How to Unclog a Drain with a Plunger

Clogged drain? Grab a plunger — knowing how to unclog a drain with a plunger could preclude the use of a caustic chemical drain cleaner. Plunging causes suction to force air through the pipes to push out the clog. If plunging the clogged pipe doesn't work, your next option is to use a plumber's snake, also known as a closet auger, to free the clog.

1

Remove the drain stopper.

Most drain stoppers need to be turned counterclockwise, but some lift straight out.

2

Use a wet rag or sponge to block up the overflow hole.

Plugging the overflow hole blocks off the air source and creates better suction on the drain.

3

Cover the drain with the plunger, making sure there’s water coming up at least halfway up the rubber cup on the plunger.

If there’s not enough water in the sink, add some. Be sure to stand the plunger upright over the drain. Following both of these measures ensures a tight seal.

4

Push the plunger up and down without breaking the seal.

Push the plunger down until it touches the drain and then pull up sharply, but not enough to break the suction. Repeat this a couple of times.

Warning: If you used bleach or other chemicals on the clog first, don’t plunge the drain without wearing safety glasses. Preferably, flush the chemicals out of the pipes. Even if it trickles away slowly, that’s better than risking splashing chemicals everywhere.

5

Repeat Step 4 but this time, pull up sharply to release the suction.

Hopefully, when you release the suction on the drain the clog will be dislodged releasing some of the water. If there’s no change, repeat Steps 3 and 4 until the water begins to drain.

If you've tried these steps a couple of times with no progress, it's time to pull out the plumber's snake.

6

Remove the clog material.

After some of the mess comes up, pull out the rest by hand. Undoubtedly, most of it will be hair, if it’s a tub drain.

If any chemical drain cleaner was used to clear the clog, you must wear rubber gloves to protect your skin when handling the gunk that comes out of the drain.

Tip: If you have an older faucet, you might need to remove the pivot rod under the sink to remove the drain stopper. Just close the drain stopper, remove the retaining nut under the sink, and pull out the pivot rod.

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