How to Snake a Bathroom Sink Drain

Clogged and slow-draining sinks are a common annoyance in bathrooms. Food particles, hair, soap scum, and other debris can gradually build up in your pipes, eventually leading to a backed-up sink that won’t drain properly. Instead of using harsh chemical drain cleaners or calling an expensive plumber, snaking your sink drain is an easy and affordable DIY solution.

Snaking a sink drain involves using a narrow, coiled metal snake tool to physically clear out blockages. It’s a fast and effective way to remove built-up gunk and get your water flowing freely again. Snaking requires no special skills, and with a few simple steps, you can have your bathroom sink as good as new.

What You’ll Need

Snaking a sink drain is a straightforward job you can tackle with items you may already have on hand. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Drain snake/auger – This specialty tool has a long, flexible metal coil you feed down the drain to dislodge clogs. A hand-crank auger with a coil of 25 to 50 feet works best for bathroom sinks.
  • Bucket – Place this under the trap to catch any water that may spill when removing the trap.
  • Rags or old towels – These are useful for cleaning up any messes.
  • Protective gloves – Wear gloves to keep your hands dry and clean when snaking the drain.
  • Flashlight – A flashlight can help you see down the drain as you work.
  • Basin wrench – If you need to detach the trap, a basin wrench easily loosens the connections.

Before you start, inspect under your sink and locate the P-trap, which is the curved section of drain pipe designed to hold water and prevent sewer gas from entering. You’ll need to disconnect the trap to access and snake the drain.

Preparing to Snake the Drain

Follow these steps to get set up before inserting the snake down your sink drain:

Clear the Sink Area

Remove everything from under the sink, including cleaning supplies and the garbage can. This gives you free access to work. Lay down towels or a bucket to catch any dripping water.

Disassemble the P-Trap

The P-trap attaches to the sink tailpiece with slip nut connections. Use a basin wrench to loosen these slip nuts so you can detach the trap. Place a bucket underneath to catch any water held inside.

Run Hot Water

Let very hot water flow down the drain for a minute or two. This helps dissolve and flush away any grease before you start snaking.

Inspect the Drain

Use a flashlight to look down the drain opening and pipe to see if you can spot the clog. Understanding the extent of the blockage can help guide the snaking process.

With the sink clear and the P-trap removed, you’re ready to start snaking the drain.

How to Snake a Sink Drain

Snaking a drain takes patience but is straightforward once you get the hang of it. Follow these steps:

Insert the Snake

Feed the end of the drain snake down through the sink drain opening and into the drain pipe. Go slowly to avoid scratching your sink.

Tip: Lubricate the snake with cooking oil or spray to help it slide smoothly.

Rotate the Auger

Once about 6 inches are fed into the pipe, start slowly rotating the handle of the auger in a clockwise direction while applying light downward pressure. This guides the snake further down.

Clear the Clog

Keep rotating the snake until resistance is felt about 10-15 inches down. This likely indicates you’ve reached the clog. Continue rotating the auger in the same direction, pushing through the blockage. Reverse direction if needed to break up debris.

Retract the Snake

Once the clog is cleared and you feel the snake moving freely again, slowly extract the tool by cranking it counter-clockwise. Pulling it out too quickly could re-catch debris.

Remove Gunk

Once fully retracted from the pipe, use a rag to wipe clean any grime that came out with the snake so it doesn’t re-clog the drain opening. Run hot water again to help flush debris down the pipes.

Test Drainage

Reconnect the P-trap and turn on the faucet to verify water drains freely. You may need to repeat the process if drainage seems improved but water still pools slowly.

With a few simple steps, you can clear those pesky clogged drains and get your sink functioning normally again! Be patient as snaking a drain takes some finesse.

FAQs About Snaking a Sink

Still have some questions about using a snake to unclog your sink? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How do I know if the clog is cleared?

You’ll know the clog is cleared when the snake moves easily through the pipe again with little resistance. Let hot water run for a few minutes afterward to help flush away loosened gunk. Test drainage by turning on the faucet. If water still pools slowly, you may need to re-snake.

How far down should I insert the snake?

