Clearing blockages in clogged kitchen sinks and drains

in Residential

The best tips and tricks to get pipes flowing again

Keeping your kitchen drains and pipes in good working order may not be high on your bucket list of life goals, but when blockages occur as a result of poor pipe practices, most of us wish we’d taken a bit more care.

By following a few basic but important rules (see Article 1 in our Kitchen Pipe Health series, ‘Your Kitchen Rules’) you can significantly reduce the likelihood of your kitchen sink becoming blocked.

But if you missed that article, and you’re concerned your kitchen pipes may already be clogging up, you can check for the tell-tale signs of a blockage identified in Article 2 of the series, ‘Common Signs of Clogged Kitchen Pipes’.

Finally, if you’re reading this because your sink’s overflowing and you need help fast, we’ve brought your journey full circle here in Article 3, where we provide a swag-load of tips and tricks commonly used to unclog kitchen drains and blockages without needing to go to the expense and inconvenience of calling a plumber.

Take your pick and see what works for you!

Help! My kitchen sink pipe seems to be blocked, how do I clear it?

boilingwaterIGThe quickest, easiest and cheapest way to clear minor blockages is also one of the most effective; boiling water. If there is pooled water sitting in your sink that won’t drain away, you should get this out first. Use a cup to scoop the water into a bucket so that once the boiled water is poured in it can go at a higher speed through the drain to clear the blockage. Taking care not to burn yourself, simply pour a good amount (large saucepan) of boiling water down the sink and wait to see if things clear.
You may need to repeat this process a few times, bucketing the still water out each time, but this trick usually meets with success on general household sink blockages eventually, particularly if you use it in conjunction with a plunger.
If the blockage is stubborn, you can also pour about half a cup of salt into the drain and let it sit for a few minutes before adding the boiling water.

My kitchen sink is blocked with fat, how do I unblock it? 

Put some bi-carbonate soda down the sink waste then add vinegar. Leave the mixture there to bubble away for about thirty minutes then flush it down with water.

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My sink pipes are blocked up with bits of food, how do I clear my sink?

plungerIGA rubber plunger is a handy little implement to get things moving again. By simply forcing air into the pipe and then using suction to bring it back up, the plunger is often successful in dislodging the food that’s adhered to the pipe and getting things moving again.
If you have a double sink, first seal off the second side with a wet cloth or a stopper. To use a plunger properly, you’ll need to create a tight seal around the plunger, so fill the side of the sink you intend to plunge with enough water to cover the bell of the plunger. Put the cup firmly over the entire drain opening and plunge vigorously several times. When you hear the suction clear the clog, remove the plunger and flush the drain well with warm water.

You can also try using a chemical drain cleaner or, for a more environmentally friendly option, a mix of baking soda and vinegar. 

My sink drain smells dreadful, how can I get rid of the odour?

When food particles and fats get stuck in sink drains they begin decomposing and generating bacteria. It can smell terrible and it can be particularly bad on windy days. This is because wind runs over the tops of the pipes, sucking water out of the traps. When water levels rise, smells from the sewer are worse too. To stop such smells, run your taps or showers for five to ten seconds and flush the toilets to top up the water in the drains.

I do my best to keep food and fats out

of the drains but sometimes I forget. My teenage kids also put whatever’s left on their plate down the drain, if I don’t watch them like a hawk, so I know we’re going to have trouble soon. What do I do?

If you feel you just can’t ensure everyone in your home will stick to rules about what does and doesn’t go down the sink, then a garbage disposal might be the only answer.

Yes, they’re noisy and consume some power, but they can save many sink wastes from potential blockage. The disposal system ‘munches’ food waste finely, so it can be washed down the waste, with the water mixer turned on to flush it away. You shouldn’t overload the disposal, so insert smallish amounts at a time.

There are still certain food wastes that should not be put down the garbage disposal (such as bones, fruit seeds and pips, fibrous vegetables like celery and corn cobs, starchy vegetables such as string beans, coffee grounds and noodles) but for everything else they can reduce food build-up pressure on your pipes.

I use my dishwasher regularly but it’s starting to smell a bit, what should I do?

Just like your sink’s drainage system, your dishwasher’s drainage needs to be monitored and maintained. 


You should avoid letting food scraps or grease remain on plates and utensils you are putting into the dishwasher and you should clean the dishwasher’s internal system once a month,

You can use one of the many commercial cleaning products available in supermarkets, or a natural alternative such as bi-carb soda. Simply pour the soda into the tablet slot with a few drops of essential oil (eucalyptus works well), and then fill the rinse aid section with white vinegar. Turn the dishwasher on to the longest and hottest setting when it is empty.

I think my sink is blocked in the bend just below the sink, how do I fix this?

If you think the blockage might be in the kitchen drain’s P-trap (the curve of the drainpipe under the sink that is usually found inside the cabinet), place a pan or bucket under the drain to catch any water or debris that may fall out. Unfasten the P-trap from the drainpipe and clear out anything that is stuck. Then replace the trap and check that water runs through without leaking.

My Pipes seem to be a bit smelly even though I don’t have a blockage, how can I keep them odour-free?

Sometimes there is not a real blockage, but small food particles are remaining in parts of our kitchen sink’s drainage system longer than they should. Whilst there, they begin decomposing and smelling.

To keep things as germ and odour free as possible, regularly dose your pipes with equal parts of vinegar and baking soda (approximately half a cup of each). Let the mix sit for at least ten minutes before washing it down with some warm water.

You can also use lemon juice for the same purpose.

I’ve tried everything but my kitchen sink pipes are still not draining, how do I get my pipes flowing again?

If you’ve tried everything and your pipes are still not flowing, you need to call a professional. Qualified plumbers use tools such as electric eels, CCTV and high-pressure cleaners to clear blockages, and whilst prices vary from plumber to plumber, your problems could all be gone in a matter of hours.

If the issues are found to be structural (ie a broken or damaged kitchen pipe) you may need to have your pipes relined.

Relining repairs pipes without the need to dig things up and can be used on potable (drinking) water pipes as well as general waste and stormwater pipes.

If you feel you may need a pipe inspection or relining would be a more cost-effective solution for you, contact Nuflow. If you'd like more technical information on relining, call a Nuflow technician on 1800 335 766 (Australia) or 0800 168356 (New Zealand).