One morning as you are rinsing your coffee cup and getting ready to run out the door, you notice that you have a kitchen drain clog and that the sink has a little bit of water standing in it. Not that big of a deal, and you have to get to work. You’ll worry about it later.
However, by that evening the kitchen sink is full of gross, smelly, dirty water and your well-orchestrated evening kitchen routine has ground to a halt. You can’t do dishes, you can’t cook, and you can’t even rinse an apple for a snack without making a trip to the nearest bathroom sink. Suddenly, what seemed like not such a big deal has become a minor emergency.
Before you give us a call, there are some tried and true methods to clearing that clog on your own that you could try, and it’s best to get on top of the situation as soon as possible to keep that standing water from continuing to rise. Most of the tools you will need are probably already in your own home.
Grab Your Plunger
The first method to try to deal with your kitchen drain clog is the old, trusty plunger. You’ll probably want to wear gloves during all your courageous unclogging attempts, but especially here when you may have some splash back.
Make sure the plunger covers the entire drain opening so you have a seal. Hold the plunger straight upright and plunge 8 or 9 times in quick succession. If you’ve managed to dislodge the clog completely, the water will recede fast when you remove the plunger. If you’ve managed to dislodge the clog only a little bit, then the water will start to recede slowly, and you’ll want to give the plunger another go to try to get the clog completely removed.
Avoid Liquid Plumber
If you’ve given the plunger the old college try and nothing has budged, try moving on to methods 2 & 3. (Which are so reminiscent of fun school science experiments, that it’s almost worth having a clogged drain!) Avoid the impulse to run to the store and purchase harsh chemical drain cleaners. Not only do they hardly ever work, but they can be corrosive to your pipes.
Instead, try pouring ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a ½ cup of vinegar. The two ingredients will react with each other and foam up, hopefully taking out your kitchen drain clog in the process. If the clog still doesn’t budge, at least the foaming was cool.
Next, try pouring 1 cup of baking soda and a 1/2 cup of salt down the drain. You’ll want to let the mixture sit for at least a few hours, even overnight, if possible. When you’re ready, pour two cups of boiling water down the drain. You’ll know right away if it’s worked by the rapidly depleting water level.
Break Out The Snake!
If you’ve tried all three methods and are still stuck with a kitchen sink full of cold, smelly water, then it’s time to get physical. You’ll want to try a tool that can physically push or pull that nasty clog out of the drain. This means finding an auger, or plumbing snake. If you already own or can borrow one, great! (If you don’t then it may be more economical to have a pro take care of it.)
If you try the auger, the idea is to snake it down through the pipes and force the clog out of the drain, or to push past the clog and drag it back out of the drain when you pull the tool back out.
How to Avoid A Kitchen Drain Clog
Hopefully one of these methods has lead you to righteous victory over your clog. If that’s the case, then your next job is to prevent the same problem from occurring again. Cleaning, maintenance, and knowing what NOT to put down your drains are your best weapons for prevention of clogs.
To clean and maintain a regular (non-disposal) kitchen sink drain, the first thing you’ll want to do is buy one of those nifty mini metal strainers that sit on top of your drain. They’ll let water through, but nothing else. They are a great idea for every drain in your home, especially bathtubs and bathroom sinks where hair is probably an ongoing issue. Buy one here! Those are simple to shake out into the trash as needed.
Avoid putting any grease down your pipes if you can and use a degreasing dish detergent to break down any small amounts left on dishes. Finally, clean the drains once a month with the baking soda and vinegar combo discussed above.
Garbage Disposal Maintenance
If you own a garbage disposal, the cleaning and maintenance is slightly different. You can use all the above tips, but make sure you are using lots of water when running your disposal, as well.
About once a month, or whenever your disposal starts to smell a bit, it’s time to clean it. A funky smell is most likely caused by old food particles, and the easiest way to clean them from the disposal is to put the stopper in the sink, fill it hallway with warm water, and them mix in ¼ cup baking soda. Remove the stopper and turn on the disposal at the same time.
These steps will help to keep your disposal and drain clear and smelling great.
The More You Know
Finally, the most important preventative measure you can take is knowing what is not allowed down the drain, and then teaching those rules to your family. Children are notorious for accidentally breaking, flushing, or losing things, so this conversation is probably long overdue in many households.
If you have a regular (non-disposal) sink, then you want to avoid bleach, which is corrosive, and grease, which will turn into impenetrable sludge at the first opportunity. If you have a garbage disposal, then you want to avoid bleach, grease, coffee grounds, eggshells, glass, meats, celery, corn husks, and absolutely anything starchy. That includes things like potato peelings, rice, or pasta. Wet starch takes on a gluey consistency — the perfect recipe for creating a kitchen drain clog!
Still Having Problems?
If you’ve heeded all advice for dealing with your kitchen drain clog (or just don’t want to mess with it!) and still you’re up to your elbows in stinky sink water, then it’s probably time to wave the white flag and call in Church Plumbing & Heating or make a service request online. We’re happy to help.