well at this point snake the drain, rather than reassembling the system and then finding that the problem is not solved.
To snake a drain, feed a length of snake into the drain until it meets an obstruction. At this point, lock the snake in the handle by turning the wingnut or setscrew, leaving about 20 cm sticking out. Then crank the snake, and monitor the progress. Moving the snake in increments allows the snake to work best, and for you to see results.
This should clear any remaining blockage, and you can now reassemble the trap connections and test the system. This step-by-step drain clearing procedure will solve most problems with little expense and without the need for expensive and often ineffective drain clearing chemicals. That said however, occasional use of drain cleaners might prevent clogs on persistently blocked sinks. In the unlikely event the sink wiil still not drain properly, a professional might be required. Master Drain can help, with advanced tools and techniques.