How to Fix a Sink Stopper: 3 Methods

A clogged or stuck sink stopper is one of the most frustrating plumbing issues you can encounter in your home. Over time, gunk, hair, and other debris can build up in the drain mechanism, preventing the stopper from sealing properly or opening at all. Fortunately, fixing a stubborn sink stopper is usually a quick and straightforward DIY project. In this guide, we’ll walk through the three main methods for clearing and repairing a troublesome sink drain stopper so you can get your sink working properly again.

Method 1: Unclogging the Stopper Manually

The easiest first step with a stuck sink stopper is to try manually clearing out any debris that may be trapped inside the drain mechanism. Here’s how to do it:

Supplies Needed

  • Tweezers or needle-nose pliers
  • Pipe cleaner or thin wire
  • Small mirror (optional)


  1. Push the stopper down fully into the closed position. This will allow you to access the underside of the stopper assembly.
  2. Insert tweezers or needle-nose pliers into the drain opening and try to fish out debris. Focus on removing hair, chunks of gunk, sludge, and any other buildup you can find clogging the works.
  3. Use a pipe cleaner or thin wire to loosen debris. Insert it up into the drain opening and twist it around to help dislodge any stuck-on gunk up inside the stopper mechanism.
  4. Flush with hot water. Once you’ve removed any debris you can reach, let very hot water run down into the drain for 30-60 seconds to wash away any remaining loose material.
  5. Test the stopper. Open and close the stopper several times to see if the hot water flush and manual cleaning helped get it unstuck.
  6. Use a mirror to inspect. If needed, use a small mirror to look up into the drain opening while manipulating the stopper. Seeing inside can help you locate any remaining clogs.

The key is to be persistent and thorough in manually extracting any and all debris, hair, sludge, and mineral deposits that could be interrupting the stopper’s operation. With some tweezer work and a good hot water flush, many simple stopper clogs can be cleared up quickly.

Method 2: Disassembling the Stopper

If manually cleaning out the stopper drain doesn’t solve the problem, the next step is to take the stopper assembly apart for a deeper cleaning. This requires unscrewing the stopper from the sink drain apparatus underneath the sink. Here’s how to do it:

Supplies Needed

  • Basin wrench
  • Small bucket
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Old toothbrush
  • Pipe wrench (optional)


  1. Place a small bucket under the sink trap. This will catch any water that drips during disassembly.
  2. Unscrew and remove the sink trap. The trap is the curved pipe section near the drain tailpiece. Unscrew it by hand or with a pipe wrench if needed.
  3. Clean and inspect the trap. Rinse it out in the bucket and look for any clogs.
  4. Use a basin wrench to unscrew the stopper. Insert the wrench up into the drain opening and turn counterclockwise to unscrew the stopper body from the sink flange.
  5. Pull out the stopper assembly. Be careful not to lose any small washers or gaskets.
  6. Scrub pieces with vinegar and baking soda. Use an old toothbrush to scrub the stopper and any removable parts with a paste of vinegar and baking soda. This will help dissolve gunk, hair, and buildup.
  7. Rinse all pieces thoroughly. Flush them with hot water to remove all debris and cleaning solution residue.
  8. Make repairs if needed. If any washers or gaskets are worn, damaged, or missing, replace them before reinstalling. You can get replacement parts at a hardware store.
  9. Reassemble and reinstall. Screw the stopper body back into the drain flange, reattach the trap, and test for smooth operation.

Taking the stopper fully apart provides full access for a thorough cleaning and allows you to inspect all pieces and seals for damage. Be patient when using the basin wrench in the confined sink cabinet space. With the stopper disassembled, you can ensure no debris is left inside to re-clog it.

Method 3: Replacing the Stopper Assembly

If disassembling and cleaning your sink’s stopper fails to fix the problem, the stopper mechanism itself is likely worn out or broken. Replacing the entire stopper assembly with a new one is an easy fix in this situation. Here’s how to do it:

Supplies Needed

  • New sink stopper assembly
  • Basin wrench
  • Pipe wrench (optional)


  1. Purchase a compatible replacement stopper. Bring the old assembly to the hardware store to ensure you get an exact match.
  2. Turn off water supply lines under the sink. This prevents leaks during replacement.
  3. Remove the trap and unscrew the old stopper. Follow the same process described in Method 2.
  4. Make sure the drain flange is in good shape. If it is corroded, bent, or damaged, replace it along with the stopper.
  5. Install the new stopper assembly. Press gaskets and washers into place and tighten the new stopper body securely into the flange using the basin wrench.
  6. Reattach the trap and supply lines. Double check that all pieces are tightened properly.
  7. Turn water back on and test. Turn on the faucet and raise and lower the stopper several times. Make sure it moves smoothly and seals properly without leaks.

While a little more involved than cleaning a stopper, replacing the entire assembly is an easy, inexpensive solution when the original part is just plain worn out or broken. Take your time during installation to ensure no leaks.

Frequently Asked Questions About Fixing Sink Stoppers

Having trouble with your sink stopper? Here are answers to some common questions about diagnosing and repairing stuck, leaky, or broken sink drain stoppers:

What are the most common reasons a sink stopper gets stuck?

The most common causes of a stuck sink stopper are:

  • Built-up gunk, hair, and mineral deposits inside the drain mechanism
  • Corrosion that has seized up moving parts
  • Broken or missing pieces in the stopper assembly
  • An imbalanced or misaligned stopper and flange

Why does my sink stopper leak even when it’s fully closed?

A stopper that doesn’t seal and leaks when closed is usually caused by:

  • Debris or damage preventing full closure
  • Worn out or missing gaskets/washers that need replacement
  • A bent or misaligned flange and stopper body

How can I remove a sink stopper that won’t budge at all?

To remove a completely stuck stopper:

  • Try spraying lubricant like WD-40 into the drain opening around the stopper edges
  • Work it back and forth with pliers or a wrench while tugging up
  • Use a basin wrench for extra leverage on the stopper body

When should I replace vs. try to repair a faulty sink stopper?

As a rule of thumb:

  • Try cleaning and disassembling stoppers that are older than 5 years
  • Replace stoppers over 10-15 years old
  • Replace immediately if pieces are damaged or completely stuck

What type of sink stopper should I choose as a replacement?

Common replacement stopper types include:

  • Lift-and-turn stoppers
  • Push-pull stoppers
  • Push-button stoppers
  • Foot-pedal operated stoppers

Choose whichever matches your sink and is easiest for you to operate.


Learning how to fix a sink stopper is a handy DIY skills that can save you plumber service calls. In most cases, a stopper that sticks, leaks, or won’t close properly just needs a thorough cleaning or part replacement to get it working smoothly again. Follow the steps outlined for unclogging it manually, disassembling and scrubbing all pieces, or installing a new stopper assembly. With a little time and effort, you can take on this common sink repair job yourself.