How to Unclog a Kitchen Sink With Standing Water

Having a clogged kitchen sink that is filled with standing water can be a frustrating and unsanitary experience. Kitchen sinks are susceptible to clogs from food particles, grease, hair, and other debris going down the drain. When the drain gets blocked, water can no longer flow properly down the pipes and begins to pool in the sink. Left untreated, standing water in a clogged sink provides a breeding ground for bacteria and causes unpleasant odors. The good news is that in most cases, you can unclog a kitchen sink and remove standing water yourself using common household items. Here is a step-by-step guide to effectively unclog a kitchen sink and get rid of standing water.

Understanding What Causes Clogged Sinks

Before learning how to unclog a kitchen sink, it helps to understand what causes clogged drains and standing water. There are several common culprits of clogged kitchen sinks:

Food particles – Leftover bits of food from washing dishes, cooking, or preparing meals can build up inside pipes over time. Foods like coffee grounds, produce peels, eggshells, rice, pasta, and oil or grease are notorious for getting trapped in drains and causing clogs.

Hair – Strands of hair that get washed down the sink can accumulate and block water flow down the drain. Hair tangled with grease and soap scum is especially problematic.

Soap scum & fat/oil buildup – Grease, fats, and oil used for cooking get washed down the drain. Combined with soap scum from dish detergents, these sticky substances coat pipes and cause major clogs.

Foreign objects – Objects accidentally dropped down the drain that don’t break down can obstruct water flow. Bottle caps, utensils, food wrappers, and toys are examples.

Damaged or faulty plumbing – Compromised sections of plumbing or mechanical failures in the drainage system can lead to clogged drains. Cracked pipes, leaky joints, protruding edges, and warped sections trap debris.

Improper drainage slope – Incorrect installation resulting in flat or uphill slope of drain pipes prevents proper water flow and allows sediment to collect in pipes.

Being mindful of what goes down the kitchen sink and having pipes regularly maintained helps prevent clogs and standing water. However, even well-maintained sinks can become clogged over time. When you notice gurgling sounds, slow draining water, or full-on standing water, try these DIY methods to unclog the sink at home.

Unclogging a Sink Without Standing Water

If caught early before water pools, a clogged sink is easier to clear. Try these quick homemade drain de-cloggers first:

Baking soda and vinegar – This reaction between an acid and a base creates bubbles and pressure to dislodge and break up gunk. Pour 1⁄2 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1⁄2 cup white vinegar. Cover the drain tightly for 1 minute as the reaction occurs. Then pour a kettle of hot boiling water to flush away debris.

Salt and ice – The salt helps abrade debris, while the ice expands to put pressure on clogs. Add 1⁄2 cup salt down the drain. Use tongs to add a few ice cubes. Let sit 5-10 minutes. Pour hot water after.

Plunger – A regular sink plunger can generate enough suction to pop loose a mild clog. Seal the drain with the plunger and plunge vigorously 15-20 times to apply force to the clog. Finish with hot water.

Chemical drain cleaner – Liquid drain cleaners at hardware stores contain lye, sulfuric acid, or hydrochloric acid to react with and dissolve gunk. Carefully follow product instructions. Avoid overuse.

Prevention – Pouring 1⁄2 cup baking soda down the drain weekly, limiting oil/grease, filtering out food particles, and installing drain catchers helps avoid clogs.

Getting Rid of Standing Water in a Clogged Sink

Once a sink is fully clogged with backed up standing water, more intensive unclogging is required. With persistence and the right home remedies, you can get rid of the standing water and restore proper drainage.

Step 1: Bail Out Excess Water

Before tackling the clog, it helps to remove excess standing water from the sink basin. Have a bucket or towels ready to catch water. Use a cup, small pot, or ladle to bail out and transfer water from the sink to the bucket for disposal. Take care when carrying heavy buckets of water. Wipe the sink dry when finished. Eliminating the standing water improves access to the drain.

