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Finding the right solution for clogged drains requires an explanation of why bathroom sinks get clogged in the first place.
After decades of maintaining rental properties, I can point to the main culprit, hair, and soap combined. The usual place they collect is the pop-up drain stopper.
Of course, I’ve seen drain traps clogged but it is a rare event and the cause is usually soap, mostly in households where people use bar soap instead of liquid. When washing with bar soap, the soap hardens when it gets in the drain pipes and the most convenient place to settle and build is the drain trap.
Fortunately, there are useful tools for cleaning the traps without removing them. Here are our favorite solutions.
Drain Hair Clog Remover Tool
with Rotating Handle and
5 Wand Refills
The beauty of the Drain Weasel is that you can squeeze it between the stopper and the drain, its Velcro-like head catches all of the hair around the drain stopper and it can reach all the way to the drain trap.
The downside is that the wands are not reusable but you can always buy a refill.
Watch My Test of the Drain Weasel
Drain And Snake Clog Remover
Drain Relief Auger
The stainless steel tools are very useful to grab anything that’s inside the drain and pull it out but you have to remove the stopper.
Unlike the FlexiSnake wands, Fommen plastic tools are reusable and washable. They fit between the stopper and the drain but with some tricky maneuvers and it’s difficult to pull them back.
How to unclog a bathroom sink when it’s not draining?
First, you have to be sure that the problem is in that sink drain but not somewhere else along the sewer pipes and it is not rocket science to figure this out: if all other drains work properly and just the one in question drains slowly, the problem is either build-up around the drain stopper or a clogged drain trap.
Usually, I remove the stopper and the trap, clean them, and install them back. However, you can’t ask the tenants to do this, and calling a plumber is expensive.
Before doing anything else, use a plunger because sometimes, the right solution is the simplest one. Fill the sink with water, plug the overflow hole with a rag, work the plunger up and down several times, and then check if the water drains normally.
If this doesn’t work get the tools I recommended above. These tools ideally should be left for the tenant as part of their Property Maintenance Kit when they move in.
Solutions that Don’t Work
I did some myth-busting for this guide and tested some popular “natural” solutions for unclogging drains. Here is the result:
Coke: I poured two liters of Coke inside the drain, waited two hours, and rinsed it with hot water. There was no difference in the draining speed before and after. Watch my Coca-Cola test here.
Salt and boiling water: As per instructions, I poured ½ cup of salt in the drain, added boiling water, waited several minutes, and washed it with hot water. There was no improvement at all.
Baking soda and vinegar: In my final experiment, I poured 1 cup of baking soda followed by 1 cup of vinegar, closed the drain, waited 15 min, and washed it with hot water. Needless to say that pouring baking soda inside the drain was next to impossible without removing the stopper. I didn’t do that because the idea was to unclog the drain without removing anything. As a result, most of the reaction happened outside the drain so this method didn’t work.
Finally, I ordered both the FlexiSnake’s Drain Weasel and the Fommen’s Hair Drain Cleaning tool to see how they would perform. I started with the Drain Weasel and on the first attempt, it removed most of the hair and grime.
The Fommen tool also removed hair but it was difficult to move up and down. I repeated the procedure with the Drain Weasel several times and then rinsed the sink with hot water. Now, it drains properly.
These two tools are inexpensive solutions to clogged bathroom sinks and I recommend making them a part of the tenant property maintenance kit.