For a bathroom sink, inserting the snake 10-15 inches is often sufficient to reach clogs located in the trap or tailpiece. Gently push and rotate the snake until hitting the blockage. Don’t force it farther than 25 inches or you could get stuck.

What if the snake gets tangled or stuck?

Don’t panic if the snake gets tangled or wedged in the pipe. Slowly rotate and guide it clockwise as you pull to retract it gently without yanking. Lubricating the snake can help prevent this issue. Run hot water to help loosen it.

Why do I need to disconnect the P-trap?

Removing the curved P-trap section gives you a straight shot down the drain pipe so you can fully insert the snake. Make sure to have a bucket handy to catch water held inside the trap.

Is snaking safe for garbage disposals?

Snaking is NOT recommended for sinks equipped with garbage disposals. The snake can damage the internal disposal parts. Use a disposal-safe drain cleaner instead or disconnect the disposal to snake the drain.

How can I prevent sink clogs in the future?

To help prevent future clogs:

  • Use a sink strainer to catch food scraps and hair.
  • Avoid pouring grease down the drain.
  • Periodically flush drains with hot water.
  • Use a homemade baking soda/vinegar treatment monthly.
  • Have pipes professionally cleaned every 2-3 years.

Unclogging a Sink Without a Snake

Don’t have an auger handy? You can try a few alternative DIY methods to clear that bathroom sink clog:

Baking Soda and Vinegar

This classic home remedy uses a chemical reaction to help break up mild clogs:

  1. Remove the drain trap and plug the sink opening.
  2. Pour 1 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1 cup vinegar.
  3. Cover the drain quickly. The mixture will fizz and bubble, releasing gases to help dislodge gunk.
  4. Let sit 5-10 minutes before rinsing with hot water.

Salt and Boiling Water

For organic clogs like hair or grease, boiling salt water can help melt and clear out the debris:

  1. Heat a pot of water to boiling on the stove.
  2. Carefully pour 1/2 cup salt down the drain.
  3. Pour the boiling water slowly down the drain. Let sit for 15 minutes before rinsing.


Using quick suction force, a sink plunger can help dislodge minor clogs. Cover the drain tightly with a wet rag and vigorously plunge up and down 5-10 times to clear the pipe. Finish by rinsing with hot water.

Preventative Maintenance

Regular maintenance keeps drains clear. Each week, flush with hot water and baking soda. Monthly, treat with baking soda and vinegar. Every 6 months, use an enzyme drain cleaner to breakdown buildup.

When to Call a Plumber

While snaking is an easy DIY method for clearing simple clogs, consider calling a professional plumber if:

  • Multiple attempts at snaking have failed to improve drainage.
  • Overflowing water from the sink indicates a severe clog.
  • You have a double-sink basin clog that requires both drains to be snaked.
  • The clog is located deep in your main drain line beyond the P-trap.
  • Your sink has a unique design that complicates DIY snaking.

A qualified plumber has specialized snakes that can reach deeper blockages and powerful motorized augers that make quick work of tough clog removal. They can also inspect your drains and pipes to check for cracks or issues that contribute to frequent clogging.

Investing in professional drain cleaning can save you time, aggravation, and prevent water damage compared to struggling with DIY methods.

Snaking a Sink Drain: The Bottom Line

Dealing with a slow-flowing, gunk-filled bathroom sink is never pleasant. Before you reach for harsh chemical drain cleaners, give snaking a try. This simple, affordable DIY method uses a standard hand-crank auger to physically remove built-up debris and hair clogs.

To clear your bathroom sink drain:

  • Disassemble the P-trap under the basin to access the drain pipe.
  • Insert a 25-50 foot drain snake down through the drain opening.
  • Twist the crank to guide the snake through the pipe, breaking up blockages.
  • Retract the tool slowly to remove loosened gunk.
  • Flush with hot water and re-test drainage.

With a little practice, you can master the art of snaking a sink drain, keeping your bathroom pipes clear and your water flowing. Tackle the task quickly without harmful chemicals or the cost of a plumber.

So next time your bathroom sink is blocked up and slow-draining, grab that sink snake and get rid of that clog yourself in no time. Your pipes will be gunk-free, your water flowing fast again, and you can bask in the satisfaction of a job well done.