Step 2: Dislodge the Clog

With the water emptied, target the clog using one or a combination of these methods:

  • Blunt Force – Use the butt-end of a broom handle or wooden spoon to aggressively plunge the drain at different angles. Apply force directly to the middle of the drain as well as the edges to help dislodge chunks of debris lodged in place.
  • Boiling Water – Bring a full kettle of water to a rapid boil. Carefully pour it directly into the clogged drain. The intense heat can help melt grease and break up soap buildup.
  • Baking Soda and Vinegar – This classic DIY drain de-clogger has the benefit of being non-toxic. The chemical reaction generates expanding bubbles and pressure. Pour 1 cup baking soda into the drain, followed by 1 cup heated white vinegar. Plug the drain and let sit 5-10 minutes before rinsing.
  • Mechanical Snake – Use a flexible drain snake to manually fish out the clog. Twist the snake into the drain opening and push inward. Retrieving the clog often takes some finesse and patience. Dispose of any debris freed by the snake.
  • Chemical Drain Opener – Commercial drain cleaners containing lye or acids break up organic matter. Follow instructions closely as the chemicals can be hazardous if misused. Don’t use with metal pipes.

Repeat applications to fully penetrate the clog. Check the sink periodically to ensure standing water starts draining.

Step 3: Flush with Boiling Water

Once you’ve loosened or removed the primary clog, vigorously flush the drain with more hot boiled water. The gushing hot water should help carry away any remaining particles. Let the water run 1-2 minutes. Plug the sink again and fill halfway with hot water. Unplug and check the draining speed. Repeat flushing as needed until water drains freely.

Step 4: Prevent Future Clogs

A few key habits help avoid repeat clogs:

  • Use sink strainers to catch food particles while washing dishes. Empty strainers regularly into the trash.
  • Limit pour fats, oils and grease down the drain. Allow to cool and put in the trash instead.
  • Scrape plates and wipe out pots/pans into the trash before washing to avoid rinsing food down the drain.
  • Grind up leftover eggshells before rinsing to prevent intact shells going down the drain.
  • Install a hair catcher in sinks used frequently for hygiene to trap strands before they amass.
  • Use a drain-clearing enzyme treatment weekly to help break down organics that cause buildup.
  • Periodically flush drains with very hot water to melt accumulated grease.
  • Avoid using the garbage disposal excessively or putting starchy pasta/rice remains down the drain.

Unclogging Dual Kitchen Sinks

Sometimes one side of a double kitchen sink clogs up while the other side remains fully functional. This makes it impossible to seal up and plug the clogged side for drain treatments. Thankfully, you can still unclog the blocked sink basin without removing standing water in the functioning basin.

Step 1: Block The Open Drain

First, block the drain that is not clogged so you can fill the sink with water. Stuff a rag tightly into the open drain. Make sure the rag fully seals the drain to prevent water leaking. As an alternative, adhere a large piece of duct tape over the drain opening.

Step 2: Plug The Clogged Drain

While keeping the clear drain plugged, plug the drain that is clogged using a traditional sink stopper or rubber plug. With both drains sealed – one with a rag/tape, one with a plug – you can now fill the sink basin with water without it draining.

Step 3: Fill with Water

Turn the faucet on full blast to begin filling the sink. Fill halfway or to a point just below overflowing. Turn off the tap. The weight of the standing water applies direct pressure to the clog.

Step 4: Loosen the Clog

Use a plunger vigorously on the clogged drain while the sink is full. Focus the force directly over the drain opening. Plunge in short bursts all around the drain. The suction and added water pressure together should help dislodge the clog after several attempts.

Step 5: Flush Out Debris

Once plunging is successful and the standing water starts to recede down the newly unclogged drain, remove both the rag and the sink plug simultaneously. Immediately pour very hot boiled water directly into the drain opening while the clog debris is in motion. The goal is to flush out any remaining particles before they resettle and re-clog.

Step 6: Confirm Drainage

After thoroughly flushing with hot water, confirm that both sides of the double kitchen sink are now draining freely. Allow all standing water to completely empty down the pipes. Run a little water from the faucet to check speed of drainage. Repeat any of the steps as needed if water pools again on the unclogged side.

Unclogging Garbage Disposals

Garbage disposals can also fall victim to clogs and standing water backup. If the disposal unit doesn’t power on at all, that indicates an electrical issue beyond drain blockages. However, if the unit hums and runs but doesn’t drain freely, try these tips:

  • Turn the unit off/unplug – Ensure power is cut to the disposal before attempting to clear a clog for safety.
  • Insert an Allen wrench – There is usually a port on the bottom of the unit to insert an Allen wrench and rotate the flywheel manually back and forth to dislodge debris.
  • Unjam with a wooden spoon – Carefully insert a long-handled wooden spoon down into the disposal drain. Use it to try and manipulate stuck food matter and push it down while rotating the flywheel with your other hand.
  • Flush with boiling water – Once you’ve loosened the clog, flush very hot water down the drain while running the disposal. The boiling water can melt fatty obstructions.
  • Avoid overload – Don’t put overly dense or fibrous foods down the garbage disposal to prevent jams and clogs.

When to Call a Professional Plumber

In cases of severe clogs and standing water not resolved by home methods, contact a professional plumber. Signs that expert help is needed include:

  • Inability to dislodge the clog after multiple attempts.
  • Sink is fully clogged in multiple areas beyond just the main basin drain.
  • Significant backup of foul water that may require sump pumping equipment to remove.
  • Sewage odors indicating possible sewer line blockage.
  • Believed breakage in internal sink plumbing or piping causing the clog.
  • Improper slope or settling of drainage pipes under the sink.

Avoid chemical drain cleaners if calling a plumber. The fumes can be hazardous for plumbers accessing pipes. Professional plumbing snakes and hydrojet equipment are often able to clear even the most stubborn clogs that are out of DIY reach.

FAQs About Unclogging a Kitchen Sink

How can I tell if my kitchen sink is fully clogged?

Signs of a fully clogged kitchen sink include water draining very slowly, gurgling sounds from pipes, overflowing dirty standing water, foul odors, and backed up water bubbling into the second compartment of a double sink when running the faucet.

What is the fastest way to unclog a kitchen sink?

For quickest kitchen sink unclogging, start with hot boiled water poured directly into the clogged drain. The velocity and heat help break up grease and debris rapidly. Use a plunger in short, forceful plunges around the drain opening while filled with standing water to utilize added pressure against the clog.

Can I use Drano to unclog my kitchen sink?

You can try commercial liquid drain cleaners like Drano to clear mild clogs. Use an entire bottle for treatment overnight according to directions. However, drain cleaners are ineffective against severe clogs and can damage pipes when overused. Boiling water and a mechanical snake tend to provide better results.

What should I never put down the kitchen sink?

Avoid pouring fats/oils/grease, rice, pasta, eggshells, coffee grounds, produce peels, and other food particles down the kitchen sink to prevent clogs. Limit use of harsh chemical drain cleaners. Dispose of hair and other debris in the trash rather than rinsing down the drain.

Why does my kitchen sink keep clogging?

Frequent repeat clogs in a kitchen sink usually indicate improper drainage slope leading to buildup, cracked pipes trapping debris, malfunctioning garbage disposal, or continued pouring of substances like oil and grease down the drain. Install sink strainers, maintain the garbage disposal, and adjust habits to avoid repeat clogs.


Clogged kitchen sinks with standing water are a nuisance, but thankfully can be cleared with minimal tools and some tried and true home remedies. Using proper techniques to plunge, snake, and flush drains while targeting pressure directly on the clog can eliminate the backed up water. Combining boiling water, baking soda, vinegar, and force in the right sequence and doses can break up and dislodge even stubborn drain obstructions. Stopping debris from going down drains in the first place via sink strainers and garbage disposal maintenance is key to prevent recurrence. When needed, don’t hesitate to call in a professional plumber for serious sink clogs unresolved by DIY methods. With the right approach and some elbow grease, it is possible to banish the standing water and return your kitchen sink to flowing freely again.